My Backup and Recovery strategy - could use some input.

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by arlen, Feb 23, 2007.

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  1. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    Sorry for the length of this 1st post ... I'll try to be as succinct as possible. (edited a bit to reduce bulk)

    I just purchased TI Workstation 9.1 w/ Universal Restore, and I'm not certain it's exactly what I thought it was or will do exactly as I had planned ... probably should have done a little more research, though I'm still sure its at least part of my ideal solution.

    I use 2 networked PC's
    - My primary PC is about a year old, has a 250GB drive and all of my data is stored there (single volume containing both data and software). This PC has OEM XP Home and I only have an OEM recovery disk.
    - My secondary PC is much older, has a 120GB drive w/ a purchased copy of XP home and is intended to have the same software setup as the primary, but no data.
    - I have 2 available externals that are 120GB. I plan to install a removable HD in the primary PC, probably 250GB

    What I'd planned to do is this:
    - 'Real-time' mirror the primary drive for disaster recovery using a new removable HD installed in the Primary PC (as close as possible to real-time w/o slowing my system).
    - Use one USB external drive for data backup, belts & suspenders so to speak.
    - Use a 2nd USB external drive for software backup to facilitate easy updates on the other & future PCs

    I'm game for repartitioning the 250GB if warranted, but want to be sure I am super careful. I'm also up to changing to Win2000 if absolutely needed, but won't go for Vista till it's proven itself to be stable and till I have PC's that will handle it.

    So ... to my questions:
    - Can Acronis "real-time mirror" or something close to that so that I always have a current clone of my software and data ready to take over if I lose my primary drive? If not, is there another solution I need to look at?
    - Can Acronis handle both maintaining the mirror (or pseudo-mirror), and scheduled nightly data backups?
    - Should I repartition my primary drive to software & data volumes to facilitate this, and is that possible w/o reinstallation of XP? Would I be way better off abandoning XP for 2000 to make this happen (I'd rather not spend the cash)?
    - Can I use one of my externals to clone the software from the Primary, and then update the other PCs whenever I make changes to the primary from that external? Or, if repartitioned, is the using 2nd external not necessary?

    I know this is a lot of info and a lot to ask in one post, sorry for that. I'd greatly appreciate any input or suggested tweaks to my strategy you could offer.

    (I'm not completely clear on the differences between clones and images, and in some cases above it's likely I meant image when I said clone).
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2007
  2. Phenny

    Phenny Registered Member

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    just a side-note: XP is the newer OS so if you wanted to loose some cash you'd go for Vista or Xp-Pro...2000 would be a downgrade and waste of money

    TI doesn't mirror but i guess you can cover most with scheduling.
    You should at least have 2 partitions on your main drive..one of the reasons
    being that you can split backup jobs and so have smaller jobs/files and don't have the system so much occupied during backups.

    This real mirroring you long for, would be done with a raid array i guess, but that
    would mean using an add-on controller (on board software-raid controllers are evil ;))and lots of hard-drives...complicated stuff..
     
  3. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    Thanks for the input Phenny

    Yeah, I know 2000 would be a "downgrade", but speaking w/ lots of folks who know more than I (corporate IT people), they don't like XP at all, and most strongly recommend 2000 over XP... even Pro. Vista is too new, and my machines aren't built for it.

    Well, I know a "little bit" about raid arrays (I was a corporate IT guy 10 years ago -- I'm sure lots has changed), and I understood Raid 1 is simple mirroring a single drive. Am I wrong on that?

    Could you give me the skinny on
    and why? Can it be done w/ a PCI controller card, and if so is it complex and costly, and will it dog my machine?

    Is repartitioning possible w/ XP w/out reinstallation? Can I migrate my existing system/software/data to a smaller partition on a new drive via Acronis, and still have access to the other partition(s)?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions.
     
  4. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    I am not saying 2000 is bad and if you have it and it does all you want then why worry. However, must of the 2000 better than XP arguments were made when XP was introduced and a lot took issue with the "visual fluff". XP has come a long, long way since then.

    Corporate IT people usually have more concerns than the person with one or a few PCs. Upgrading to a new OS is major PITA that means not only the new OS has to work but various special applications, some of them very complex, need to be qualified with the new OS. Networking/server issues can arise and then there is the problem that introducing a new OS means a high-percentage of the PCs will not run it at all or, poorly. People who have to worry about a couple of thousand PCs running don't really like change no matter how excited some magazine is about the new stuff.

    Just what feature does 2000 offer you that you would consider changing to it?
     
  5. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    I was just saying that if needed to acomplish what I laid out in my first post, I'd do so. Really the XP / 2000 issue is a non-issue, I'd just as soon stick with what I've got and not lay out cash unless needed, except ...

    The one reason I thought it might be of benefit is that XP talks to MS all the time, and if I were to use Acronis to maintain a consistent setup between machines, even though I own enough legal copies of XP, I'd in fact be running multiple copies of the same OS SSN. I would like to set one machine up, and duplicate the exact config on the other, and keep the two consistent. If I add software, change configs, etc, I would like to readily update the other to be the same, without the need to keep track of the changes I make.

    I just figured w/ Acronis' abilities, this would be possible, but MS might not like it.
     
  6. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    A firewall will take care of that. :cool: :cool: As one late night infomercial says, "Set it and forget it". :cool:
     
  7. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    Lol, yeah I guess that would, but you wouldn't get ANY security updates that way ... as open as MS products are to bugs ... ehhh, not so sure I want to close that door entirely, just the part that might get me in trouble, lol.
     
  8. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    Well, apart from the updates that are in SP2 I haven't done a single update to either my desktop and laptop. And they keep humming along quite nicely. Of course I keep my AVG current and the Firewall up. And I regularly do "housekeeping" on the Registry, Cookies, and Temporary Files.
     
  9. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    Hmmmm, worth considering I guess. I keep the AVG current anf Firewall up too, but I don't know that I'm comfortable with no updates myself. I deal with other people's personal info and payment info daily ... if some exploit played gotcha with me, and I'd not allowed security updates I'd think I'd have a hard time making a case that I'm not liable ... or that I'd done all I can do to protect that info, in accordance w/ my merchant account contract.

    Any input on mirroring via hardware or software? I've spec'd Raid level 5 on several servers in the long-ago, but never actually had to interface with them ... they just did their thing and I never had a disaster that required recovery. Raid level 1 should be pretty simple, shouldn't it? A PCI card, a second drive and voila? Would I find my PC dragging butt with constantly updating a second drive, or would it be pretty transparent?
     
  10. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    Yes, I agree that you're in a totally different situation. While I don't do Raid, I wonder if it is suitable for your situation, since anything that, as you put it, "plays gotcha" with your system will also affect the Raid drive.
    Maybe you should consider a two pronged approach. First get some removable trays for at least three hard drives. We'll call them 1, 2, 3 (Keep it simple, :D )
    Drive 1 is your original working drive.
    At the end of the day Clone it to 2. Make sure the Clone boots, then remove it from the system. Also do a backup Image to 3, Restore that Image (sacrifice 2 for the time being) and make sure it boots. In any case 2 will always be a working disk of 1 at the end of the day.
    On 3 you can keep as many images as it will hold, then when it is full start deleting the oldest images first.

    Once you're confident that your Restored Image and your Cloned drive will always boot, you can simply Clone 1 to 2 at the end of the day and remove 2 from the computer, without testing the Clone. Likewise you can Image 1 to 3 and remove 3 from the computer. Take one or both of those drives (2 or 3) off premises or home with you if your work is not home based.
     
  11. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    That's a really good point that any "gotcha" that affects my primary drive would also affect my raid or mirrored drive Ralphie. Part of the reason I decided to do a rack & carriage (or tray) system is to facilitate off-site storage. My business is home based (I do contracted work, and have a small but growing online retail biz), and there isn't a great affordable off-site storage facility locally that caters to the little guy, so I maintain a safe deposit box at my bank that I keep a copy of my backups in on alternating externals. But it's a cumersome system, pretty inconvenient and doesn't get done often enough. I'm trying to automate as much as possible, and will likely start utilizing some secure online backup for my most critical files this year ... though I'll admit I'm a bit nervous about that.

    I'm going to think a bit on the 'system' you're proposing ... I'm out of town right now, w/ a copy of all of my data on an external in my bag, lol ... didn't make it to the bank before close yesterday, and I've had my home burglarized and lost a computer to that once before. I'd like to simplify things as much as possible to ensure it gets done each day, every day. I appreciate the input, you've got me thinking about other issues and other possibilities. I can honestly dedicate a 3rd older machine to this kind of data management if that helps me secure my info.
     
  12. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    Ah, so you already have removable drives. Personally, I do not like online storage either. If your house is not prone to flooding, perhaps a safe buried in the ground may be an option rather than using the bank and certainly more convenient. I'm not sure if a hard drive in a fireproof safe will withstand a fire - surely the heat will be transferred internally and while the drive will not burn, the heat will destroy it. So in-ground is the better bet.
     
  13. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    Right! Even if you aren't a business user it is a good idea to see what your bank wants you to do to secure your PC if you are using on-line banking.
     
  14. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    Another possibility is storing your data on a commAercial web-hosting server which would get you an automatic backup. If you have huge amounts of data it can be slow since uploading from your PC is a lot slower than downloading.

    Perhaps your operation can be web-based thus eliminating the need for local storage.

    Just a couple of ideas.
     
  15. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    Unfortunately, I've got a 'damp' basement (old house), and though I don't flood, the water table is fairly high in the neighborhood so I suspect in-ground is probably out. I do know that 'most' of the home portable fire safes are not data-safe, however they do make one that's many times more expensive that does protect data, though the exposure time is very limited.

    Well, I think I may do a combo of all of this ... kinda belt, suspenders & a few staples. I know I'm probably being overly cautious, but the time my PC was stolen cost me a ton, and took a long while to recover from. I don't ever want to face that again. The time I lost a MB was bad, cost me a day and the cost of buying a new machine as I didn't have time to rebuild the one that crashed. I'd rather not face that again either.

    Disaster Recovery from Hard Drive failure : Mirror to a removable HD via pci card - I really think this should be as simple as a pci card and a second identical sized drive. If that's proved wrong, I'll reconsider, but the option of simply changing boot designations and being back up and running in minutes is worth a little cash ... buys me time to get a new HD, and do whatever rebuild is needed.

    Backup & Disaster Recovery from Viral attack: Acronis to external HDs, rotated 'regularly' from a 'data-safe' home fire safe. This also covers me if I lose a MB on my primary PC, as I can simply restore data to my secondary machine and hopefully be up in a few hours. I could even schedule a late-night copy of critical files to that machine so I don't have to restore, or treat it as a BU image destination.

    Offsite Storage: Auto-backup to secure FTP ... my financials only (small db), double passworded. I'm a little nervous about that, but it would ensure a day-old copy of the one truly critical chunk of info is always off-site in case of a fire / tornado / etc. Also, I'll take the mirrored drive either w/ me or to the safe-deposit box when I leave town.

    Mostly then everything is automated except swapping external drives out of the home fire safe, say Friday night, and taking the removable w/ me or to the bank when I leave town, which I do already.

    FWIW - I have a feeling my 'hope' of maintainig identical setups on 2 PC's via Acronis is not really doable, as the age and specs of the 2 PC's are so different. If they were identical machines, probably doable, but they aren't even close.

    Thanks a bunch for all the feedback everyone, really helped spark some ideas. :thumb:
     
  16. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    Definitely doable. You need the Universal Restore feature which allows Restoring to different hardware. And as I get a better "feel" for your situation, have you ever considered getting a laptop computer together with a portable usb drive? The desktop will then become your spare. And in case you're wondering, I have Restored a laptop Backup Image to a desktop system, using the Universal Restore feature. Essentially what UR does is load the drivers for the different hardware during the restore process - mainly the correct video display driver.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2007
  17. arlen

    arlen Registered Member

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    That's great, I'm glad to still keep that in the gameplan. It will really be helpful to maintain identical setups.

    Yeah, I've considered a laptop, and it's on my future purchase list. I expect later this year or early next I'll buy a nice laptop that can cover my needs, but for now I've got to do w/ what I've got. I think this setup w/ cover me for just about any disaster, which is really 1st priority ... I just don't trust my current system, and know it'll take me days to recover from a major failure, assuming I can, when I don't have time to deal with that. I think getting this setup working will put me in good shape to add a laptop and keep my data sync'd and safe.

    Appreciate all of the help Ralphie.
     
  18. Ralphie

    Ralphie Registered Member

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    Since you have some "extra" drives, as a step towards having identical setups, try this:
    First I'll call your systems 1 and 2, with 1 being the newer one.
    Make a clone of 1 to a spare drive.
    Boot with the clone to make sure it works, then change its display adapter to a generic type. The display will change to 16 colors and 640 x 480.
    Put the drive in 2 and boot. It will go through all the steps of discovering new hardware it finds in 2. When it is done you should have an identical setup except for the display adapter. Now you need to install the driver for the display and probably the sound.
    Of course if you install an identical video card in 2 it should make the transition even easier - just insert the clone in 2 without changing the display adapter. It should boot.

    I recently tried this with a Windows ME system, moving it from an old AMD 333Mhz desktop to an Athlon 1Ghz desktop - totally different video cards - and it worked.

    In other words there was no need for Universal Restore. Of course UR would make it easier.
     
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