backing up on a network

This question seems straightforward but I'd like to really get some deep understanding before establishing a routine.

I'm helping with the administration of a laboratory with about a dozen computers - half a dozen of which are more or less critical for daily operation and about three of those have critical data files that are created daily.

My primary goal after helping with the programming and configuration of these computers is developing an automated or semiautomated way to back up the files created and working environment configuration of these machines.

The lab spans a wan and the machines I'm concerned about are win2k (professional) os. Machine 1 has about 5 gb of data on the hard drive which includes windows but this enitre machine should be backed up in a way that one could reformat the hard drive and restore the hard drive entirely - if that makes sense. I'm thinking the description of Norton Ghost that I hear from others fits the job I'm looking for but I'd like to know more about how it works and a good way to implement it into a weekly backup routine.

The second critical machine has critical files all grouped within a single folder under 500mb in size. These files get changed rather frequently so I'm thinking weekly cd-r's would be a good medium for backing this up. Additionally, data files are created on this machine in a different folder and take up about 100 mb a day. Once created these could probabily be archived but as we're on the topic, I'd like to know if there is a way in win2k that when the user is not the administrator, the os can alter a file's attributions so it can not be added to or deleted without administrative rights.

Finally, the other computers in the lab are less critical and should be backed up in a less mission-critical fashion - if that makes sense. this would just prevent the loss of people's non-backed up and saved web pages etc. if a harddrive died or virus struck or something.

As indicated I'm thinking about the purchase of norton ghost for part of this solution and I'm also thinking about setting up a windows2k server (or maybe even an older windowsNT version). We currently share a printer on one of the computers and share folders on the windows 2k pro machines. Costs are an issue in this job so I've also thought about buying an old pentium cpu and putting a big hard drive and some version of windows on it and just sending over copies of the hard drive or using the windows back up program to create files over night and send them over to the server at the end of the job.

Thank you in advance for your help - I truly appriceate the expert advice.
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Not an answer but maybe of partial use - have a look at Microsofts Robocopy (freebee utility).

It effectively Synchronises two drives or directory trees. (Once you have Synchronised once it only copies changed files)

No good for OS drives but fine for data!
(can be scheduled using task scheduler or AT commands)

The most efficient method to accomplish this that I can think of is as follows:

Setup a centralized Backup Server. On this server, you could setup Mapped Network Drives to the:

* Essential Servers OS/Application Drives: Map to the root(s) of the essential drives. This will allow you to perform full/incremental, etc, backups of the OS, installed applications, and data on these servers.

* Essential Systems Data Directories. This will allow for local storage, yet netowrk access for backup purposes.

* Essential/Non-essential Systems: Set up the user's logon profiles to map a newtork drive to a centralized server. Use System/User level polices to disable users from saving any files to any location other than the Mapped Data drive. If this proves to be inconvenient, you could have a logon message displayed that would clearly state that any data saved in any location other than the Home Directory will not be backed up and could possibly be destroyed at any time, with or without notice. This way, you place the responsibility where it belongs: in the User's hands.

Once you have all of the necessary drives mapped, etc, you could setup the Backup medium to perform backups at specific days, times, etc by use of either the backup's application or through scripted files set to run at the desired times.

If you are planning on using Ghost (, I would suggest that you seriously consider setting up *specific* System Profiles and sticking to strict hardware/software configurations. The reason for this is that you would be able to make Ghost images for the type of system (ie, Server, Workstation, Laptop, etc) rather than making an extensive library of Ghost images to fit the individual system specs.

When you make the Ghost Images, make sure that they are stored on a central server that you would be able to reach from any of the systems in question, and ensure that these images are part of the overall backup procedure. Ghost has the ability to make network-enabled bootable floppies so you can access the images from the floppy thru the network to restore Ghost Images in case of Virus damage, hardware failure, or just a new version of the Ghost Image.

I would also consider having at least one spare system setup to be the Master Install System for each configuration, and allow *no work* to be performed on these systems except for updates. This way, when you decide to change the software requirements for your Ghost Image, you can load/configure the software on the master system and just burn a new Ghost Image after testing the updates on a non-production system. Of course, through proper partitioning and strict adhereance to installation policies, you could use a workstation as the Master Install System, as long as you ensure the imaged drives are only used for updated system configurations.

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