Best storage / backup solution for a 4 workstation network using Windows XP home

I'm lazing at this and I'm offering other Experts to jump in an provide a nifty inexpensive solution.

Current network system...

NO Server
4 XP Home Workstations
1 WIFI SRX router with 4 - 10/100 ports.  3 available

None of the systems are sharing files and folders. However, there is a need to backup. Most efficient and cost effective comment(s) are being sought. Keep name brand in mind, avoid "dirt cheap", and must have product support with good warranty.

Solution MUST NOT INCLUDE server.
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistAsked:
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rindiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Try not to go for USB devices, they tend not to be very reliable and break often, making the backup useless. First check if every PC has an empty 5 1/4" drive bay, if yes, get a disk drawer system so that you have one HD which you can plug into every PC that way. Now get an imaging software like bootit-ng which you can use to make images of your builtin disks to the removable HD. This gives you a snapshot of every PC which allows you to restore the complete system in no time. Make sure you have enough space on your backup disk for all the images, and I'd suggest get 2 disks, so you can make 2 backups of different times, like one for week 1, the other for week 2, then you can overwrite the backup of week 1 when week 3 comes. That way you should allways have a good backup at hand with 2 weeks lost data at the most. You can additionally use ntbackup to do a daily backup of only the data to these external drives which would also get the 2 weeks data you may loose if you need to restore the older image. You can make the first data backup after the image with a full backup, and the rest with a differential backup which saves time and space. The bootit-ng images are compressed, so 2 GB could be using 1.5 GB in the image file.
darrenakinConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Well cheap it is: Option 1) Buy an external USB Hard Drive apx 200 Gig or whatever you need. Hook to one of the systems and share the drive. If all systems are NTFS I would format the new drive for NTFS. If any of them are FAT 32 you must leave it FAT32. Create subfolders on the drive and assign NTFS permissions so noone else can access someones backup over the network. After hooking and sharing the drive. Set each machine up for an automated NT backup. (NOTE; some Home systems do not come with this installed, it is on any home disk just Insert the XP Home CD-ROM.
Navigate to the VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP folder.
Double-click the ntbackup.msi file to install NTBackup.

After it is installed set each machine to backup to the appropriate folder, also remember to set each machine to backup at different times or you will have a major bottleneck. You also will want to do this after hours.
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistAuthor Commented:
@darrenakin....good comment, will wait for a few others to jump in and offer other suggestions.
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Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistAuthor Commented:
@rindi...also good comment...ok..waiting for more suggestions.... gimme till 12pm Hawaii Time and I'll close this Q and award.

mcp_jonConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You can assemble a cheap PC and put two disks in mirror. Then do the NTBackup to local and move to the specified Backup folder on that PC.

Best Regards !
YurayConnect With a Mentor Commented:
hmm, only i can add, you can use 3d party software, for example you can get true image workstation, install it on one of the computers, and adjust a special agent on other, and after this you can make scheduled backups of all computers throught the network.
Nick DennyConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Hi Irwin

In addition to running image backups as rindi suggests - for regular docs, suggest adding additional hard drive in each of the 4 workstations and "cross" backup using a scheduled batch file with xcopy, xxcopy, robocopy etc. using the incremental options.
e.g. workstation 1 backups up every night to 2, 2 to 3 and so on.
In case of data loss (overwrite for example) - far quicker to retrieve the odd document.
If space allows - also use a rolling backup, day1, day2 etc incorporated into a batch file.
As regards brands - the age old debate as to reliability - I suggest Seagate hard drives.
You could also partition the drives for data and image backups ....

Cheers,  Nick.
joshmdillConnect With a Mentor Commented:
How much data are we talking about?  In small environments I've had good success with this scheme:

Pick one PC to be the backup "server".  It will need a CD burner at least, but a DVD burner would be best.  Share the folders containing data on the other PCs and make sure your backup "server" can access them.

Buy a software package like Roxio's Backup MyPC ($49.95) and install it.  The software lets you select the files on your computer (and the shares on other computers) and add them to a backup "job" which you can then schedule to run daily, weekly, manually or however else you'd like.  If you leave your computers on overnight, you could schedule the backup to run while you sleep.  Just pop in a blank DVD and the software will run the backup and eject the disc when it's done.  If we're old talking about 5 gigs of data or so, this solution works well and gives you the added bonus of having backup media rotation.  For example, if you run a daily backup, you could created a Monday disc, Tuesday disc, and so on.  It's better than just overwriting the same file each day with a new copy as you would in a manual backup-to-hard drive scheme since this way allows you to restore to a specific date and time.

Advantages: Blank DVDs or CDs are cheap.  The software will automate the backup if you so choose.  Media rotation allows you to restore to a specific date.

Disadvatages: Initial software cost.  Larger data sets will span multiple DVDs, making the process not so automatic anymore.

Still it's cheaper than buying an external hard drive and you can set the backup job once and let it run on its own.
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistAuthor Commented:
Ok guys...thank you....I spread the wealth with everyone. Rindi had the most viable for our situation. However, the other comments did spark ideas.

Normally, I would hunt this down myself...frankly the thought was "tiring" why not stick my hand into the bag of unlimited points, toss it out there and have someone else do the work. :-)

Thanks again guys!!

Aloha from Hawaii,

Irwin're all invited to my 43rd Birthday Party!
Obrigado from Portugal !

Best Regards !
Irwin SantosComputer Integration SpecialistAuthor Commented:
Thank you! :)
You are welcome
Thanx too!
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