When You Say "Back-up", What Do You Mean?

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by logancastle, Apr 10, 2009.

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  1. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    I would like to enter into a philosophic discussion about the fundamental meaning of the idea of a "back-up", if anyone is interested. I think there is a lot of confusion about this and that is the reason it makes sense to ask about the difference between a "clone" and an "image", for instance, but the answers one gets to these questions are so unsatisfying. I believe Acronis, as a software company is itself unsure of the meaning. I would like to discuss what I think it means if anyone would like to do so. I think if we could agree on what it means then our discussions could be far more illuminating.
     
  2. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    This is a response to your question but it is not specifically directed at your question - more of a comment on terminology used in general.

    The issue about the use of the word "backup" has been raised before. I think it would be nice if we all used the same term to mean exactly the same thing but it just doesn't happen. Even if we all agree, the first new poster will probably upset the all the best laid plans (and definitions).

    Prior to to TI9, it was fairly simple. People were either talking about an image or a clone. Then they introduced Files and Folders backups (probably called Data now) and this really confused the terminology. The mechanism for producing the data backup made more use of the file system so the issues weren't the same as imaging in many cases.

    Acronis apparently has a document in their Knowlege Base on the differences between images and clones but I haven't read it. From what I've seen, I don't think they have a problem with the difference. The posters, IMO, have more of problem since they often like to refer to an image as a clone. Unfortunately, image isn't an ideal word since it implies that it is exactly the same but it isn't - some files are always omitted, and when it is restored the restoration does not make the restored disk look exactly like the original although it works the same.

    Now we get into a sector-by-sector image which backs up the entire partition and when it gets restored, AFAIK, it does look exactly the same. But you can keep several of this type of image files on a target drive whereas a clone only permits 1 copy of the source on a target drive. Also, I don't know what cloning does regarding all the unused sectors - if it is a true clone it should copy the contents of them as well.

    I sometimes think it would be nice for each new post to have a template at the beginning of it so the poster could tick the boxes to describe exactly what they were attempting to create and where the archive was being stored and whether the operation was being run from Windows or the CD.

    Until then, I think we just have to ask clarifying questions since it is a bit complicated.
     
  3. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Philosophic discussions will probably stir the Moderators from their slumbers so its best not to go there.:cautious: .

    A clone is a duplicate in all respects of a donor drive. there can only be one per hard drive.

    An image contains the ingedients to make a duplicate hard drive. Because it only contains useful information which can also be compressed a backup drive can hold many backup images.
    Restoring an image to a hard drive deletes its current contents and effectively converts it into a clone.

    I was not aware that there is much lack of awareness of the difference between the two animals. A brief scan of the terms in the manual should be enough.

    Xpilot
     
  4. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    The replies, so far, show me that I'm not alone in my inability to communicate effectively because of terminology. Let me push the discussion a little further towards the basics for the purposes of creating a fundamental and irreducible starting point. When one attempts to "back-up" something, exactly what is it that he is attempting to back-up? The question is intended to be provocative to attempt to show what I believe is the main reason why communication, on this, is difficult.
     
  5. Mem

    Mem Registered Member

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    Whatever they want.

    The point is that a "backup" is the process of having your files stored in a different location in case you lose access to the originals. All the different types of backup are just ways to get it in the content, form and location you want.
     
  6. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    Isn't it true that one does not know that what he is attempting to back-up is already broken?
     
  7. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    My irreducible starting point is a hard drive. I care not that it contains an OS,Programs,applications, emails and data of all sorts. I need it all.

    My backups are images of this drive created automatically every day when the computer would otherwise be idle.

    Any hard drive disaster can be overcome by restoring an image,usually the latest, to the same or a replacement hard drive.

    You will notice that the terms backup and image in this basic scenario are interchangable.

    It is possible to duplicate, add, remove or restore drives with the word clone or the button so designated never being used.
    Cloning a drive is a hazardous process because it is easy to make mistakes in this alien enviroment.

    Xpilot
     
  8. Mem

    Mem Registered Member

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    A backup can be a hardcopy printing of an email that is stored in archives. It could be a copy of a something online so you can access it from a different location if you aren't on the original PC, we can go on and on. How are these 'broken'?

    You are trying to go somewhere with this but I don't see it. Your request for definitions in light of your first request of "...the fundamental meaning of the idea of a "back-up"..." is too broad from your responses to the answers being given for me to get to where you want to be on this thread.
     
  9. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    Good points. But to make myself more clear. Lets start at a point in time where I have two records. Call them hard drives C: and D:. C: is what I operate from. D: is my back-up. Lets say that neither one is corrupt (although in real life there is no way to know that). I will want to discuss the term corrupt a little later. The assumption is (since, I seem to be operating okay) that C: is not corrupt. So I make a copy of it to D:. Now one of two things is true 1) C: was not corrupt and I have a back-up. Or 2) C: was corrupt and I have two corrupt copies. How does one know what has just happened? I think the answer is that there is no way to know! So what am I backing up? I'm backing up something that I think, hope, pray, assume was an uncorrupt drive C:. This will work until it doesn't. I have an answer to this connumdrum, I think, but tell me what you think so far.
     
  10. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    I would rather count the fleas in a dog's ear that carry on with this now totally absurd thread.

    If the OP has a real rather than philosophical problem with anything related to an Acronis product I would be pleased to join in.

    I will not waste my time with time wasters.

    Good evening
    Xpilot
     
  11. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    Sir, philosophy is real. Would Acronis care to comment on this?
     
  12. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    The situation described above is not uncommon and it is why many of us keep telling others to keep a number of backups rather than trim to the latest one. There is a chance the backup itself is bad or the information archived has a flaw in it such as a virus or a bad driver install. Lots of people have extracted themselves from a convulted seemingly unfixable situation by reloading an image that in ideal times would be considered obsolete.

    Actually, Xpilot has a solution that is close although, IMO, not perfect. He makes his backups in such a manner that he uses them immediately and will uncover any serious problems. It isn't perfect because some data may be bad and he wouldn't notice if he didn't use it for a while.

    Mem is correct, the backup can be anything you feel will help you recover the necessary information. When I was running a computer system, I used to tell the new programmers to keep a hardcopy listing of the program as their ultimate backup. If need be, the program could be retyped comparatively easy compared to going through the design process again.

    I doubt Acronis will get into this because the purpose of the forum is to help people with TI problems rather than the philosopy of backups. They don't even get into much more practical debates than this one.
     
  13. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Hi Logancastle

    There is really only Two questions to be answered.

    1) Do you image and restore your system.
    2) Were you successful.(You will know)

    You will/should act differently based on whether the answers were yes or no. All the rest of your questions are irrelevant.

    Pete
     
  14. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    If asking a question is acting inappropriate, then I would choose to withdraw the question. If anyone wants to discuss this further without hostility, jump in. I was hoping to hear some intelligent responses. Attacking the messenger seldom furthers an intellectual pursuit of the facts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  15. Joeythedude

    Joeythedude Registered Member

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    I'll try for a bit of debate.


    (1)
    At an abstract level the purpose of backups.....
    To be honest , I don't think backups are as important as made out.
    Its a question of the hassle of back-ups vs the risk of loss , thats really an individuals risk profile.

    I have no real data on my PC that is "irreplaceable" and "vital" to me.

    MP3 gone - have mostly CD's on them , or get them off server in work.
    Documents and musings - none important.
    Movies - torrent them again.
    Games - saved games , only the loss of the save of my most recently played game would really annoy me , and that's if I'm actively playing it now.

    If my hard drive fried tomorrow I'd be annoyed and have to buy new win XP (prob ) and new drive , but what are the risksof that these days ?

    If a virus completely corrupted me , same deal .

    Minor virus , could use software to get rid of it.



    2.

    In your C - > D Backup senario


    If this is the first time your backing up C , and it is corrupt ( data / virus whatever ) , then it doesn't really matter that D is corrupt as well.
    You had no valid data to start with :)

    If its your second time backing up your C , and it is corrupt , and your D had been fine , then you now have a corrupt backup and a corrupt live drive.

    So basically its best to have a minimum of say 2 backups.

    1. when C is defo ok , backup C ->t E.
    2. Then ( same -time C is defo ok ) , backup C -> D.
    3. do your regular backup's C -D now as you like .
    If you find corruption on C at some point hopefully D will be ok.
    If D is corrupt as well , go back to E.


    Hopefully this adds to the debate , is kinda what your looking to talk about.
    But maybe continue the debate on another forum on the site if other posters here get narky :)
     
  16. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    Well, from a purely philosphical point of view, there are stupid questions. We seem to have a difference of opinion here as to whether you asked one or not. Definitely, this should be answered without hostility although those who feel a question is stupid tend to answer in a way that could easily be interpreted as hostility by someone who felt the question was not stupid. Therfore, it's incumbent upon all members of the discussion to phrase their comments honestly but artfully so as not to offend.

    Having read this thread carefully, I find that the questions have been answered, but the problem may be that the answers are not fully recognized as having answered the questions fully. Perhaps re-reading the questions and the answers, say until July, would be the best use of the time devoted to this thread.

    Actually, killing the messenger was the old way. In today's more legally constricted society, the goal is usually just to maim the messenger. From the frequency with which it is practiced, it appears to be adequately satisfying.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  17. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    I wanted a discussion on the philosophy of back-ups not on how to back-up. If you back-up junk that is also junk. How is that to be avoided? There is no way to tell if C: is junk (neccessarily) at the time of back-up that I know of. The idea of a back-up is that C: may be junk. So wouldn't it be a good philosophy to do something that might be called a rolling back-up algorithm? Joeythedude is aware of this difficulty and has developed an algorithm that is one that he considers to be a possible candidate for a practical back-up approach. I will look at it and see if his might work for me. He is discussing, not attacking. If you don't understand the question wait until you do. Consider for a moment that C: is corrupted and you back it up. Now C: and D: are corrupt, but you don't know that. So you do something on C: and the system crashes. Then you make C: look like D: and try the same operation. Now, if you do the same thing and C: causes the system to crash again you do know, probably. Now you go back one more step and do it again and hope that you have enough back-ups to back out of the problem. An external hard drive (isolated) with room for maybe 10 full C: back-ups that "roll" from oldest to newest might afford enough safety. I believe Joey might be saying exactly that. Does anyone see a better strategy? That's my question. And John (jmk94903) rude behavior cannot be fixed with lame attemps at humour. I think the one about lip-stick on a pig applies here. Joey is seeking a discussion and I really appreciate it. There were no attempts to insult me embedded in what he said. And his idea about the trade-off of loss vs. avoidance effort, I think, is spot on. I am interested in anyone showing me that there is a better way. If this is the best way then all of Acronis' other ways of backing things up are moot. You can't back-up a file because its going to fail, it may be that there is something on C: that is poised to kill it. If this last part doesn't make sense then ask me a question before the insult.
     
  18. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    Yes, I was rude. You are making "philosophy" out of what is simple technology that has been known for years and years. Any reading on the subject of backups will answer your questions. It's not necessary to start at first principles when others have already considered the questions in detail and published extensively on the subject.

    Here are a few things that are common in backup resources.

    Because it is never possible to know that a system has no errors at the minute on a file that is not in use. And because there is no way to tell if a virus or hardware problem is in the process of corrupting files if corruption has not yet been observed, all backup procedure manuals recommend "aged" backups.

    All that means is that you make backups regularly and save them until they are so old that the probability that a problem would not have been discovered is as close to zero as satisfies you. Most recommendations are to keep backups for three, six or 12 months at least.

    It's not necessary to save every backup if you have a slightly higher tolerance of risk. If you backup daily, you might keep a week's worth of most recent backups, a two week old backup, a one month old backup, two month, three month, six month, etc.

    How many backups you keep and in how many places you store them is dependent on your willingness to risk loss. Most procedures call for backups to be stored off site as well as on site. That way, a fire, theft or disaster can't destroy all the backups as well as the original source.

    If you are responsible for financial records or materials that support your future prosperity, you might make frequent backups and store some in a bank safe deposit box on a regular basis. You might also use online backups to store very up-to-date backups on a remote server in a secure location.

    The question of how to backup is very similar to the question of how much insurance you should buy. There is no single answer because you must take into account risk tolerance, value and budget. In both cases, an excellent question to ask is How much can I afford to lose? Another phrasing is How much am I willing to lose? The simple answer of "nothing" results in a relatively expensive solution, so the cost of the solution (the budget) must also be considered.

    Most of what I've just written has already been covered by JoeyTheDude, SeekForever, Xpilot, Mem and yourself. That's what I said in my previous post. I've just pulled the pieces together here and added a few details that may provide greater clarity.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  19. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    You helped me to understand some things better, thank you. Perhaps I haven't been fair with you. Had I known that you had published papers on this subject, (and had read them) I would have been a little more prepared for this discussion. If you would direct me to those publications, I will read them and get back. Also, I fear that the word "philosophy" has offended you. That is precisely the reason I chose to start this thread. When words are used that mean different things to those using the words then serious misunderstandings can occur. Like the meaning of the word "back-up".

    Main Entry: ordinary–language philosophy
    Function: noun
    Date: 1957
    : a trend in philosophical analysis that seeks to resolve philosophical perplexity by revealing sources of puzzlement in the misunderstanding of ordinary language.

    I offer this definition copied directly from the Merriam Webster Online Talking Dictionary. If, after reading this definition of philosophy, it still offends you, I will choose a different word. If you read back over my posts you will see that I have made some effort to use words that are hard to misunderstand, simple. John, it is your responsibility to extract the meaning of a word, partially, from its context, I can't do that for you. Now could we talk about a back-up philosophy in the vein posited by Joey? I don't want to talk about me (or you), I want to discuss the idea.
     
  20. Mem

    Mem Registered Member

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    I don't think that anyone is really concerned on the 'philosphy' idea you started with as much as how long it took to get to your real question. Even when you mentioned the idea of a corrupt drive being backed up you said you had some idea of how to handle it but did not present it. This just leads to a rambling, misdirected and poorly followed thread. ;)

    What you are really asking about is a 'backup rotation scheme' or schedule. There are many, such as the Tower of Hanoi method we use, that are used routinely. It is modified to fit the needs of the system - such as 14 days, or 14 weeks, or 14 months - and the company (or individual). Since many network needs are different for what they want to accomplish with backups, backup rotation schedules are customized to the concerns of the admin of the system. Even partition structure of the hard drives could be part of this and corresponding partition backup scheduling. There is no one general idea of how to do it since it requires considering many, many system factors.
     
  21. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    I agree that doing backups is a bit of hassle, may be small, but it is one of those things that are done for no immediate, direct benefit, rather "just maybe I'll need it".

    I suggest that you do have "backups". Your MP3s are on CD, you can download or obtain elsewhere the other data such as by re-downloading. In effect, they are backed up by the provider - not as convenient as having them on a USB drive but nontheless, they are still available. In most cases having an image of your C drive is really convenience since most of it can be replaced from scratch.

    I often write that the files you want to protect are those that are available nowhere else at any cost. It is personal as to which, if any, files fall into that category and is part of what you termed the individual's risk profile. In my case it is photos, and some spreadsheets in the top category. Of secondary importance are notes on various things, correspondence documents, software license numbers,... I do consider hard-copy a backup but typically a less convenient form of backup.

    I have DVDs of images going back a few years now and I would say my liklihood of ever using even one of them is about zero. OTOH, they don't take up much space so I just keep them around.
     
  22. Joeythedude

    Joeythedude Registered Member

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    @seekforever
    cheers yeah I guess a lot of my stuff is backed-up, in that its available to me elsewhere. Personally I'm going to make one image file , as i'm moving to a bigger hard drive soon , and then look at eaz-fix or rollback rx.


    Found this a few days ago. Its pretty good :)

    http://www.taobackup.com/
     
  23. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Joey, Thanks for that link. It describes what I have been doing ever since I chose to use a proper backup program.
    It also explains why my irreducible backup unit is the main hard drive.

    Some may think that backing up everthing is over the top and a lot of hassle. In reality it is quite the reverse.
    One simple scheduled back up is all that is required. From then on it just happens like night follows day and I need do nothing more.

    To prove all is well, once a week, I swap out the main drive and replace it with one of a previous generation. Then I boot from the recovery CD and and start off a restore. When I return from my coffee break the CD is removed and Windows is re-started.

    It would require the simultanious failure of two hard drives in the computer and two which are isolated in their caddy trays before I was in trtouble.

    Remember, young Grasshopper, that the grass in the next field may appear greener from a distance.....

    Xpilot
    The ultimate answer is 42.
     
  24. logancastle

    logancastle Registered Member

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    The reason I did not talk about what I thought would be a good back-up strategy was because I wanted to hear the ideas of other posters and not have, as my goal, to tell them my ideas. I already know my ideas, I wanted to hear theirs. That was my reason for starting this thread. That does not cause babling. Trying to answer a question before you know what it is, causes babling. I believe (this is only an opinion that may be intirely wrong-headed, but if you find it to be so, make a reasonable argument) there is something that could be called a perfect back-up strategy. Xpilot, in my estimation came very close to it. In cryptology there is a theoretically perfect encoding that is considered to be irreducible. You can do no better than the "one-time-pad". But without starting a whole new sub-thread, the "one-time-pad" always works. That is, if your goal is to pass one message that is perfectly encoded. That's the reason the original question (what is meant by "back-up") was posed. If one is to back-up his system (as an entire machine), the solution is quite simple. Remember when Hewlett Packard shipped their computers with a restore disk? Maybe they still do but that was the perfect, irreducible, dead-on, back-up solution. A few key strokes and HAL was reborn. As a back-up it is perfect as long as the back-up (restore) disk is truly ROM. But it takes little thought to notice that this is not exactly what is needed as a strategy. It is a little like pushing a reset button on your perfect little girl and her cut lip goes away. It works to restore her to a perfect condition but all growth is lost. She is organic. Change is what she does for a living. Her growth must not be interfered with. I think that the accumulation of information on a computer is like that. It is a collection of data and disparate executable elements. But it must be kept as an organic entity. Active information and passive information. Impossible to seperate when attempting to decide what to back-up. What I would like to be able to see is; can I do no better than a rolling, entire machine, periodic, back-up and accept the possibility (though small, if the strategy is properly thought out) that my strategy may fail (as a strategy). When thought out as a clean algorithm, each step in the algorithm, reduces the probability of a failure of the strategy. Again, I will try to state my question more carefully. Does anyone know of a better strategy than a periodic, full system, carefully engineered, algorithmic, grab everything, (this used to be called a bit-wise copy, not a clone, not an image) kind of back-up? Why doesn't Acronis ever say 'Hit this key and you will get everything restored as it was!", as with the Hewlett Packard restore disk?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2009
  25. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Well you have mentioned babling or is it babbling?
    Is that not exactly what you are doing?
    I have devised my own backup strategy over the years to make it as simple to use and avoid the pitfalls that I and others have fallen into in the past.
    Maybe I may come across something which makes me revise my strategy, however I think that will be along way off. My method fits in perfectly with the strenghts and weaknesses of True Image Home.


    Xpilot
     
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