No expiration on backups?

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by Vanguard, Jun 21, 2007.

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  1. Vanguard

    Vanguard Registered Member

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    The Secure Zone is full. It shouldn't be if TI Home were a decent backup program. Old incrementals stored there are obviously not need after awhile and especially after a full backup. I see no option when defining a scheduled task for an incremental backup that lets the user specify the expiration (or retention interval) for any backup type. If I schedule a full backup on Monday at 3AM and incrementals on every other weekday at 3AM then I don't need to keep incrementals more than 7 calendar days (or any of them after the full backup completes).

    I cannot delete backups from the Secure Zone. The manage option for it doesn't let me edit the backups (to delete huge files that I don't need to have have backed up) or delete old incremental backups. The manage option only lets me delete, enlarge, or decrease the size of the Secure Zone. There is no option to actually*manage* the backup image files within that hidden partition, like deleting old incrementals (or merging them into a most recent incremental). The option to manage backup archives does not include the Secure Zone so I cannot edit the backup contents using that, either.

    I figured TI Home (latest version) was going to give me LOTS more features for a backup solution. I'm getting disappointed real fast. Obviously the Home version is not a Professional version. This is a home computer so the Workstation version didn't seem appropriate (but then it may not have the Professional features that I expect, anyway).
     
  2. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    TI Home Version 10 does in fact give lots a backup image options. You could use the Backup Location feature which has in itself several different options and ways of managing backups. You could store your backups in a folder anywhere you choose and devise your own method of working. The third possibility is to use an Acronis Secure zone.
    The SZ has continued virtually unchanged since the early days of TI. It is where I store all my backup images it is however on a second internal hard drive as I use it to protect the main hard drive.
    Once it has been running a while it will fill up by design and provided more than one full image has been made or is made when the full up warning is received the FIFO management system kicks in. The fact that from time to time there will be some orphaned incremental should be of no great concern as they will be overwritten in due course as space is needed.
    My own choice is to size my internal drive to take the number of full images I require so that one simple backup schedule does it all. However it is no big deal to cater for incrementals with a second schedule if so desired.

    Xpilot
     
  3. Vanguard

    Vanguard Registered Member

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    Letting users edit backup images, even in the Secure Zone, would let them reduce the size of those backup images for files that they find that they don't need anymore (or were accidentally included). With just 2 files, I could save 20GB in several incrementals. When selecting to Explore the backup images, the Secure Zone is not even listed as a backup location. Merging incrementals would be another means to reduce disk usage. Another would be to provide for expiration of backups but that option isn't available.

    The only option available under there is to manage the Secure Zone. The only management actions available for the Secure Zone is to enlarge or reduce it or to delete it, none of which permit me to actually edit the backup images to remove unneeded files within backup images that are consuming over 30GB of disk space. Perhaps I would be permitted the option of editing the images (i.e., the Explore Image feature) if I did NOT use the Secure Zone. However, the reason for using the Secure Zone (for me) was not for security. It was to ensure the backups did not consume all free space on the hard disk which would then render the OS unbootable or unusable and require effort to free up disk space to get the OS working again. I'm not going to store the backups in the same partition as the OS. I also put my data files in a partition other than where the OS resides.

    Looks like the problem is that the full backup was performed manually and saved to DVD-R but the incrementals are scheduled and saved in the Secure Zone. Apparently the FIFO scheme of dumping older incrementals or differentials prior to the last full backup does not include the full backup saved to a different backup location than for the incremental or differential backups. That is, TI doesn't manage the backup images using a catalog regardless of where are the backups. Instead TI uses a FIFO scheme based on the backup types WITHIN the same backup location. Well, my full backups were on DVD-R, not in the Secure Zone. Since cataloging of *all* backup images regardless of backup location isn't maintained by TI, I will have to save full backup images along with the incremental backup images within the SAME backup location. That means I have to waste disk space for *duplicate* full backup images. I save the full backups on removable media so it can be protected by storing it somewhere other than where is the computer (i.e., protection from floods, fire, explosion, vandalism, etc.) and to eliminate loss due to hardware failure by storing it on separate and removable media.

    What I may need to do because of limitations or lack of cataloging in TI is to delete the incrementals (all of them to make room) and schedule a full backup on Monday at 3AM that gets saved in the Secure Zone. The incrementals would be scheduled for the other days and also be saved in the Secure Zone. Then TI would see a full backup image file in that partition to use its FIFO scheme to delete or overwrite the older incremental backup image files. While TI probably has a catalog as a means to record which version of a file is in which image file, it seems quite peculiar that it can't also use that catalog to remember when full backups are performed anywhere; that is, I'd prefer a catalog of backup images that keeps tracks of ALL backup images regardless of where that image got saved. This is the first backup product that I've seen whose expiration scheme bothers with where the backups are saved.
     
  4. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Your secure zone is full because you have filled it up with incrementals and just one base image. FIFO will not start till you create another base image.

    You can explore secure zone images. You can also copy from them. You can also edit them.
    First you should start the Mount image wizard, select the image you want and then TI will mount it as a virtual drive.
    Editing images in the secure zone will not have the effect of freeing up space because the edits will take the form of additional incrementals which will actually use more space.

    You have not found out about the properties of the backup Locations Feature because you have not set one up or read about it in the user manual.
    If you wish to store images over which you have complete manual control and want to avoid the limitations and space requirements of the secure zone or the Acronis back up location I would suggest you create a separate backup partition, preferably on a second hard drive.

    Your statement that you use the SZ for increments only cannot be factually correct. Even if you schedule incrementals to the secure zone the first image will be a full one because TI needs a base to which subsequent increments can be made. Following this theme it makes sense to have all parts of backup images in the same zone, Location, partition or folder.

    Rather than introducing concepts of different features that you would like to see I would suggest you take a bit more time to find out what TI can actually do for you.
    It is what I did and it runs scheduled images for me on a daily basis with no further effort at all.
    Stage two is the important one of making restores in a safe way to prove the whole process. In my view waiting till disaster strikes is not an option.

    Xpilot
     
  5. Vanguard

    Vanguard Registered Member

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    I did not investigate the Mount option. I was looking at the Backup Locations section and its Explore Backup Archive function where the Secure Zone is not listed. The Mount function does list the Secure Zone so I'll try that.

    If I delete a file from one backup image, the only way the next incremental would be larger would be if that file still existed to get backed up again. The big files that I wanted to delete out of the incremental image were already deleted from the hard drive because they were moved to removable media.

    I started with the Secure Zone to save the backup images so that a drive letter wouldn't be assigned to the partition where they were stored. I wanted them in a partition separate of the OS partition to prevent the problem of backups consuming all free disk space in the OS partition (I see that the non-SecureZone backup locations allow a backup quota but it is in gigabytes instead of percentage of total disk space). I didn't want a drive letter primarily to keep any other applications from getting at those backup files.

    I haven't yet defined a backup location because I thought the Secure Zone was the better scheme. Guess not. Like you say, maybe a separate partition is better. Can TI access the images on a primary partition which has not been assigned a drive letter in the OS? It looks like TI wants to have the file system rooted to a drive letter. That's doable but not desired. I do see that backup locations (and not the Secure Zone) lets me specify an global expiration period for all backup types.

    The full backup was manually selected (i.e., not a scheduled task) and used DVD-R discs. The scheduled task in TI was configured to do incrementals. If TI is not using a catalog to record ALL backup images regardless of where they are saved then it is possible that the first incremental image saved in the Secure Zone was equivalent to a full backup; i.e., since there was no full backup within the Secure Zone to compare against and since TI doesn't seem to include in the catalog the full backup made to the DVD-R discs then the first incremental would see all files as new files to include in the backup image. However, since it is an increment type of backup despite containing all files, perhaps TI doesn't consider it a full backup so the FIFO scheme didn't kick in.

    That's because you did not get lured by Acronis' marketing for TI's Secure Zone. Hindsight is the only perfect science. You'll find rare few users that ask questions only after knowing 100% of a product and by then they wouldn't need to ask questions.

    So what is the verify option for? I thought it proved that the images could be successfully read from the backup location wherever that was and then also check the saved file matched the current file that was supposedly backed up (I don't know if TI uses the Volume Shadow Copy service to let it save a file while that file has open handles on it). When I do the verify for the full backups saved on DVD-R discs the discs were read a second time for the verify. This is how verify works for other backup programs when using tape or other removable media. Verify doubles the time to complete the backup operation but is needed to ensure the backup is actually usable.
     
  6. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    I answered your question as to what to do as your secure zone was full. I should have been clearer and specified that the next full base image should have been made to the secure zone.
    Your catalogue concept does not apply it the TI context.
    Your assumptions about the verify process are way off track. It is now known as validation and uses checksums.
    A forum search will give you all the backgound info you could wish for. Because I do not use this optional feature I will not comment further.
    Whether one uses validation or not I consider it is of vital importance to check that images made can actually be restored on a given set of hardware. That way there can be no nasty surprises when disaster strikes.
    Remember that restores are done when booted into a Linux environment either directly from the rescue CD or by reboot if started from Windows.

    Xpilot
     
  7. Vanguard

    Vanguard Registered Member

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    I came to same conclusion, especially since TI Home doesn't have an option to also backup the catalogs.

    Okay, I'll go hunting for some posts regarding the validation function to see what it really does. Since many programs use hashes by their simple comparators (i.e., when checking for file differences rather than actually outputting the differences), I didn't see what would be the difference. However, and although the help on the validate option is very terse, it does seem that it is not actually a verify option. Well, that sucks royal. Only idiots save backups without checking those backups are usable.

    It's ridiculous to make users do a manual restore to an alternate path and then use some 3rd party utility to do a diff on all of them. Almost makes this product useless and rather hazardous to use. Even the lowly NT Backup included in Win NT-2000-XP has a verify option that performs the file read from .bkf files and compares against the original files. Checking the integrity of image files is not the same as verifying their correctness of their contents. Their embedded help has no search function so I can't go hunting around to see if a verify option is buried somewhere else.

    Me, too, except that I don't have unpopulated extra hard drives that are huge to where the backup image files can go along with enough reserved space for an alternate path for the the test restores. Obviously I don't want the test restore to overwrite the original files but instead go to an alternate path so the restored files can then be compared against the originals. If TI Home actually had a verify option, it wouldn't need the alternate restore path and would use data streaming while reading files from the backup image files to compare against the originals. With a 160GB drive that is populated with 40GB of files and a 100GB partition (or quota) for the backup image files, there isn't enough free disk space remaining to do alternate pathed test restores which is then followed by having to run a diff across all of the restored files to manually perform the verify operation.

    Fact is, this would be the first backup program that I've used that did not have a verify function. Besides the NT Backup program, I also had the Veritas Backup Exec Desktop program (which is the uncrippled version of NT Backup) but it eventually became unusable under WinXP-SP2 and I wasn't going to pay for the latest upgrade (Veritas bought it from someone else, sold it to Stomp which renamed it to Backup MyPC and Stomp got acquired by Migo who renamed it again to PC Backup). This is such a critical operation that I may go back to using Task Scheduler to run the old Backup program that is included under all NT-based versions of Windows which does have a verify option. I can't use NT Backup to save to CD/DVD-R media but it works for saving .bkf files to disk.

    In another thread, a reply by Acronis support was, "Please also be aware that to check archive data integrity you must have all incremental and differential backups belonging to the archive and the initial full backup. If any of successive backups is missing, validation is not possible." Checking the linking between image files is useful. Verifying the usability of the contents for those images is critical.

    I'll have to further investigate this severe deficiency in TI Home. If there isn't an easy and reasonable workaround for the lack of a true verify operation, TI Home gets scrapped other than perhaps to use for saving occasional (monthly) full backups to CD/DVD-R media unless I can get the old Backup Exec Desktop working again.

    Since you "run scheduled images on a daily basis with no further effort at all", just how to you also automate an externally executed verify operation? If you are using the pre/post commands option in the backup policy in TI Home, could you show the contents of the batch or script file that you use to perform this otherwise missing verification operation?
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2007
  8. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Before answering some of your questions I will make the general point that many contributors here have moved on from the single harddrive + DVDs for backups and employ extra hard drives which give a whole host of advantages in terms of speed and reliability. External hard drives are good but I go the extra mile and use exchangeable drives in removeable drawers.

    My simple and effective workaround is not to run verifications at all. instead I pull out my current hard drive and replace it with yesterday's harddrive and then run a restore from the latest image that was written automatically to the secure zone on my slave drive.
    This is the only manual part of the backup cycle and is also by far the quickest.
    In truth I actually have a third hard drive in the main harddrive rotation not because it is really needed but as spare came up I have used it to provide an extra layer of redundancy.

    I have been running this way now for well over a year and it has coped with all the problems I have thrown at it including three or four actual failed restores.

    Xpilot
     
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