What's Your Backup Strategy?

Jamie Zawinski's public service backup announcement starts off with a bang:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/01/whats-your-backup-strategy.html

No love for Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore? :wink:

What’s that quote? “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have experienced catastrophic hard drive failure, and those who will experience catastrophic hard drive failure.”

I have been using acronis for several years now, but with a simpler strategy than outlined in the article. I simply backup everything to an external usb drive every afternoon using an Acronis scheduled job (Acronis Workstation). Acronis’ ability to mount a backup image as a disk has bailed me out a few times too. Like when I’ve changed some source code I really didn’t want to change either inadvertently or with extreme stupidity. Just mount yesterday’s backup and replace the damaged files.

Honestly, I had no idea that Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore even existed:

Vista Business, Ultimate, Enterprise, and Smoky Bacon Edition have the full feature evidently.


My backup strategy? I post my important data in base64-encoded little chunks in the comments on the blogs of people who actually take the necessary steps to backup their data.


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I know it’s usually described as NOT to be used for backups but RAID does the trick pretty well.
No hassle nor cron job to launch rsync / rdiff-backup scripts, data always in sync.
With 3 drives if you’re really concerned you can for instance get a 2 HDD raid 1 array with 1 spare that would go online if one of the main drives were to fail.
Don’t know about windows or mac but on linux it’s fairly easy to set up using mdadm.

Mine is pretty simple. I commit everything to my LOCAL SVN repository, which is on a different disk. Periodically I back up the repository. If the repository dies, I have my working copy on a different disk – all I lose is the history of my directory reorganizations and deletions. If my working copy dies, I get a new version from the repo. I periodically move my repository directory to a portable drive which I give to my father, and he stores it at his place. Offsite backups.

Why, oh why, didn’t MS include the image tool for Home users? It really would be nice.

I have the OS on a different drive than my data, and I only backup the data drive. First to another internal drive with SyncToy, then online with Mozy, and I feel safe. (That is, after the initial 2 week upload.) If my Raptor with the OS fails, I’m looking at reinstalling my apps which is a pain, but I can deal with it.

A RAID might die if the PSU messes up, or the controller dies spectacularly. That’s probably the main reason people recommend not to use it - it isn’t very safe for any purpose other than protecting against mechanical failure.

My backup strategy? I have this dongle called a MacBook Pro, it runs Leopard, which in turn includes Time Machine, which in turn backs my drive up to an external drive once an hour.

Wow. It’s like putting the contents of your hard drive in a CVS repository, except easier.

I use Mozy with great success for my wife’s computers. I’ve even tested the restore! Although time consuming, it works. I’m a Mac user, so Time Machine is a great tool for me. I can’t boot off the Time Machine disk, but I have history, which is nice, and I can restore my machine almost completely from a fresh install using a Time Machine backup. I’ve done it from bare drive to fully functioning machine in just about 3 hours.

I have used rsync to do a remote copy. Machine A running Windows 2000, cygwin, and rsyncd; machine B running Windows XP, cygwin, and rsync. I copied data from A into B before getting rid of A (and buying C :D).

So there, rsync works on Windows, and if it worked remotely with a rsync server both sides being Windows, it definitely works locally.

Isn’t this basically the same thing as RAID-1, but allowing up to 24 hours of data to be lost, since the drive is only mirrored once per day?

I do think the advice to keep a copy in a physically separate location is very sound.

I use PathSync (http://www.cockos.com/pathsync/) to backup the important bits of 3 different computers to a little western digital USB powered drive. I do this regularly and once a week I go to my safety deposit box and swap with the other WD.

It’s manual (which sucks) but it puts all the files I care about on something I know is safe.

Only problem I ever have is that PathSync doesn’t play nice with certain non-ascii filenames.

Gonna have to look at Mozy, though.

I have a two-tier backup system. I do a daily backup to a NAS, with weekly backups to an offsite location with Mozy. It works like a charm, the few times I’ve needed to replace/reformat my hard drive, I’ve been able to quickly get back on my feet.

A local archive, while a good first step, is not a complete Backup Strategy. The data you care about needs to be moved off-site.

Get yourself a friend that has some space to share and buy a copy of CrashPlan (http://www.crashplan.com). It’s multi-platform and will do compressed, encrypted, versioned, incremental backups over the wire to multiple destinations.

Disclaimer: I work on the product. Let that dissuade you if you will. Better to try it for free yourself.

“But let’s face it. I’m a Windows user. When I have a problem, I buy software.”

True that - if you Windows users have a problem, you just chuck some $$$ at it :smiley:

I used to be one of those people, but CLI rsync is so, so nice :wink:

my favorite backup related website:


It makes some good points about backup strategies and is humorous as well.

The 7 heads of the Tao of Backup:

  1. Coverage: back up ALL your data
  2. Frequency: back up Frequently
  3. Separation: Take some backups offsite
  4. History: Keep some old backups
  5. Testing: Periodically test your backups
  6. Security: Secure your backups
  7. Integrity: Make sure the data you are backing up is correct!

I typically back up to two other drives. My secret weapon? Unison - which can be found through Google or through my site. Unison is multi-platform, GUI based and it rocks. It too performs incremental backups - like a charm, letting you decide which changes to propagate. It uses multiple tools to make one application(including rsync).

I truly feel bad for those that feel that buying software is their only choice… cough Jeff. :slight_smile: Maybe not you… but folks, look before you pay! … that is, unless you’re growing a money tree in your backyard.