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What is the best way to handle backups on my desktop PC?

 4:55 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm about to order a computer for my home office, that I use to run my business, and I'm trying to decide on the hard drive set-up and/or the best way to handle backups.

Should I get a 2nd internal hard drive and use that, or at least a partition on it, for backups?

Should I go with a RAID 1 set-up? It seems like that would serve as a good backup system, although I read on the Dell site that RAID 1 mirroring is not really for backup purposes. Why is that?

Should I get one of these external "OneTouch" backup hard drives? I'd probably prefer not to have another piece of hardware sitting around, but this is obviously another option as it's made for backups.

Finally, there is a tape drive backup system which is offered with the system I'm looking at. I don't have any experience with tape drives, but this is specifically made for backups so it might be another good option.

I don't need the extra capacity of a 2nd hard drive for regular storage purposes, as I'll get an 80 gig main drive, partition it into 2 40 gig partitions, and this is plenty for what I do. So this is purely for backup purposes. Any suggestions? Thanks!


The Contractor

 5:08 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

External hard drive and DriveImage.


 5:22 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just out of curiosity, why do you recommend the external?


 5:23 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use a second internal hard drive with Second Copy. All my files are automatically backed up every few hours to the second drive with as many historical versions of the files as I want.

I also use ibackup to backup critical files 'off site' once each day.

With hard drive space so cheap these days I wouldn't be bothered with tape. To expensive and slow, plus very time consuming to retrieve your backup data.


 5:57 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Do not use a partition of a hard drive as a backup. If the disk develops a fault, you lose the hard drive - this means all partitions on that one drive.

I recommend backing up to an external, removable, hard drive or ZIP type device. If you get a virus and your backup drive is inaccessable at the time, the external device will not be corrupted.


 6:17 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

That's a good point, but the problem with removeable is that you can't really do automated nightly backups right? That's kind of what I'm trying to accomplish. And if you don't remove the media, it is accessible to be infected with the virus in a situation like you mentioned, right?


 7:09 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

How about the best of both worlds ...

Would it be possible to use a 2nd drive that is only mounted right before the backup is to take place, and then it is unmounted when the backup process is complete? Or does Windows have to be rebooted to change the status of a drive?


 7:19 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Although expensive, you could get something like a DAT drive - leave the tape in overnight, but have a rotation of 31 tapes for each day of the month.

The Contractor

 10:30 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just out of curiosity, why do you recommend the external?

With an external drive you can easily restore files to another computer should something more than just the hard drive fail. With Drive Image you can automate the process and make a complete image of the drive in minutes. On my external 80 gig USB2/Firewire hard drive ($89) I can back up 3 partitions which total maybe 60 gigs of data on my work computer in no time. Compressed takes up about 35 gigs. Using Drive Image you can also break it down to small image sizes so you can burn them to disk etc. I always make backups and burn to CD's as soon as I reformat and install all my apps on a new computer.

Restoration is also very fast with my 20 gig C: partition taking about 15-20 minutes.


 11:24 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think you have to look at the situations where you are going to have to do a "restore" and the impact.

For example:
Hard drive failure - a second harddrive will surfice and get you back up and running in a few hours.

Computer Stolen - you have your data but what do you have to run that data? How long will it take you get another PC? If you have to claim on insurance, good luck!

A virus - is your data infected as well? Can you be sure? Can you go back to a version of your data that is 100% safe? i.e. do you have a data backup history?

A fire - is your back up in the same building? Then you may have lost your data (hence why someone recommended off site as well).

Look at the risks and determine how these will impact your business. How long can your business survive without having that data? That will indicate how much you need to spend on a back up solution.


 11:41 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've been using Second Copy and an external hard drive for a few years and love it. Once a week or so I'll make a Ghost image of the drive on a CD and store it off site until the next month.

If I have to stop what I'm doing to make the back ups they will never get done.


 11:53 pm on Aug 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

Here is what I've come up with ... let me know what you think ...

I will have a RAID 1 setup, with the drive(s) having several partitions - one of which is a backup partition. I will use DriveImage, TrueImage, etc. to make an image of the entire drive and/or certain partitions every night. Then I will do a weekly backup of extremely important files onto a CD that I keep in a fireproof safe since offsite is not really a practical option (I work from home, and would never trust an online backup system with my personal data).

What do you think? I figure if I'm going to get a 2nd drive I might as well put it to use in a RAID 1 configuration as well. That way in the event of a drive failure, I will lose absolutely nothing. In the event of a serious system crash or corruption I can revert to my backup image on the backup partition, and in the rare case my house burns down my crucial files will be OK in the fireproof safe. Any holes in my plan?


 12:21 am on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

A fire proof safe is good - at least until the contents inside get hot enough to conbust or melt.

A melt CD isn't going to help you much!


 1:12 am on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

Off site storage can be an easy set up.
I live way out in the country but keep a PO box and have to make the trip into to town once a day to get the mail. In the bottom of that box is my last month hard drive back up.


 2:59 am on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are online backup sites like backup.com, ibackup.com, etc. really secure? Meaning, is the data encrypted in a way that only I can access the data with my personal encryption key or something? Or can the employees of the site, someone who hacks into their site, etc. access my data if they wanted to?


 11:12 am on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not secure at all to backup on the same hardrive: if your hardrive failed you will get into big trouble! Better to have 2 hard drives of 40 Go than a single of 80.


 9:55 pm on Aug 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

To those who use or have used an external hard drive ... let me ask you a question. Is it mounted on the desktop all the time when it's connected, or only when in use or doing a backup? Can you unmount it from the system without having to reboot? I'm wondering if I could use this the same way you would use removeable media, but without having to physical remove the tape, disc, etc. from the hardware. I guess my only concern with an external drive that is always mounted is that it could easily be wiped out by a virus.


 2:57 am on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use Drive Image to back everything up to a separate HDD in the same machine. I then have batch routines that copy the backups to another machine on my network. I also have an external FireWire HDD that I copy the most recent backups to on weekends.


 2:39 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

Does your backup strategy include any type of offsite backups though?


 3:17 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use HandyBackup that is configured to automatically backup every changed (working) file at midnight to a backup location on one of my dedicated servers (located in another state). No muss - no fuss. The same configuration should also work fine on a virtual account as long as you have the space.



 4:46 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

A P.O. box or your bank is a great location for offsite storage of data.


 7:56 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

HandyBackup ... now that looks interesting. I think I might end up doing the same thing. Thanks!


 3:00 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have a 40GB Iomega External Drive that I backup to. I came with QuickSync software that I have scheduled to run everyday at 4am.

I backup my Inetpub directory, my email file and my Quicken file. Everything else is just software that I can re-install.

I've drilled a hole through the back of one of my desk drawers for the power and connection cords and I keep the external drive locked in this drawer. Looking at my workspace you can not tell this is how things are setup unless you crawl under the desk and start tracing cords.

I've done this in the event of a home invasion. Hopefully they won't take the time to bust into the locked drawer.

I also keep copies of all the Inetpub data up on each clients webspace. This includes any source files. And I also keep copy of my email and Quicken files out on my server. (Don't worry, I've encrypted them with Steganos...)

This way, even if the external hard drive is damaged or stolen I have a second backup.

The great thing is that all of this is automated through the QuickSync software and FTP software...


 4:02 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

although I read on the Dell site that RAID 1 mirroring is not really for backup purposes

I will have a RAID 1 setup, with the



 4:35 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

RAID 1 (mirroring) protects you from hardware failure. But as others have mentioned already, it doesn't protect or minimize your down-time from viruses, software issues, or just stupid human errors. You need hardware failure protection, but you also need to keep historical copies of your files so you can retrieve specific files at specific point in time.

I just zip up certain directories on a daily basis using Abakt [xs4all.nl]. Its a free tool and you can add into Task Scheduler since it can be automated through the command line.

fasteddie uk2001

 10:11 pm on Aug 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Here's my current backup system.

Main office server runs Raid 5 and we do nightly backups to a hard drive on a second server located in the same office (that also acts as our MP3 server!).

We also do differential backups nightly to tape.

Each week we take the old differential tapes and store them in the same building in a fireproof safe and start the next weeks differential with fresh set of tapes.

Monthly I send a tape backup (and critical files that will be needed immediately also on a CD) offsite to a backup location a distance away.

We always have at least 3 months previous work on tape onsites and at least 1 complete set of tapes offsite along with burnt CD's.

It may seem like a bit over the top, but I've had so many HD failures, corrupt raid drivers, bad tape backups etc over the last few years I'd rather be overcautious than lose everything.

My advice would be definitely backup to a seperate machine on site, get a fireproof safe, and keep at least reasonably up to date copy offsite somewher you trust in case of theft or a large fire (most fireproof safes will only protect your data for an hour or 2). Also don't rely on backups restoring properly all the time, check them regularly and make sure you can restore data successfully, particularly from tape.

Good luck

p.s. limitup - offsite backup doesn't have to be online, as a couple of others have mentioned a PO box or even a safe deposit box at a local bank could be good locations for offsite important data, as could a safe at a family members house.

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