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Best Backup Software

noob23 asked
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I am looking for software for my small company to perform daily backups of a server and 8 workstations over a small network. The backups are stored on external hard drives. I need software that is easy-to-use, reliable, stable, and feature-rich. Please let me know what the best programs out there are. I have been using Ghost but I am not at all happy with its performance. It always crashes and is very slow to open. Thanks.
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Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
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The president of our company insists that all workstations be backed up as many people here like to save work to their workstations instead of our server (including the VP). I have tried the built-in NTBackup software but I do not like it. Veritas looks good but we do not have SBS here. We use Win XP Pro on all the computers save one that is running Win2K.

Any other suggestions? Thank you.
ARCserve & Backup Exec are the industry leaders. Yosemite Tapeware is an up and coming product.
If you want to add an off-site component to your backup strategy (HIGHLY recommended), go to www.livevault.com, which loads an agent on each computer you want to back up and backs them up over the internet to LiveVault's data center.  I like this solution for small companies since it:

a) takes the human component out of backup;
b) does not require you to purchase and support any hardware;
c) does not require you to get trained on a backup package.

I've used this for 3 clients successfully now. There is a monthly fee, but if you work out the 3-year total cost of the solution, it's less than doing it yourself with software + a tape autoloader over the same period.

Glenn Dekhayser


We do use an off-site company to backup certain data. We use connected.com. However, to backup ALL data daily this is not an option as it would take too long. We have more than 100GB on data on just our server and the incremental backups average more than 40MB per day... and this is just for the server. Thanks but I really need a backup software program.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

What about NTBackup do you not like?  It handles all basic types of backups, backs up Exchange, backs up System States, and backs up security.  What more do you need?  It's also scriptable and schedulable.  

IF you were using Tape, I would agree - The NTBackup tool is difficult to manage tapes with, but for backups to files, I don't see a need to spend hundreds and maybe thousands on other software.

As for backing up the workstations, of course, you need to do what the boss tells you to, but if the boss doesn't know IT and you do, shouldn't you be trying to optimize the network and reduce spending on IT?  Properly configured networks will have all data by default saved to the server's disks.  There are a variety of reasons for NOT using a local disk for data storage, including:
*Redundancy - the server should be setup with a RAID 1 or 5 array, allowing for a disk to fail and users to keep working.
*Volume Shadow Copy - available on 2003 server, allows recovery of earlier versions of documents by right-clicking on the file.
*Backups - By ONLY backing up the server, you save time (in backups and configuration/administration), money (time is money, but seperately, by allowing users to turn off the computers at night and not paying for the electricity to keep them on (which can cut electric bills for computers by 2/3 - in the northeast USA, it costs $10-15 per month to keep a computer on 24x7 - even at $10, 8 systems x 6.50 per month= $52 month for electric use, or roughly $625 a year - one really nice flat screen monitor or a even an entire new computer)).
*You turn computers into dumb workstations where you can easily replace one if it fails without seriously interrupting work for the user.

As for not using SBS, that's fine - means you're spending more money on the computer systems than necessary (most likely), but otherwise fine.  You can buy the regular version of Veritas. (Nothing against ArcServe - it works fine too, but I like sticking with the OEM software of NTBackup - NTBackup was written by Veritas).  ALTHOUGH, I don't like symantec, so I understand the desire to get away from them.
Just another note on the service option- 40MB a day incremental for the server is nothing; and you will/should only back up the doc/settings folders on the workstations, not the whole thing.  Still sounds better than putting in a whole infrastructure....



LEEW:  Thanks for all your info. It is very helpful. However, how can I really PREVENT people from saving to their local hard disk? Most of the workers here insist on saving to their desktop or to My Documents instead of using our file server. Is there a way to truly not allow them to save anywhere else but the server?

Believe me this has been a constant issue here and I have asked many many times that they save only to the server, but old habits die hard and I have only so much power over them. I would LOVE to only backup the server. It would make my job a lot easier and backups would be much less of a hassle. But I need to ensure that nothing is lost if a workstation every crashed (that's why we back them all up).

I'd like to hear your views. Thanks.

Also, I must have made a typo before. 40MB a day is wrong. The incrementals are easily 90+ MB per day on each computer.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

The "My Documents" issue can be easily addressed with a simply Folder Redirection group policy.  This will automatically relocate any files in the local "My Documents" folder to a destination specified in the group policy.  

You COULD enable Roaming profiles to save the desktop back to the server, but there is potential danger in overwriting files and slow logins and I USUALLY do not do this.  Your best bet, in my opinion, is, after enabling folder redirection, instruct people to save everything they want backed up to the my documents folder (as a convenience, you might create a shortcut to that folder and put it on the desktop).  Then you have addressed a majority of the issue and left the users responsible for saving their own data.  You can site my previous comment as a reason why you should not be backing up the workstations and SHOULD be backing up the server ONLY.  When the benefits (RAID, Shadow Copy, Backup) are explained, users will usually change their work styles - and in this case, they don't need to change drastically.

Also, there are options to redirect the Desktop - I've never tried this, but you COULD possibly redirect it to another location on the server and then have both areas on the server for backup.  

Lastly, in a SECURELY configured network, users do NOT have administrative rights to their machines.  meaning that, outside of their profile, they CANNOT save data to any location on the drive.  This means, with proper folder redirection, there is almost NO chance of a user accidentally saving to the C: drive and not the network.  (This is especially true for XP which locks down the rest of the disk to non-admins/non-power users).  It also helps prevent viruses and spyware from spreading or being TOO serious when a workstation (user) gets one.  The problem is, most small companies and users don't understand this and don't like not having the ability to whatever they want whenever they want to their computer.  So this may not work for you, regardless how appropriate this is/can be.  That aside, there are SOME instances where you cannot escape users having admin rights as there are still SOME software packages out there that INSIST on the user running them as an admin.

*Note: Volume Shadow Copy (VSS) is great, but it's not automatically enabled - you must manually enable it for each drive you want to use it on.  Also, the client needs to be installed on at least one workstation - for some people, they prefer controlling access to it and will only install it on ONE computer, but others deploy it to every workstation and the users can, at will, recover previous versions - this is what I do).

Here are some links for reference:

NOTE: Test this first on one user account to ensure you understand what you are doing.

Also, since this is a backup question, I'll throw in my standard backup response - it's aimed more at people who don't know what the best method of backup is, but you might find some or all of it useful (I feel your current plan - to external drives is appropriate, given your data size).
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Here's my backup comment:

First, there are three MAJOR types of backups:
1.  Full backups - They backup EVERY file on the system (in theory).  Disk Images, such as those created by Ghost, can be considered Full backups.
2.  Differential Backups - They backup everything that has changed since the last Full backup.  Expect that each night a differential is run and there hasn't been a full, the differential will grow larger and larger.
3.  Incremental - Backups up Everything that's changed since the LAST backup.  These backups are often fairly small and consistant in size (assuming your work habbits don't change much).

Fulls can take a LONG time to backup and aren't typically recommended or done on a daily basis.  Usually, fulls are done on a weekly, every-other-week, or monthly basis.  (NOTE: depending on your business/purpose, they may occur more or less frequently).

Differential backups, as noted, grow in size.  So eventually, they can get quite large.  This is why Fulls are often scheduled so as to prevent differentials from growing too large.  A monday-friday Differential followed by a weekend full is a common practice.  If the worst happened and you needed to restore things on Friday morning, you would need the last full backup and the last differential backup to restore all your data - effectively two restores.

Incrementals, while they use less backup space every night, would require EVERY backup job be restored since and including the last full backup.  So if Friday morning, you needed to restore your systems, you would need to restore the fUll from the weekend, then Monday's incremental, Tuesday's incremental, Wednesday's incremental, and Thursday's incremental.  Not terribly efficient for the restores.  In my experience, Incremental backups are not done very often, in part for this reason.

In my opinion MOST businesses will find daily differential backups appropriate and weekly or twice monthly full backups.

When considering backup solutions you need to consider a variety of factors:

1.  How long must you save the backups?  (Some companies may be legally required to keep them for years while others may have no need to keep data that is more than 30 days old).
2.  How frequently does the data change AND how much data changes?
3.  How long can you wait to restore the data?  (Data on tape can take longer to restore than data on a hard disk.  In addition, if anything goes wrong with the tape drive, you may not be able to access that backup.  If it's on a hard disk, you can put the drive physically in just about any system and get access to the data.  Data on hard drives is RARELY permanently lost to the point a data recovery service couldn't recover it (and I've never had to go that far).
4.  How much money/revenue/income would your company potentially lose if you lost an hours worth of data?  A days worth?  A week?  A month?  Figure it out and be prepared to spend AT LEAST a day's worth of income on a backup solution.  And consider it insurance, because without the backup, if you go down, you'll lose at least that much.  
5.  How much you can budget for NOW to implement the backup solution.  (This should be factored in with 4).
6.  What you are backing up.  (Databases will compress and require less backup space than video files, pictures, or mp3s would.  Exchange and databases, such as SQL Server or Oracle  databases, might also require special consideration as normal backups usually won't work for them).
7.  Reliability of media. (Tape can wear down and tape heads can wear down over time.  A new tape used on an old tape head MIGHT not restore on a new tape head if you replace the tape drive because it fails or gets outdated).
8.  Cost per GB of stored data.

The REV Drive option:  Do the math.  Take the cost of a REV drive itself (the unit that reads the disks), then add in the cost of enough REV Disks to support your backup needs.  Now compare that to the cost for a hard disk - external - or an external hard disk adapter, such as a DriveDock from www.wiebetech.com.  In almost EVERY instance the REV drive and disks will cost more per GB stored.  And, if something ever happens to the REV drive itself, you can't just put the disks in another system - you have to have another REV drive.  Using external hard drives does not pose such a problem - you can just open up the external drive casing and plug them into ANY computer, internally, thus providing relatively quick access to the disk and to recover your data.

If you need to store each and every backup (or each and every full backup) long term, then you should consider using tape.  Long term, it's cheaper than any other method.  And even if there are problems with tape heads and reading the media, OFTEN BUT NOT ALWAYS, some expensive data recovery services can get you access to the data.  This should rarely happen though.  If not, if you can overwrite data 6 months old and older, than, provided you are not using LARGE (Terabytes or closing in on terabytes) of data, then I tend to recommend using a hard disk solution.  These, in my experience, tend to be more reliable, faster, and cheaper in cost per GB.

If your data isn't changing much and you only have a few megs per day, you may want to consider using a third party service to backup your data offsite.  They would effectively upload the data to their site and scheduled times, instead of using tape or media.  You could possibly get cheaper service and use a 3rd party web host with large amounts of storage if you are prepared to do a little extra legwork yourself in maintaining things - removing old files, scripting the upload, etc).

What you are backing up will make a different in your overall required costs.  If it's JUST files, then you don't need any special software.  If it's Exchange then you would be better off buying backup software that can do a "brick level backup" (This ability is often part of a seperately purchased agent that works with commercial backup software) which would allow you to restore individual email messages.  The built in backup tool with 2000/2003 will backup exchange and restore it, but's an all-or-nothing thing.  But with e-mail as important as it is with so many businesses, a brick level backup often makes a lot of sense and can save a lot of dollars.  Then there's the Windows system states - A normal FULL, DIFFERENTIAL, or INCREMENTAL backup will NOT properly backup Windows OR the Windows active directory.  To do this, you MUST do a system state backup.  The built in backup tool will do this for you and save it to a file.  I STRONGLY recommend doing system state backups of ALL domain controllers and Exchange Servers whenever making changes to the domain.  Not doing so is an unnecessary and risky gamble.  High end backup software, such as Veritas Backup Exec or Brightstor ArcServe will do system state backups as well.  Then there's your database servers.  If your company runs a SQL class database, you need to consider the expensive backup tools like Veritas or Brightstor.  They have available (at extra charge) agents that will backup the databases without shutting them down.  This can be critical if your database needs to be running 24x7x365.

Lastly, cost per GB.  Though old tape's cost per GB for backing up LARGE amounts of data (TB in size) still can't be beat.  LARGE tapes cost between 30% and 50% less than a hard drive of equal size. But the tape drives often costs many hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  So, for example, if you are backing up 10 GB of data every night and want a way of doing this automatically, then I would suggest two or three external hard drives that would be swapped out once per week.  This would cost you perhaps $300 and potentially last you 2-4 years.  Whereas tape, even though the tapes might be $50 each, the drive will likely cost $400 or more - depending on type of drive.  So you end up spending $500-$800 over 2-4 years, at least, and you're using a technology where, if your tape drive dies you have absolutely no access to your backups.  On the other hand, you can always attach a hard drive to any computer and read the backups.

In short:

CD/DVD option:  If your data doesn't grow that much, you can use a CD/DVD recorder to backup your differential data.  The backups are fairly fast, the media is compact and cheap, and the data can be accesssed - usually - by any system with a DVD drive.  The problem is, most people can't get a complete backup on a DVD and getting them to work in an automated fashion CAN be difficult.

External hard drive option:  Costs are relatively inexpensive and depending on the hardware you buy, cost can be as little as 33 cents per GB - or less.  For fast, reliable, easily performed, and easily recovered backups, I believe this is the best solution.  You will, of course, need at least two drives so you can cycle one off site.  Only drawbacks are that if you need to store data for long periods or have large amounts of data to backup (over 400GB), it can be more expensive than tape.

Tape option:  Unless you are backing up terabytes of data and/or need to keep each backup for a lengthy period of time, tape can be more expensive and less reliable than an external hard drive.  for LARGE backups and storing backups for long times, it is still the most cost effective solution

Internet backup option:  I don't necessary recommend this company, but here's one option - http://www.remotedatabackups.com/.  The idea is great - you get an off-site, quickly recoverable backup of your important data.  This is an important factor that can make the cost per GB (compared to other backup methods) less important.  You will typically want to have a reasonably fast internet connection and keep in mind that LARGE amounts of data (GB's worth) CAN take hours to restore and initially backup.  Once backed up, you can typically backup changes fairly quickly.  For a "poor man's" method of doing this, you can always script an FTP connection to a remote ISP and upload important files, such as accounting files, via the script nightly - you just need to periodically delete old backups or most likely run out of space.

Oh yes, one more VERY important detail.  TEST YOUR BACKUP PLAN.  Pick a weekend and fake a problem.  For example, turn off your server and consider it dead.  Rebuild the server on another system and do a restore to see that everything works.  What good are your backups if, when the time comes and you need them, you can't get them to work?
I recommend BackupAssist. I use it at work and have no trouble.

It wraps NTBackup and makes it work without any scripting on your part. It is feature rich - it'll backup to any media, over a network, has built-in and customizable rotation schemes, and email notification, etc. Full, incremental, differential backups... all there.

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