Generally Sensible Backup Strategy?

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by Arranger, Oct 10, 2006.

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  1. Arranger

    Arranger Registered Member

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    TI 9.0
    Build 3,677
    XP Pro

    Can anyone tell me if this is a strong or weak strategy, and where it may be prone to failure?

    1) Image daily each of our 5 PCs (all NTFS, some with SP1 and some SP2) onto its own duplicate internal hard drive.

    2) Periodically copy the internal drive image onto an external USB hard drive (Western Digital Passport 60GB 5400rpm, preformatted FAT32 from what I understand) and verify the copy.

    3) Periodically copy the external USB drive image back onto the internal drive of one of the complementary PCs and verify the copy.

    3) Expect to restore using the image that's on each PC's duplicate drive first,
    but if fails,
    be able to restore using the image that's on the external USB,
    but if also fails,
    still be able to restore using the image that's on a complementary PC.

    I'm not sure how well the Acronis rescue disc will accept each of these different images. Would it be more successful with one over another, or perhaps with one of these images copied over to DVD?

    Thanks for your input and advice! :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  2. jaycee

    jaycee Registered Member

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    Hi,

    It seems a good idea, but i see at least one problem :

    FAT32 only allows 4GB files, it is a limit that can only be changed by going to NTFS.

    I would first recommend to format OR convert usb disk to NTFS, and see how works your backups.
    Else you can "Verify" your images directly from the USB disk, and even try and boot from the Acronis Recovery CD to test them, that would allow to check wether the usb disk is correctly detected by the Acronis Recovery CD, which works under a Linux-like OS.

    You could do your backups otherwise in a "Secure Zone" on any hard disk, which hides the partition for Windows, and allows a startup Boot menu accessible by hitting F11 on startup to restore image.

    Hope i'm not sounding too vague,

    Enjoy!

    Jaycee
     
  3. foghorne

    foghorne Registered Member

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    Hi Arranger,

    the only concern I would have is with the term "Periodically". In other words if there is a significant delay in between creating your internal drive copy and duplicating it (e.g. a number of days) then you have a weakness in that if a hard drive crashes you have lost you most recent backup in addition to your hard disk data.

    IMHO you should really be pushing the image away from the internal disk at the same frequency that you are creating it to minimise the risk.

    F.

     
  4. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    By using the Acronis Secure Zone, you will be using the FAT32 File System, by the way. While there are a great many who strongly urge changing an external HD from FAT32 to NTFS, I am not among them. For precisely the reason that FAT32 is a much more widely used File System, and may indeed work better with TI when running in its native Linux mode. FAT32 is also the file system in use in many of the most advanced digital SLRs.

    While NTFS may offer a variety of protections, and is the default file system used by Windows XP, I doubt that those protections are necessary on a drive, or partition, which is used primarily or exclusively for storing rarely changed or accessed Image archives.

    ATI has shown at least some issues when working with NTFS, such as, at present, while creating new directories from a files and folders archive on NTFS partitions, which can result in corrupt directories and certain files. Acronis support is investigating this issue, and has said that it is likely the NTFS driver implementation in ATI boot mode that is at fault.

    Splitting files into FAT32 sized parts is not a problem, in fact, files are split into much smaller parts even on NTFS, even though that file splitting is transparent to the user. If you doubt this, run a defragmentation utility, and look at the before and after. Whatever cluster size is present on your file system is the smallest unit files are split into.

    Regards
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  5. jaycee

    jaycee Registered Member

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    Nice piece of information :)

    I restore from a BartPE CD with Acronis Plugin from Mustang (since about 1 day :p) so NTFS goes well for me ;)

    Jaycee
     
  6. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Jaycee,

    I'm not suggesting that ATI cannot use NTFS, just that there is no reason not to use FAT32 on external HDs.

    Even your approach to booting from BartPE still calls up the native Linux mode of TI on certain operations started in Windows (or BartPE), such as restoring your system partition.

    External HDs also don't require a large cache, since frequent drive access is rarely involved.

    Regards
     
  7. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Arranger,

    Providing that each of the 5 PC's is running identical hardware and software, you should have a very workable strategy. Levels of redundany are always a good idea.

    The main suggestion I have is to confirm that each step works, on all 5 PCs. That way, you'll detect any issues before you need to rely on restoration to save the ship. A sound practice, of course, which you may have already done in this scenario, is to create one or two Disk/Partition Images of your current state, and verify those, before attempting any restoration.

    Confirming that ATI can run in Full Boot Mode on your system(s) is also crucial to success. If that doesn't work, you could set up and test a BartPE Boot environment, as jaycee uses.

    Test, verify, then test again. That's the best strategy.

    Regards
     
  8. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    True image works equally as well with NTFS as any other recognised file system. The fact that the Secure Zone is in the FAT 32 format is of no relevance as it is entirely transparent to the user. For example all my drives, internal and external, are formatted in in NTFS the only odd man out is the secure zone partition which is FAT 32 by design. I can mount a secure zone image that has been made of an NTFS drive and it mounts as an NTFS drive even though in the inner workings of the secure zone it passes through a FAT 32 file system. Exactly the same happens when making a restore.

    As far as a SLR with data on it's internal storage in FAT 32 this can be downloaded to an NTFS drive with no problems.

    OTOH I have never used and never intend to use files and folders backups so I cannot speak for any problems that may arise there. Nor do I know if they only occur exclusively in an NTFS environment.

    Xpilot
     
  9. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Xpilot,

    None of which addresses the point that inspired my comments, and which I hear daily, that one should for reasons not clearly explained, reformat every external HD from FAT32 to NTFS, with the implication that NTFS will protect .tib files best.

    Is this true? If not, let's stop telling everyone that buys an external hard drive to use a different file system on it to save ATI archives.

    Regards
     
  10. foghorne

    foghorne Registered Member

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    Hi guys,

    my memory is not good at the best of times, but I remember reading a book about NTFS about 12 or more years ago I guess which clearly stated that NTFS has a transactional mechanism which (in theory) allows better error recovery in the event of a problem. There was also something in there about the way in which it flagged bad sectors as it found them to prevent them being reused. These were both cited as improvements over FAT32.

    I have no idea how much of this is marketing BS but my perception is that in addition to built in compression, more extensible space efficiency(smaller cluster size), security and so on NTFS is the way to go if you don't have to worry about compatibility with OSs which don't understand NTFS.

    F.
     
  11. foghorne

    foghorne Registered Member

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    Just had a quick google and found this comparison:

    http://www.ntfs.com/ntfs_vs_fat.htm


    F.


     
  12. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    To some users it is an annoyance to have a backup split into 4 GB chunks which is what I understand happens if a FAT32 file system is used. To others it is a positive advantage to have such a split though I have no use for it myself.
    My understanding of file systems as such is rather limited but I have been lead to believe that NTFS was developed to be more robust and capable of storing larger files that would have one address rather then several. I don't think this is of any great consequence as far as writing and reading archive files is concerned.

    I made my choice to go all NTFS a while back having done some background reading which suggested that NTFS was the way to go with Windows XP.

    Xpilot
     
  13. jaycee

    jaycee Registered Member

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    To sum up:

    No obligation to go to NTFS, you can if you want... or if you feel the need inside your soul.

    Test your Rescue CD Acronis to make sure you can access correctly your external hard drive.

    Good work!

    Jaycee
     
  14. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    Ditto. The reason to use NTFS is because it is more reliable than FAT32. NTFS is a journaling file system. It keeps a journal of changes before and after writing new sectors to the drive. Using this information it can recover from errors that would corrupt a FAT32 file. You can pull the plug on your PC while it is writing to an NTFS drive and have a really good probability of recovering the file when the PC is powered back up again.
     
  15. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Here's another excellent resource, Andy Hui, on AnandTech,

    http://www.anandtech.com/guides/ - FAT32 vs NTFS

    Overall, Andy sides with NTFS.

    But, the fault tolerance built into NTFS also relies heavily on CheckDisk. In a recent conversation with a data recovery engineer from Ontrack, whom I contacted about the feasibility of recovering data from corrupt ATI archives, he said that running CheckDisk on a directory or partition containing a corrupt Acronis archive would not help; in fact, it could seriously complicate any chance for recovery.

    See this post for the full discussion: Ontrack comments, in a thread titled: There is no way to recover files from corrupt Acronis .tib files

    While there are many advantages to running NTFS under normal conditions in Windows XP, I do not think that those same advantages apply on partitions used solely for Acronis True Image storage. The data pathway to and from external USB HDs is a fragile pathway, and, I wonder if the chipsets themselves may not be optimized to run under FAT32, and could be one reason why most pre-builts come formatted FAT32. I know, it could also be because of the OS compatibility. But, not necessarily. I thought SATA was the cat's pajamas, but plenty of motherboards have difficulty with SATA implementation, and, now and again, we see issues arise in this forum around SATA.

    The one area I concede might be an advantage, is if the bad sector identification is indeed better under NTFS. But, many of the other advanced features in NTFS would in no way improve ATI efficiency. We are talking about large files here. Even fragmentation is of almost no consequence with .tib archives. Not in net time to restore.

    As to the innate efficiency of all those features in NTFS, even Andy Hui states:

    So, there may be times to use NTFS, and times to use FAT32. I use both on my external USB HD. But I am still unconvinced that everyone should convert all partitions, internal and external, even those intended solely for ATI Images, to FAT32.

    Seems to me this would be akin to saying, well, we must provide our courier a vehicle with automatic transmission, because everyone knows automatics are best. At the end of his shift, that same fellow hops in his 1972 MG, shifts into 1st, and roars off for his favorite drive of the day.

    And if you pull the plug while writing an ATI archive, NTFS and all its men, won't put Humpty together again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  16. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    Chris:

    You are of course correct to advise that people make a decision of which filesystem to use on their external USB hard disks based on their needs. I couldn't agree more.

    I believe, however, that the reason that most commercial drives come preformatted for FAT32 is only for user convenience. Since almost every OS can read and write to a FAT32 filesystem, the drive can simply be plugged into almost any PC and used immediately. If you're running Win98, you're good to go. Same for Windows XP, same for Linux. No fuss, no hassle, but maybe not the optimum filesystem for your needs. You decide.
     
  17. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Agreed. But, as you say, same for Linux. And, ATI is built around Linux, not Windows XP. Hence, the decision to use FAT32 for the Acronis Secure Zone, which could use any file system it wants, since the Secure Zone is the sole property of ATI.

    If I'm with someone who is more comfortable speaking Spanish, I talk with them in Spanish. My interest here is in finding out what ATI is more comfortable using, in those distant realms of external USB HDs. And I doubt that we will hear from Acronis on whether it may prefer to run another file system than the most profitable of all file systems, NTFS.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  18. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Ah! that explains why on three separate occasions after a power outage my machine surprised me by starting up again in perfect order. My neighbour on the other hand with a Win 98 system had to wait while scandisk ran to make repairs.

    I knew there was a reason why I chose NTFS [​IMG] !

    Xpilot
     
  19. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    The Secure Zone is accessed by both the Windows XP version of TrueImage and by the Linux-based Startup Recovery Manager. Thus the need to have a Secure Zone filesystem that will work with both operating systems. FAT32 fills the bill on compatibility with both WinXP and Linux.

    Acronis probably chose FAT32 for the Secure Zone for compatibility; not because of superiority. NTFS on Linux is still a work in progress. If and when the bugs are worked out and NTFS on Linux proves to be stable and reliable, then, who knows? Acronis may then choose differently for the Secure Zone filesystem.
     
  20. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Well said. I wonder, then, if as you say, NTFS on Linux is still a work in progress, and my direct experience using Linux mode TI confirms this, then why should we ask TI to use NTFS as a storage file format, since our recovery environment of choice, under TI, is a Linux program?

    Also, the fact that TI running in Windows accesses NTFS files does not seem to prove that the core programming within TI is other than Linux based. I ran a DOS emulation program on an Amiga computer 20 years ago. What matters, is what the native code does well.

    Of course, if the Linux core TI finds a corrupt file, on an NTFS or FAT32 file, or any other media, it won't help. So, we must do our part to protect our data. If, it turns out, external USB HDs are more likely to protect Acronis .tib files stored on them in NTFS partitions, then, we should use NTFS. That would be the central issue. But, if even some instance of NTFS management would cause a .tib file to become unreadable to TI, then, that would indicate the reverse.

    I'm still curious. This is a good discussion, and, one worth having, it seems to me. We are still in the early stages of creating reliable backup strategies.

    Another point raised in the Hui article, is that NTFS keeps multiple instances of the Master File Table. Could this possibly be a stumbling block TI runs into when writing new directories to NTFS?

     
  21. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Lost clusters...ah the hours wasted watching Norton utilities report all the orphaned files it found after every premature shutdown.

    I'm so glad to be living in the NTFS world. Except when corruption occurs, and my Linux based program won't help. Still trying to figure out what it needs to be content. ;)
     
  22. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    Perhaps, to use my manual vs. automatic transmission analogy from post# 15, for the purposes of storing files, all courier ATI asks, when offered either vehicle,

    'Is there enough room in the trunk for me to place, store, and retrieve my archive files? It stays shut, has a good lock, and the key won't jam?'

    I may be seeing issues where none exist. Then, of course, as everyone has been graciously trying to get thru my thick head, the only choice is: which is the best file system, for everything else I do? (say, didn't someone say this several hours ago?) The one that works best with my OS(es), or some generic one that may not have built-in recovery after a power outage (once the UPS battery drains). So, is this what is going on? Nothing more?

    If so, I guess I'll have to find another bone to chew on. ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  23. Christopher_NC

    Christopher_NC Registered Member

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    And here's another reason:

    Acronis Support just posted this on a thread where a user is having troubles after TI was unable to recognize all 17 parts of his FAT32 split Image.

    So, I guess I'll join rank, and go with NTFS from now on. And, as Jaycee did in his post#2, which inspired me to start this rather lengthy debate, I'll encourage others to reformat their external HDs to NTFS as well.

    Whew...T'was gettin' lonely out there...;)
     
  24. Arranger

    Arranger Registered Member

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