Laptop backup

Posted on 2004-11-16
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2011-09-20
I work at a small business with two locations one in mass and one in florida. The florida location has around 40 users with 10 laptops and the mass location has around 20 users 5 laptops. It has been requested that I back up all loptops using a software that will back up the laptops remotley wheather or not they are log on the LAN. We where going to use Iron Mountains service but they where to expensive. I am trying to figure out what equipment I would need to back up these laptops and possibly the PC so that they could be recovered quickly. I would also like to be able to give my bosses a price that is not outragous. Also if possible they would like to set up the servers that the backups would take place at an offsite location. I.E. one of the principles houses in a secure room or the mass backup in florida and flordia in mass.
Question by:arahming

Expert Comment

ID: 12598570
How much money do you have to spend?

Author Comment

ID: 12598649
not sure yet I know that Iron mountain at 20,000 a year was to much

Expert Comment

ID: 12598719
Take a look at Retrospect (www.retrospect.com).  It allows remote backups, backup to multiple destinations (tape, hd, etc.), and isn't (relatively) expensive.  Talk to the sales folks there about your needs and see if it fits.   Based on what you've said, it sounds like it might work.

If your superiors really want backup without any connection to the local LAN, though, you'll probably have to either create automatic VPN connections, or use a backup-to-web service.

Good Luck!
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LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 12598867
Purchase a portable external hard drive for everyone and create a script to backup their local files.  Create a second script to backup to the network when they do connect.
LVL 17

Expert Comment

ID: 12598891
Another option is to purchase the remote-backup option below and then backup via whatever connection each of them have.  This would be slower and not as robust.  Also restores would be an issue on available bandwidth.


Expert Comment

ID: 12600506

Do you want to backup the operating system and user files? or just user files? images are obviously best for recovering from HDD failures, etc.. However differential copies / backup agents are best for data only backup and recovery.

What schedule for backups are you hoping for?  What is the network that connects Mass and Florida?
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 12600550
Most tape backup software for servers will allow you to backup workstations (veritas, arcserve...), they also allow you to backup to disk rather than a tape device. If those PCs are going to be at a remote place the software will need to know the ip address of that PC. To provide for that, and to make things secure, you will need a VPN connection for every laptop. As backups are generaly scheduled to run at a certain time, you must make sure the laptops are connected and running inside this timeframe. Something you'll also have to consider, If those laptops are using an internet connection like ADSL you probably only have a low data throughput, particularly upstream (laptop to Backup system). If you have much more than 10MB to back per Laptop it'll take ages.

Accepted Solution

fettigcj07 earned 1000 total points
ID: 12601761
Dear Father GOD grant us patience and wisdom. Okay, that out of the way... I've dealt with this situation before, with a 175 person sales staff each with their own laptop. each salesperson has a sprint aircard which gives them 12 kbps to the internet anywhere they are within range of a sprint tower. (the aircard is 80$/mo. and well worth it for us as the salespeople MUST have current inventory & pricing data)

There is NO -=repeat=- NO good solution to this scenario. users turn off computers. laptops disconnect from high-speed connections. people do not understand that even DSL is only 128-256 kbps and that is dirt slow for a real backup solution. this is, i am SORRY to say going to be a thorn in your side, period. now let's try to make it a little less painful...

First the negative (to address some of the previous suggestions):

Tape software at the central server "pulling" data from the workstations:
WAN is unreliable. users have dynamic IPs and can't/won't/don't know how to grant access to the central office. your wandering staff can't deal with their homes needing to be setup for the server to grab their data. further they won't remember to have their laptop charged, plugged in to the network and turned on all at once. (two out of three, maybe, but not all three at once) you'll miss 40-60% of the backups and at least 2-5 of your 15 laptops will go months without backup b/c they belong to your most errant of users. The upside is that the 2-3 users that ALWAYS have their machines on and ready and their houses setup will be current to last night, but those won't be the users that have problems. because those are the good users....

Individual H/D per user:
Users are unreliable. without central monitoring you won't know whose current, who is 3 months out of date and who has NEVER performed a single backup. (yes we've had more than one of THOSE.) each user being responsible for their own hardware while possibly acceptable for 15 users won't work as/if you grow.

Outside company hosts your data:
This is definitely the least bad idea, but has already been nixed because of the cost. this is unfortunate as it is the easiest to implement but if the execs have counted their beans properly they figure they save money by only paying 2-5 thousand dollars per year in disaster cleanup rather than 20 thousand in prevention. whether or not their beans were counted right or not is somewhat of a moot point - we the grunts have been ordered to action and thus must come up with a new solution. (and even if the beans WERE miscounted an exec can't admit fault.)

So, we know what WON'T work, so now what? my preliminary questions/observations/suggestions would be:

Hardware symmetry. PLEASE tell me that all 15 laptops are the same. or at LEAST there are only 2-3 types and that there is no variation within that typeset. our company standardized on a Dell Lattitude model and stuck with it. if you don't have hardware symmetry go back to the boss and tell them to invest that 20K b/c they've underestimated the disaster cleanup. if you DO have hardware symmetry (at least based on at most 2 or 3 hardware models) then we can proceed.

the purpose of the backup is disaster recovery so the obvious point is that the user will bring the bustickated machine to one of the two central offices for repair. assuming a hardware failure the solution is to remove the hard drive from the broken laptop, insert it into a spare and kick the user out of your office, quickly. This is another reason for hardware to be kept the same. if you can't swap hard drives at will you have started the game with a handicap, PERIOD.

Assuming software failure (or hard drive damage) you will need to deal with building the user a new computer and getting their data on it. First the operating system and applications. We do NOT include these in our backups. they are a waste of space and totally unnecissary. what we do is operate a RIS server with a system image of our 2-3 platforms, with all applications (Office, Antivirus, Media Applications, customer specific stuff, etc.) slipstreamed into the deployment. we connect their laptop to our RIS server and deploy to it, which gives us a fresh - but still blank computer in approximately 45 minutes from startup.

now for the stickiest point - how to go from that fresh company computer to the individual users PC from the last backup? the answer is NTBACKUP.EXE. You see each computer is set to backup c:\documents and settings\EVERYTHING which includes the users MY DOCUMENTS folder, DESKTOP FILES and their OUTLOOK PST. which are all we consider to be missions-critical. additionally this strategy provides their internet explorer favorites and other such user settings which make us look like the very (g)ods themselves to the users. NTBACKUP is configured to backup all that beautiful data to the 'd' drive which is a local 8GB volume on the laptop's 40GB h/d and it overwrites that file nightly. A desktop shortcut to a batch file copies the file to d:\temp and then to our central server after which the temp file is deleted and we isntruct the users to run it NIGHTLY and then go to sleep. the backup runs at 3AM so you need the temp file to prevent collision (that file can get HUGE depending on the user and slower internet connections require a LONG time to transfer) certain users have to simply bring in their computer weekly to offload the backup.

Now the obvious objection is "you said not to rely on the users!!" but you see we're not. The three reasons to involve the user in the backup up are monitoring who is current as of when, theft protection so we have something if their laptop is stolen and TO MAKE SURE THE BLOODY THING IS ON. A scheduled backup won't happen if the computer is OFF. By giving the user a "before you sleep" task we know they left the laptop ON and PLUGGED IN. In all honesty so long as the user brings in their computer I can get either the backup file or the original data off of the damaged HD, I often times don't use the copied backup b/c the backup on the laptop is 2 weeks to 24 hours more current than the one the user copied to my server. If the user has bunged the laptop to hell and gone, well no big deal b/c they CAN'T have screwed up the backup file - NTBACKUP runs under a maintenance account's credentials and NO USER has read or write access to the D volume!!! our backup is inviolate until the laptop is brought in for recovery. (Added bonus we can spy on the users. restore the backup to another PC and take a peek at their internet explorer history. this has been used to bust a few people for improper use of company equipment.)

A less obvious objection is that "Your relying on a MICROSOFT backup program?!?" I have successfully restored an active directory domain, with an exchange 2000 mail server with 80 mailboxes and all the incumbant user data on that server from hard drive failure using NOTHING but the integrated NTBACUP solution packaged with that Win2K SVR. While I will be the first to curse microsoft for their screwups (and there have been plenty) this program is not one of them. it runs reliably and gets the job done.

So you ask me, Mr. Fettig how much does this cost? My answer is that NTBACKUP is built in to windows 2000, XP, 2003 etc. RIS is built in to 2003 SBS and 2003 Standard/Premium edition. You've already paid for the tools, now go use them.

Now the final question is "I thought you said there was no good solution!"

I never said that the above was a good or easy solution. i simply said that it is, to my knowledge, the least bad way out of a sticky situation. Implementation is hell. keeping the ball rolling is hell. convincing execs they need to keep their hardware the same even though a new model computer came out that might be better than the current setup is is hell. trying to convince the users that no, Bob can't have a better computer than Jim since Bob's sales numbers are higher than Jim's is hell. But then again, WORK is hell so I guess we live and move on, right?

if you want more info shoot me an email at fettigcj@cfmail.hopto.org (Yes it's long and ungainly but it goes to my personal exchange server instead of a company address and I'm not paying for static IPs so i deal with the length of a no-ip provided domain name for FREE ; )

Expert Comment

ID: 12601762
Wow. now that was a book.

Expert Comment

ID: 12897194
Feedback please, is this problem still open awaiting additional suggestions or has a solution been found?

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