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  1. #1
    iNET Interactive
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    Sorting out the revolution in PC backups: Part 1




    TOP STORY

    Sorting out the revolution in PC backups: Part 1


    By Fred Langa

    Over the past few years, backup technology has improved so much that you're virtually guaranteed you'll never lose important files or other data. But with so many good options available, it can be difficult to settle on the backup method — or methods — exactly right for you.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/sorting-out-the-revolution-in-pc-backups-part-1 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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  3. #2
    2 Star Lounger
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    Excellent summary.... I would like to however suggest that a combination of these backup strategies would be a better idea. The system I use is that I have a PC that I use as a backup for files on the network (as you described - LAN). This machine is also backed up, however to online storage. The problem many of us have is that cloud storage can become prohibitively expensive when you start backing up your digital images and other files. I currently need backup of close to 1Tb. What I have done instead is to secure my data onto a Dedicated Server, which is cheaper than online backup systems.

    My regime is therefore two stage:
    1. Backup across the local network to the central "file server" PC.
    2. Backup the "file server" PC to my dedicated server online.

    The initial copying of files is solved because I use a local ISP who hosts my dedicated server. I hand them a USB drive with the data on it; they connect it to the dedicated server, and I copy it to the required location, and they then return the USB Drive to me. Any changes are then reasonably small, and are handled by the "file server" whilst I sleep, and the network is relatively unused (and hence faster). I do need to run a specific service to check the updates that need to be done, and I use FTPSynchroniser - awesome, because it now includes real-time sync as well as block level sync - both save time and bandwidth!

    This system is the most effective that I have managed to work out so far....! If anyone has comments..... please let me know!

  4. #3
    New Lounger
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    2 backups: local system and lan/remote data

    I agree about with Photorer about the interesting article and that it is good to have two different backup strategies. Here is what I do with the machines on our small business lan:

    1. Each machine has a second hard disk (a cheap platter drive unlike the SSD system drive) and whole disk backup is run to this drive monthly. (I use Futuresoft's Casper for this.) This gives me a system recovery baseline. I periodically test that each machine can indeed boot from its backup disk.
    2. Each machine does an evening data backup (documents, photos, emails etc) to a TimeDicer Server on our lan, and this is backed up offsite every night.

    The TimeDicer Server keeps archives for each machine holding previous versions of all files as well as any deleted files, and it is all free. (Declaration of interest: I wrote TimeDicer because I couldn't find anything like it, it's based on rdiff-backup). It's quite possible to recover a file version from several years ago (if required).

    The reason I don't run the local system backup more often than monthly is because I have had occasions when a local system gets damaged but the damage is not immediately apparent (e.g. after upgrading to Windows 8.1). If the local system backup has been updated with the damage you are in trouble. Better to have a slightly out-of-date system than risk this - the data (the irreplaceable stuff) is recoverable from the TimeDicer Server anyway.

  5. #4
    New Lounger
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    Excellent summary of available backup technologies. But there's another dimension that needs to be factored in: file vs image backup, and the ease of recreating/restoring an entire system vs single files. Unless there are products I have not seen, image backup to the cloud is not a viable option because of the data volume of each backup.

    Like the other responses, I use a multiple backup strategy and mix on-site and off-site storage for increased redundancy. I use CrashPlan+ to back up all files to the cloud, as well as keeping a current copy on a local drive. I make image backups of the system drive to a Synology NAS. I do have multiple versions of the image backups, stretching back six months or more. Both backups have worked well for me. Image restores, while rarely needed, are fast.

  6. #5
    Lounger
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    An excellent article, however it does not mention OS caused failures. How often does one actually use a backed-up file! So are your files a good copy or corrupted?

    In 1978/9, I was given a CBM 5.25" floppy. After I'd collected a few files, which included some small programs I'd written; it was corrupted.

    At first that appeared to be a major disaster, but I soon realised that it had taught me a very important lesson - BACKUP.

    I've progressed through, floppies, Zip disks, tapes, optical disks and an automatic WD continuous cable network backup. That was rather poor as it kept reporting it's inability to backup a file, but did not tell me which file. As the disk was encoded, I could not inspect my files. So I removed the 1TB drive and installed it as a second drive in my desktop.

    I then started to use WD USB 'My Passport' drives. Starting with their 60GB and eventually having a set of three 1TB USB 2 drives. I use ViveVersa Pro as my backup program and it's never let me down.

    Eventually the 1TB drives became too full, so I purchased three 2TB USB 3 replacements. While changing over to these, I decided to reorganise the folder structure of these drives.

    Unfortunately, at the same time I also started to reduce using my XP desktop and started to use laptops running Windows 7 64bit Professional. Among my files are many digital maps in folders over 100GB in size. Having moved some of those maps, I continued to process them on a new laptop. I merge a number of smaller maps into a larger map.

    I then discovered a new larger map had large areas of vertical lines and areas that were black. On inspecting the smaller maps used for the merge, I found many were corrupted. Looking at the original map files on another drive, they were fortunately good.

    Searching the web, I discovered that others had found similar problems with their .mp3 files.

    Windows 7 has a major problem. When using it's drag & drop or control key copying on large folders with large files, many get corrupted.

    The solution is the use TeraCopy. It wedges itself into the OS copy functions, so one can bypass the OS's own procedures.

    I now use a CRC verification on all file copying. Certain earlier OSs always did a verification of written files, but I guess that Windows has removed that due to reduced speed.

    So if you have used Windows 7 this way to backup, I suggest that you check your backup files.

  7. #6
    New Lounger
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    I agree Landyman about the dangers of backing up a file, or a system, that is already corrupted. That is why when I backup my data (see my earlier post) I use a versioning backup system so if an earlier uncorrupted version has been backed up it can be recovered. And is why I only take system image backups every month. In an ideal world I would have (for each machine) 2 system image backups and alternate the system image backup between them so that I always have one that is at least a few weeks old, but I admit I don't go that far...

    Slightly off-topic, but I have also started monitoring (by email) any error system events in Event Viewer; this alerts me to problems as they occur and gives me a chance to sort them before they become fatal.

  8. #7
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    An excellent introduction for the typical user, but I think it misses the point that backup is an aspect of a computing disaster plan, not just an end in itself. That is important because the features of a backup that matter vary with the nature of the disasters being planned for, the nature of other solutions in the disaster plan, costs, and time. The whole file vs image backup is part of this discussion as well. And the topic of storing backup versions, or multiple backup destinations...

    Also, while the discussion did touch on cloud storage and the costs, it missed the idea of private cloud storage, similar to the section on backup to a networked drive or second PC, perhaps you might consider it "WAN backup" instead of "LAN backup". Pros are low cost, greater security; Cons are speed - but restore speed can be greatly increased by moving the backup computer onto the LAN when recovery is necessary. Crashplan.com does this very well, for free.

  9. #8
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    Good article. I did want to add one additional Cloud based service, Backblaze, that offers a slightly different model (price is not GB based) and a two level security capability. www.backblaze.com

    Al

  10. #9
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    My primary computer is a laptop so I do not have a "second" hard drive for backup. I confess that I use Carbonite to make continuous backups of the files in my Documents folder where I do all of my current work. It is slow and non-intrusive to my work. Several times, I have had to use it to recover a file corrupted by some unknown bug or virus. The backup is always there for me.

    I also use a local USB connected external hard drive for periodic image backups. With USB 2.0 it is just very slow. I use an external hard drive dock that can take either 3.5" or 2.5" SATA drives, one at a time. It can handle USB 3.0, but my laptop cannot. The hard drive dock has a SATA cable jack and actually came with a nice 3 ft. SATA cable. However, SATA ports just do not exist on laptop computers, but they should. I would love to see this become a new high speed backup standard. BTW, the same SATA port is on my Verizon/Motorola FIOS set top box which has an internal hard drive, but Verizon has chosen to not enable this external port to extend recording space for their DVR capability.

  11. #10
    4 Star Lounger
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    This is a good but VERY basic introduction to common hardware backup technologies, though you might have mentioned eSATA as a faster alternative to external USB drives - Newegg may still have a $2.99 (free after rebate) SATA-to-eSATA connector on sale for desktops that don't have other means of using eSATA, and IIRC they're also available from Meritline. Also, 4 out of your 5 NIST links appear to be dead (and the 5th, to PCWorld, had to be massaged before it worked), so if you know of other paths to that potentially interesting data they would be useful.

    The comments you've already received here suggest that at least many of your readers are already well beyond the very basic information which you presented (and thus likely also beyond the timing tests which you intend to provide next time, the results of which should be quite predictable given even moderate knowledge of the hardware technologies involved). It would be nice to see more in-depth information about innovation in backup techniques - e.g., continuous data protection, versioning - as well as more traditional variations like incrementals, plus evaluations of products (both free and paid-for) which provide them.

  12. #11
    Silver Lounger mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    I use Memeo for continuous differential backup of files which change. Then, about once per month I connect an external hard drive and do an image backup of the internal hard drive.

  13. #12
    4 Star Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by dickcaro View Post
    I also use a local USB connected external hard drive for periodic image backups. With USB 2.0 it is just very slow.
    Oh, for the days of Express Card or even CardBus slots. Nowadays if your laptop doesn't have built-in USB 3.0 (or the relatively rare built-in eSATA port) the only hope for reasonably fast data interchange lies in a built-in Gigabit Ethernet port.

    But for occasional bulk data operations you can still just pop the hard drive out of your laptop and connect it to something which DOES have reasonably fast data-transfer facilities and do the work there: not the most convenient way to do things but for major massaging the time saved may be worth the effort.
    Last edited by - bill; 2014-02-13 at 11:36.

  14. #13
    Silver Lounger mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    I ran SATA data and power cables out of the back of my computer; whenever I want to do a backup, I power down and connect an internal hard drive to the SATA cables, then power up. That becomes my external drive for backup purposes.

    When I'm done with the backup, I power down, disconnect the drive, and put the drive back into its static bag.

    I've had too many USB external drives fail to depend on USB.

  15. #14
    Star Lounger hammondmike's Avatar
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    Back-Up Speed Tests

    I purchased a new HDD and external case for my back-up computer. This case has USB 3.0 and E-sata ports. Initially I used the USB port for back-ups, not fully understanding E-sata. After learning of the pass-thru speed increase of E-sata, I installed the included E-sata cable and adapter into the computer, and ran straight-thru from motherboard to external HDD. What a difference in speed of backing up!!! I hope E-sata is included in the timed tests.

  16. #15
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    I have 2 major issues with on-line backup. I own my own computer company and can't count the number of customer who have abandoned on-line cloud backups in the past. The number 1 reason was the length of time required to restore more than a simple document or even a small folder of documents.

    But the problem I have is the expense required to have a true, (full), disaster recovery image. While it can be done with some services using UPS/FedEx, for many of my customers, especially the ones with 300-500 GB or more of data, the speed (up and down), and expense of the full recovery plans are more than they want to consider.

    While I do have a few customer who have opted for various on-line solutions, ALL of them are doing local imaging either to a USB drive or a NAS. And most have at least enough versions to be able to go back 1 month.

    For reasons that would take many paragraphs to explain I have one customer with 14 workstations and every workstation gets a full image backup no less than every other day to a RAID 5 NAS and it's all pretty much automated. While it doesn't provide the security of off-site backups I can easily recover from a bad hard disk, compromised OS or a full blown OS corruption.

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