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Best way to back up a single computer used for business?

Posted on 2006-05-11
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Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I have an office with a single computer (no network, no server, etc...) and need to find the best/safest/most cost effective way to back up my data in case something goes wrong.

I'd like to find a solution that is automated, but cost is somewhat of a concern as well.

I recently purchased a external hard drive, but I don't want to leave it connected to my system at all times in order to allow it to automatically back up. The reason is, I'm concerned if I get some type of power failure to my system and this external hard drive is connected it also might fail.

Is there some way to use the external hard drive to accomplish automatic back ups without any danger of both my system and the external hard drive failing at the same time?

Or, what solution would you suggest to safely back up in my single computer environment?

I might also look into buying (or using an old computer as) a server if that will help me in my backups AND to access my computer remotely (right now I use LogMeIn to access my system remotely). Would my back up options increase if I had a server?


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Question by:ffrllc
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Expert Comment

by:rutten-d
ID: 16660539
I think the cheapest way would be a DVD-burner; depends on how much data you need to backup.
Most burnersoftware have some sort of system backup function.
If you have the diskspace , you could use ntbackup to schedule a daily backup to some folder , and burn a weekly DVD .

Also , a second harddisk might be an option , depends on what you are preparing for - the most likely problem is a harddisk crash
so if you use ntbackup to schedule a backup to the second harddisk and then perhaps burn a weekly DVD from the destination folder,
you'd be OK....
You could even move the swapfile to the second HD and gain some performance on the way...   :-)

cheers
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Expert Comment

by:ISoul
ID: 16660553
How much data are we talking about here? There are online backup services if the data set isn't too large.

Get mirrored hard drives (RAID1) running inside your computer.

It's not very likely both your internal and external drives will die at the same time.
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 16660633
A backup battery UPS is always a good investment.

Ghost (www.symantec.com) and Acronis True Image (www.acronis.com) are two popular backup software programs that backup an image of your hard drive, compressed.  Many people put the backups on an external hard drive.  In the event of a total hardware failure, you:
boot from the software cd
locate your backup on the external usb2 hard drive
restore to new hard drive

Back in business in no time.

Backups can be automated.  You can selectively browse to restore individual folders/files as well.
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by:ffrllc
ID: 16660662
My most recent back up using the external hard drive was 27 GB's. This will grow slightly with time.

The reason I got this external hard drive for backups was my system crashed and all my data on my hard drive was corrupted. A local repair shop couldn't get my data back and I had to go to data recoevery experts to try and get back what ever data they could. I lost some very important files and can't take that risk again.

I was under the impression if the external hard drive is attached to the computer at all times, I might be in danger of a power surge, or something else that might damage the computer and the attached external hard drive.

So my solution at this time is to only back up once a week or so. I connect the external hard drive and have it back up while I leave the office for the night (as it takes some time to go through the back up process).

Is there a better/safer solution to backup all my data in case of system failure?


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by:gurutc
ID: 16660750
Using the external hard drive, the best way to back up would be to image your system using Ghost or Acronis True Image.  That way, if it blew up, you could recover the whole system.

Travis
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by:ISoul
ID: 16660816
Well, you could also take care of the other problem and get a good surge protector so that power surges won't damage your system.
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by:ffrllc
ID: 16660824
The external hard drive I have is the Maxtor OneTouch 3 Firewire 400/USB 2.0.

It comes with the software to perform backups of your entire system. Would the software that comes with the Maxtor 3 perform as needed or would I need to purchase one of the back up software programs as mentioned. (Ghost, True Image, etc...)?

It's starting to sound like the external hard drive is the suggested solution. Does everyone agree that the external hard drive is the way to go? If so, is there a way to keep it connected so it can back up automatically each night...without any danger of both my computer and the external hard drive both crashes in the same failure event?
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Expert Comment

by:gurutc
ID: 16660852
I think the external drive is the way to go, you don't need to leave it connected 24/7, just when you're doing backups, which could be one or two nights weekly.  The software that comes with the drive is good.   Additional software would just be for creating an 'image' of your system for restore purposes that would relieve you from having to reload the OS and your apps.

Travis
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 16660860
Maxtor comes with Restrospect software I believe.  I haven't ever used that one myself.  I am most familiar (and satisfied) with Symantec Ghost, although I know many happy users of Acronis True Image.  Kind of like arguing Ford vs. Chevy.

I take full image backups to an external USB2 drive with Ghost once a week.  Just before the backup, I turn my external hard drive on. So the rest of the week, it is NOT on.  The other days, I backup data files to another internal hard drive, so I have a redundant backup of critical files every day.
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 16660877
Also, I have a backup UPS battery which all pc components (except printer) are plugged into.  That includes the pc, monitor, and external usb2 drive (even though it's off most of the time).

The backup UPS also protects you from over-voltages as well as under-voltages.
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by:gurutc
ID: 16660901
As Expert4XP says, having 2 backup copies of critical data is a very good idea.

Travis
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 16660955
Travis's comment reminded me of something else not always obvious.  

If you are using Ghost for example for your image backups, then use something else for your redundant data backups. Use software like Replicator (www.karenware.com) or other software (there are lots out there) that backs up your data software in it's normal native format, not some proprietary format.  Zip is fine as well.

Don't put all eggs (data) in one basket (vendor format).
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 16661165
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone, but it's getting a little confusing :)

Right now, I have a Maxtor External Hard Drive that uses Retrospect software (you are correct expert4xp). My computer is running XP Home if that matters.

If something were to happen to my system and I lost all the data on my internal hard drive I would like to be able to simply take the data from my Maxtor external hard drive and load it back into a new hard drive without it being very complicated.

1.) Some have suggested I get a backup battery UPC. Which one would you guys recommend? would a simple inexpensive one do the trick?

2.) Some have suggested getting a backup software program like Ghost or True Image would make things easier than using Retrospect (the software that came with my Maxtor drive). I'm not following how one of these programs would make things easier or better.

3.) Some have suggested to get a third type of backup for the data to be extra safe. Would this be something seperate than the Maxtor External Hard drive or just a suggestion to back up the data on that drive in a different way (maybe using Ghost for one way and Retrospect for another)? What is a redundant data back up?

Thanks again for all the help.
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by:Expert4XP
ID: 16661544
There are two types of backups generally speaking:
1. Data backups -- software makes a backup copy of your important data files to some other device.  To recover, you copy the files back.  For a disaster (hardware) failure, you have to reinstall XP on your pc, reinstall all software programs, then retrieve your important files from your backup.

2. Image backups -- software makes an "exact image" backup file of your entire hard drive onto another device (such as external usb2 hard drive).  To recovery, you boot from a recovery cd, restore the image, and everything is back to normal, all without having to re-install everything.

I'm not sure if Retrospect provides an Image Backup solution.  Maybe some other EE can comment on that.  Both Ghost and True Image do.

I like APC 500 UPS backups (about $60-$75)
http://www.apc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id=21

You could use Ghost or TrueImage and have the image backups stored on your Maxtor, and use Retrospect to also save data backups there.  Again, I'm not that familiar with total capabilities of Retrospect, and whether it will do full disaster recovery images or not.  Or just data backups.

You're definitely way ahead of the majority of pc users by considering this now!
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 16661638
Thanks for all the help expert4xp. I'll have to find out of Retrospect can do an exact image back up as I will need that.

What will the UPS backup guard against? Will having this make leaving the Extenral Hard Drive plugges in 24/7 safe? If so I can then set the External Hard Drive to back up nightly automatically and never have to worry about if I have a current back up or not (or remembering to back up).

Last question, I promise...lol.



 
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Accepted Solution

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Expert4XP earned 1000 total points
ID: 16661695
A UPS protects against a sudden blackout and a crashed hard drive.  Software also comes included that tells XP to perform a normal shutdown in the event that electricity is lost.

I usually backup before leaving for lunch, and turn my personal computer off before I go to bed.  But if you want to do backups at night, as many small businesses do, then leaving the pc on 24/7 and the external on 24/7 works fine, as long as they are both connected to the backup battery.

All the comments here in this question thread are good ones.
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Author Comment

by:ffrllc
ID: 16661775
Thanks again expert4xp !!!

(and everyone else)
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