What's Your Backup Strategy?

I’ve got software sitting in my system tray that copies any new files over to my linux home server (as a mapped network drive) every 30 minutes. Every night at 5 am, that machine uploads any new or changed files to a massive amount of FTP storage I got for cheap. Before it uploads the files, it compresses and encrypts them, for safe offsite storage. (It uses file hashes to check for changed copies).

It’s nice having that setup because if I accidentally delete a file, it’s right at my fingertips on my server, but yet if my house burns down I have a complete and safe offsite backup. At the same time, the FTP uploading, which is slow, is handled by my server so I can feel free to shutdown my power-guzzling desktop at night.

It’s worked out really, really well. I needed a backup solution that would be complete, secure, do it’s thing, and leave me alone. It’s done exactly that.

An internet backup service such as Carbonite or Moxy is my preferred solution. I’m super-lazy, and these are pretty much install-and-forget type of programs. As long as I have an internet tube and the software is still installed, it’s working.

That’s unlike my previous solution, where…oh, did I forget to turn the external backup drive on? Did I temporarily unplug the backup drive to test my new camera? Etc.

And in case of a disaster (fire, hurricane, theft, etc.) my data is still safe.

The only downside is it costs money.

Windows Home Server has been working a treat for me, haven’t encountered much that works as simply with so little effort for automatic backups.

“I’m a Windows user. When I have a problem, I buy software.”

As linux user, I don’t have this problem much. dd and/or rsync with a simple shell script executed as the last thing before shutdown. No fuss at all. However, I am not opposed to paying for software when needed. What I find funny is that Windows seems to lack( or have really shitty built-in versions ) basic, important stuff that you have to shell out extra for. For the license of Windows, it should include things like this.

That said, I see Vista finally has something, Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore, but of course it’s in the tiered pricing lameness… Again, this kind of things should be core software across all Windows.

I have a box here with Vista Ultimate( thanks work! ) that I haven’t bothered backing up( the important data is safe, yes ). I shall have to try Windows Backup and see how well it works.

Backing up my entire hard drive would be ridiculously stupid. 99.9% of my space (yes, really) is stuff I can replace with an internet connection and an hour or two to waste. A single DVD can handle all my backups for six months. Not that I would restrict myself to a single DVD, like you restrict yourself to a single HDD.

“I’m a Windows user. When I have a problem, I buy software.”

Why? Ever heard of xcopy and task scheduler? Runs on my box at 3am daily. Works like a champ, even easy to restore from. Best of all, it has come with MS OS’s since the glory days of DOS 5, if I recall correctly.

+1 for robocopy;

I’ve been using robocopy on Vista with a lot of success, although it isn’t quite as awesome as rsync from the block level, it does a very good job of running every night for me.

I used backup my data to DVD. Then one day, my DVD was unreadable, DOH!

I used USB hard drives for a while, but it was too unstable: USB kept disconnecting then reconnecting at the slower speed.

My Backup Plan:

I built 2 identical linux machines (NAS1,NAS2). Each with 1 TB of RAID 0 drives.

I use Samba on NAS1 to share files with my Windows machine. Acronis True Images backups my Windows machine to the NAS1 Samba Share. Then, daily I rsync NAS1 to NAS2.

So I have a complete backup of my backup NAS. I have spare drives on hand to replace a failed drive.

My data could be lost if 1 drive in NAS1 and NAS2 failed within 6hrs (time to rebuild 1 NAS) of each other.

I used to just stick with CD/DVD backups. Does the job, if a bit inelegantly (where’d the disc from last week go, in this pile of a thousand discs!). I’ve since moved on, largely because my work made it rather obvious what a bad backup system can do.

Find a spare computer. They’re cheap these days; drop by a college during their annual garage sale, and you can probably pick one up for less than ten bucks, or you can use an older one that you don’t need anymore. A PCI RAID controller is optional, but it’ll cost you less than twenty bucks. Three hard drives, one with an external enclosure, depending on how much space you actually need, will put you back a hundred or two. Unless you do a massive amount of imagery or video editing, eighty gigabytes a drive will be more than enough. You don’t need to back up your operating system and game files every day; you should have one or two DVDs worth of BartPE or your local operating system’s worth of DriveXML data, and leave that so you don’t have a thousand corrupted backups when a virus takes your system out or a hard drive scratch means you don’t own a Mac any more.

Combine with OpenSSH (through Cygwin, for Windows users), SVN (there’s a Windows version), and your operating system’s favorite shell scripting and automatic timed start system, and you’ve got all you need to have a network-accessible, versioned, highly secure system with several points of failure.

If you really want to go nuts, a decent high-watter power-conditioning UPS will put you back less than sixty bucks, add longevity to your monitors, and make things even more secure, and combine that with 9 bucks a month worth of web storage with your web host, but chances are good even that would be unnecessary.

OMG… I have not backed up for a while… let me do it fast.

For Macs, SuperDuper (http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html) is a great app that makes an exact, bootable copy of your HD to an external drive. The basic version is free, and if you like it you can pay a few bucks to upgrade to the full version (which does nice things like copy only changed files on subsequent backups so the job runs faster). It runs right in OS X so you don’t need downtime to reboot.

I use Time Machine for automatic, local, versioned backups and rsync to my remote server for my offsite backup. I’m also using rsync+OSXCrypt for a USB thumb drive backup of document scans.

I’ve played with JungleDisk to S3, but it was flaky and now with so many GBs of data, S3 is not so cheap.

Oh, and for those who think RAID’s useless :

The average lifespan of a hard drive is, depending on manufacturer and type, five years. This is an average. In practice, hard drives tend to follow a “bathtub curve” of failure; new drives have a higher risk of failure because there is a known potential for manufacturing errors to creep in and result in lost data. While this is fairly rare, it is not an unknown. Moreover, these early failures tend to be catastrophic, rather than minor; large scratches rather than single bad sectors.

Nothing says fun like losing days or weeks worth of backup data (if you have a secondary backup) or, worse, losing all of it, a few months after putting your system into place. RAID set-ups are cheap, and they’re quite effective against hard drive death.

I was lucky to have made a snapshot of a large and critical code repository the day before a laid off employee deleted the entire source tree in vengeance. Backups were spotty and scarce, but I learned the lesson the easy way (and in my first week on the job right out of college!).

I’ve rarely had to restore from backup due to a hardware failure, but corruption of data, brain farts, and even malicious behavior have caused many a restore.

Now if I only had a backup of my 250GB external USB drive from two months ago, I wouldn’t be reconstructing my data from the many smaller, dated backups on aged hard drives. :frowning:

Lesson learned… again.

I use FolderShare to copy important stuff (actually, whole “My Documents”) to 2 other computers, one of same location and another is on different contienent.

I don’t really care too much on when the data is backed up, if they are important, they should have sit on my computer for long time. They should sit long enough that FolderShare should already kicked in and do the backup for me.

I agree with J.Stoever, most of the stuff I got on my PC can be installed from Internet (except Visual Studio). If my harddisk is down, I don’t see that urgent to get my PC working again within 5 minutes. Rather, I could rebuild my PC with software over the Internet within 5 hours. And what I get is the miracle of reinstallation: your PC with its best performance!

“Acronis will allow you to create a new, hidden partition to store a complete backup image”

The point being? You can lose your real data and your backup all at once when your drive fails, hooray! Backing up to the same drive is little more than Windows Restore Points, it’s certainly not a backup plan.

Mike Rubel has a nice article on his site explaining how to do Apple Timemachine style snapshots using rsync.


This is a timely discussion. A member of my extended family phoned on Sunday saying their windows xp machine won’t boot, with an error message about a disk problem. The most recent backup was 1 year old. I was able to boot into knoppix and recover most of the files they cared about (I probably could have used WinPE if I was 3133t). Now that the files are backed up I’ll probably try a boot-to-xp and “repair” (but I wanted to have the files before I tried this). Makes me want to re-visit my SVN-based backup strategy to make sure it is rock-solid.

“Did I mention that Jamie is a funny guy?”

From http://www.jwz.org/xscreensaver/download.html:

“Microsoft killed my company, and I hold a personal grudge.”

I use second copy. I configure it to backup my documents directory every couple of hours. I have it configured to do a simple copy and it replaces new and changed files. It also supports more complex sync’s like deleting files in the backup that are deleted in the source. I have a USB drive as my backup. My important files like Quicken I also backup into a second directory and then use Nero to do an incremental backup to a CDR.

a href="http://www.secondcopy.com/"http://www.secondcopy.com//a, $30 for a single license.