Up-To-Date Backup Methods

Discussion in 'hardware' started by Brent Hutto, Sep 24, 2009.

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  1. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Registered Member

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    I make occasional (every couple months) backups of my work and home computers pretty much the way I've done it since external USB hard drives first came to market. Plug in a external HDD (500GB Western Digital), drag and drop all the directories with my own files in them into a new directory tree on the HDD and ignore the operating system and so forth. Crude but better than nothing I suppose.

    I'm going to start doing something that's more thorough and need to decide what hardware and/or software is called for...in addition to upping the frequency to something like weekly at work and monthly at home. Software-wise I may keep it as cheap-and-cheerful as downloading Paragon Free onto all my computers and using it to do whole-disk backups and keep a bootable recovery CD or something like that. Hardware-wise I'm either going to get a new USB hard drive or maybe move into the 21st century with a external (USB) Blu-Ray recorder.

    Concerning that last item, how well do these guys work? I fear that the bit-for-bit reliability may be lacking on Blu-Ray media as it is really intended for mass-market video where 100% retention of the data is not truly required. I also worry that filling up a 25GB disc may take like a couple hours on a USB external burner drive. And finally, the cost of the burners (couple hundred bucks?) and the media (several dollars per disc) make this potentially a spendy solution for frequent backups.

    Should I just stick to 500-1,000GB hard disks for now? Or maybe keep using my existing external HDD for frequent backups and add a BD-burner for an occasional second-level backup.

    As I'm typing this, it occurs to me that spending a few bucks on something like Paragon Drive 9.0 Personal might let me do incrementals or something and save enough on media to recoup the cost of the software quickly...
     
  2. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    A proper backup strategy requires:

    1. Having at least 2 USB drives, altenating amongst them, never having all USB drives connected at same time, either to the computer or to power.

    2. USB drives need to be connected to a UPS.

    3. Backups should be done at least once per day.

    4. Use only image backup programs that allow booting from a CD to recover drive/files. I have not been able to think of any reason to continue to use file-based backup.

    5. Always backup images of ALL partitions, OS or not.

    6. Always use the compare/verify option when doing a backup.

    7. To verify that the image backup is actually working, use the following programs, or equivalent:
    GetDiskSpaceUsed
    ReadFile
    GetFileTypeDistribution
    CompareDrives

    8. I currently use Acronis True Image 9 in Win 2000 and True Image 11 in Vista. May need to get another prog for Win 7.
     
  3. I no more

    I no more Registered Member

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    It doesn't make any economic sense to switch to BD-R because the per gigabyte cost is still higher. It also doesn't make any sense from a reliability standpoint because who knows how reliable they'll be. It took years for people to figure out DVD-R was garbage for data archival, and, to this day, most people still think they're the most realiable thing out there. I wouldn't use any optical media as my primary backup, but they do have the advantage of having no moving parts (so you'll always get at least something off of them).

    Your 500GB drive isn't even obsolete. As far as hardware goes, you've got the best stuff. I use two external drives, as Howard has suggested.

    As far as frequency and which software to use, I pretty much do the same thing as you (manual backups). So, I can't advise about that. I couldn't care less about my system partition (except for my bookmarks and a few odds and ends). The reason I don't do automatic backups is because I do hundreds of things on my computer, all of varying importance. Only a few, small things need to be backed up routinely. I'm not sure I can configure backup software to do what I want, but you might be different.
     
  4. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Registered Member

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    I'm still digesting Howard approach and may have followup questions at some point. But even before seeing these responses today I had picked up one of those USB-bus powered portable drives, a 320GB Toshiba. I definitely want to come up with a two-device rotation where all my backed up information is not stored on a single device or in a single location.

    I'm actually contemplating a regime of storing one of the external drives at home and one in my office. Each time a round of backups is made I can "flip flop" them so that one the most recent work-computer backup is on a drive stored at home and the most recent home-computer(s) backup is on the drive stored at work. That of course presumes weekly or month backup and not the continuous ones in Howard's scheme.

    BTW, I didn't go by there but WalMart is advertising the Western Digital Passport 250GB ones for $60 right now which is getting pretty darned cheap per GB for a bus-powered backup drive. I ended up paying a little more than that for my 320GB at another store. Don't get in WalMart much, especially on Saturday mornings!
     
  5. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    You need at least 2 USB drives for each computer.

    With an image backup. it is easy to do backups at least once per day.
    I run backups when I will be away from the computer, e.g., whilest away, for a meal, running errands, watching the idiot box, or sleeping
     
  6. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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  7. I no more

    I no more Registered Member

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    Some of this doesn't make sense to me. Why would someone make a backup to the same physical drive? As far as I'm concerned, the reason for backups is hardware failure. The only possible "software failure" that would keep someone from accessing their data is some kind of damage to an encrypted partition or device. Here's a thread on this topic: http://forums.truecrypt.org/viewtopic.php?t=17546

    But even with encrypted partitions, it really makes a lot more sense to use a separate device. If there's no encryption present on the drive, as far as I'm concerned, there's absolutely no reason to back up data on the same drive. The term "software failure" really doesn't make sense. Even if the entire operating system failed to load, all the files will still be accessible by removing the drive from the computer and putting it in a USB enclosure. If the MBR is damaged, then all partition information for the drive is gone (both the original and backup partition). But even then, the files are still there (accessible with recovery software).

    So, backups should be done to mitigate the eventual hard drive failure.
     
  8. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    Backing up to an internal drive makes no sense.

    Indeed, if Acronis wanted to benefit users, they REMOVE the Secure Zone feature. I've even seen postings from Acronis that SEcure Zone was needed only in the daze when external drives were not cost effective. Of course, back in tose daze, backups should be going to tape anyway.

    Alas, users get trapped into using Secure Zone because it sould good.

    The http://www.goodells.net/multiboot/notes.htm#note13 article does not offer good advice.

    For example, it misleads folkes into believing:

    1. That OS files to not change frequently.
    While most files do not change, many do, including the registry.
    It is bad adcice to tell files that they need not backup the OS.

    2. That it is possible to separate your files from the OS.

    Most every app, installed or not, modifies the registry and/or Application Data area, and/or Program Files area, or installs DLLs, etc.

    3. That file based backups are still needed.
    Aside from the fact that I can no longer think of a reason to use file based backups, image backups are so much faster than file0based backups, there is no need for file-based-backups.

    If one needs to backup a few files, then just copy them to ZIP or optical media, or make a copy on a USB drive. I do this all day long with programming projects, Excel workbooks, etc.
     
  9. I no more

    I no more Registered Member

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    I agree with most of what you say, but, even if a program makes extensive modifications to the system, that's not necessarily a reason to make backups of the entire OS.

    For example, a Firefox installation does all sorts of things to the registry, application data, etc. What's the only thing I care about? Bookmarks. I just go into the Firefox folder and make copies of my bookmarks. What about all the rest of the changes? So what? You can just re-install.

    Every program I use, I can easily find the few (if any) files I want to save. I just copy them manually. There's almost nothing on my OS that I actually care to save. So your advice doesn't necessarily apply to everyone. I personally save everything I want to keep on another partition, and the OS is completely expendable. But everyone's different. Most people probably have different systems than I do.


    Let's say I download lots of movies, music, etc. that are huge. Let's say that I don't want to save all of this stuff, and I delete most of it. An automatic image based backup would be hard to deal with if you're continually downloading and deleting huge files. I personally set my newsreader to download entire newsgroups, rather than just picking the stuff I want to download. Then once it's downloaded, I proceed to delete what I don't want. Most of this stuff comes split into a huge number of files that I have to re-assemble. Then I proceed to delete most of it. I often download 10 or 20 thousand files at a time.

    How would an automatic backup system deal with this? My hard drive is almost always in disarray. I personally know what I want to back up and what I don't. So, I do a manual file-based backup. I'm smart enough to handle it. I take MD5 hashes of every file, and I compile huge lists of files and where they're stored.
     
  10. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    It is unsafe at any speed, pardon me Ralph Nader, do do partial backups of files on the OS.

    The OS, and individual programs, are continually updating/adding files. Sometimes these files are not easily located, and may adversely affect the running of an app.

    It's playing with fire to not backup all partitions, OS or not.
    Very easy to do with external drives and an image backup program.
    Oh well. I've run out of time, so I will be unsubscribing to this thread.
     
  11. I no more

    I no more Registered Member

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    Come on. No need to be so sensitive.

    I'll just make another point. Let's say I use my computer for 5% work and 95% play. Let's say 99.9% of my hard drive is filled with multimedia that I don't care to back up. I'm certainly not going to image my entire 1 or 2 TB hard drive just for the few files I want to backup (which amount to a few MB).

    My point is everyone's different.

    But your advice is correct in general, especially for work computers.

    I have a question for you. How does image backup software work for encrypted drives? All of my drives are encrypted. My guess would be that they work very poorly, but I'll admit I don't know.
     
  12. I no more

    I no more Registered Member

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    Here's a thread I found on the TrueCrypt forums about doing an image backup of an encrypted system partition. If you don't want to take an image of the entire encrypted drive (a raw sector by sector image), then Windows has to be running (i.e. the system volume has to be mounted).

    http://forums.truecrypt.org/viewtopic.php?t=15351

    I don't know how this system would affect doing a daily backup.
     
  13. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    I think it makes a lot of sense. Especially with laptops. I'd restore 100 images for software issues for every image I restore for HD failure. So having an image in another partition on the same HD makes a restore away from home very convenient if there is an OS software issue.

    Of course, I have a copy of the image on another HD in case of HD failure, but that backup is likely to be at home, not traveling with me.
     
  14. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Registered Member

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    I would think the utility of a same-physical-disk image of your system has to do with how much of the time you're messing about with your O/S and application software. For someone like my wife who uses the same 4-5 apps every day of her life and never installs anything beyond automatic Windows updates, it would be totally useless. All she's concerned about is having a backup of her files if the computer and/or hard drive is physically FUBAR'd.

    For a typical Wilder Security Forum regular I'd think making immediately available (same disk) images might come in real handy if you are installing/uninstalling/upgrading/testing software a lot of the time. Very handy to just back off to yesterday's image if today's FUBAR is self-induced or software caused rather than physical.
     
  15. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Brent Hutto,

    A great summary.
     
  16. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Registered Member

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    Brian,

    Not that I've ever, ever self-induced a FUBAR on a computer in my care. Or at least I never got fired for it...although it was close that one time. :shifty:
     
  17. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Brent, your second paragraph applies to me. I have a low threshold for restoring images. Windows Updates gone bad, unexpected virus infections not cleared by your virus app, software that doesn't work properly and can't be uninstalled are clear indications. But I've even restored an image because an icon "looked" different from how it looked yesterday. Out of thousands of restores, with various apps, I've never had a failure. So I'm game to do it at any time.
     
  18. YeOldeStonecat

    YeOldeStonecat Registered Member

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    I agree with Howards approach.
    The 2x reasons for backing up....
    1- Data
    2- System recovery

    The more common problem these days is system recovery, say the OS gets hosed by something, restore to an earlier image backup.

    Many of these drive imaging programs even let you explore the archives to simply retrieve and restore a few files if you wish.

    Many of these programs allow scheduling and granular settings of the backup routine, such as doing incremental or differential backups.

    Plenty of cheap..even free..imaging programs out there these days that will clone your system, some even on the fly as you work in Windows, without slowing you down much.

    External hard drives the size of Montana are plentiful and cheap. Many of these imaging backup programs even allow putting the archive across the network.
     
  19. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    Thanks, I've never thought about this possibility, and I agree most of my restores were about software issues.
     
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