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Free Server backup solution with compression

mds-cos asked
Due to economic conditions (my budget for this project was basically eliminated), I am looking for a free server backup software package that meets the following criteria:

Must have:

1)  Back up Windows 2003 servers with support for standard backup types (full, incremental, differential, etc.)
2)  Software compression to disk (I will be copying these files over the WAN for off-site, so good compression is essential).
3)  Can be scheduled to run without the system being left in a logged-on state.
4)  Will run as a "backup" -- meaning it can take advantage of security bypass.

Would like to have but can live without:

1)  Console (if needed) runs on Windows.  I don't currently have any UNIX in our environment, and would prefer not to install a UNIX system to run the console.
2)  Multi-stream / multi-target or whatever you want to call it technology.  This means that the backup software can send the backups to multiple locations at the same time (ie to a local NAS and to a remote NAS).
3)  Utilize shadow copy for open-file backup capability.
4)  Use standard compression algorithm that I can decompress without installing the backup software.
5)  Open-source with active community

I know, I'm asking lot for a free piece of software.

Please note that I can search the web as well as the next guy.  I'm looking for suggestions on software that you or a respected college have actually used in a production environment.

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Most Valuable Expert 2015

Windows 2003 has a builtin backup tool which should be able to do all that. Start it from a cmd prompt using ntbackup. If you append a /? it'll come up with a list of options. You can then create a batch file using those options.

Leew, one of EE's most distinguished experts, has an example ntbackup script on his homepage which you might also want to download and examine. Also check out his general backup article:



Actually, it does not.  NTBACKUP supports compression only when backing up to a tape device using hardware compression.

Thanks anyway.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

If you backup to an ntfs partition on which you have enabled compression, it'll compress.

Backing up to a NAS can be a problem as you normally don't have much control over it's OS, but many full-blown backup tools will also have their own issues with many NAS

I agree with rindi. ntbackup looks like your best bet.
NTFS compression may not transfer well across a WAN. But If you want "transportable" compression use NTBackup in a vbscript that subsequently calls on the built-in "send to compressed folder" (i.e. Compress function) functionality on Windows to compress the bkf file.
Of course, again you would have to make the backup to the local NTFS volume to avail of the compression. NAS will not work, but you can always transfer to NAS afterwards.


True compression is a requirement.  NTBACKUP absolutely, positively, without question does not provide compression when backing up to disk.  I am quite confident in this statement because I have used NTBACKUP for about 15 years now (ever since Windows "Server" 3.51), and have created scripts similar to and even more complex than the ones LeeW made available on his website.  I like Lee -- he and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of stuff!

For the NTFS compression, it is true that placing backup files (or any files) into a compressed folder on a NTFS partition will compress (to a degree) the contents of the file.  But that is a function of the OS and not of NTBACKUP.  If these backup files are then shipped over a WAN, the files get decompressed at the server, sent across the WAN full uncompressed size, then re-compressed at the other side (assuming the other side is also performing compression).

My goal here is to get the files shipped across the WAN within my backup window, not to save disk space.  So true compression of the backup files is necessary.  NTBACKUP simply will not fit the bill here.

Maybe if I expand a bit on my goal here...

1)  Backup data from multiple servers at each of my locations to local disk storage in a compressed file format.
2)  Copy the data over point-to-point T1 WAN links to disk storage at a remote office -- within a strict 13 hour backup window (our VOIP phones and Citrix sessions run across these links, so I cannot have my backup jobs messing with bandwidth during business hours).
3)  Schedule this process to run nightly.  Full backups will be performed on Friday so that the data has all weekend to copy over the WAN.  Incremental or differential backups will be performed nightly (both preserving disk space and permitting the data to be copied over the WAN within the window).

A software package that supports multi-target backups would be nice, but not necessarily a requirement.  This would allow me to specify that backup files get sent to both the local disk and the remote disk (thus helping with my backup window since I don't have to wait for a backup set to complete before starting the copy process).

honmapoq:  I actually thought about your approach, but when I did some testing quickly realized that my backup window is too short for this multi-step approach...which is why I'm now looking for a (free) software package that will do it.  The built-in Windows compression would not really work since keeping backup files small enough would be difficult -- but there are plenty of compression software options that support large files and can be scripted.

I have also considered just using a zip utility and scripting it to act like a backup utility.  Not sure how well this would work though.  I would almost prefer setting up a UNIX system and running something like zmanda before going this route.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

As far as I know there is no such product that is free for windows server OS's.The closest you'll probably get if you need to backup across the WAN is to use rsync. Once you have done your base backup it'll only send the differences in the files so unless your data changes completely each day the strain on the WAN is minimized. Although rsync is built for the *nix world, you can run it under windows using cygwin.


What rsync won't do is back up open files and databases properly, you'd have to stop the services running before backing up that part, then start them again when finished.


Sorry to be obstinate, rindi, but this is untrue.  zmanda is such a product (though it requires UNIX), and I found a few others as well that claim to satisfy all of my requirements.  I simply do not have experience with any of the products in a production environment.

This is why I specified in my question that I am looking for feedback from people who have actually used or know somebody who has used whatever software they recommend in a production environment.  I want to leverage existing experience from folks on Experts Exchange rather than download something and test from ground up.

I would suggest that no one is going to give away a product with the degree of functionality you are looking for.

Why would they when they can charge a lot of money for it.

There will always be some open source alternative product for linux for any given scenario.

If there was something for Windows with the degree of functionality that you are looking for and was free you would have heard about it by now because all of us would be using it.

Unless you want to string a number of different smaller aplications together with script then you will have to pay for something like Symantec Backup Exec, or Doubletake or a CA product.

Having said that if you do find something free with all the goodies you lokking for make sure you post it here because we will be on it like a flash.
Amazing how much free stuff is out there, isn't it?  I always wonder "why is this free" myself.  I guess we geeks are just a bunch of nice folks (that or we want to show Big $ Marketing-driven Company that we can do just as good as they can)!

Hey, look at this forum.  Why is it that we are out here answering questions in our spare time for free?  We just spent the day charging a lot of money for the very same knowledge we pass along for free here on Experts Exchange!

I am setting up zmanda now for testing, since it claims most of the functionality I need.  Only big downside is that I will have to introduce a UNIX box to run the console.  Fine for me, but the next guy who comes along may not appreciate.  This is supposed to be a temporary solution anyway until the economy turns around -- unless I find out that zmanda far exceeds my expectations.

I previously tested Cobian Backup.  Seemed like it was really going to fit the bill until I started working with scheduling.  The software will only run a scheduled job if the user is logged in!  I messed around with scripting it a few different ways, but simply could not get it to function when logged off.

The really sad part is that we own Backup Exec for all of our servers and had maintenance at one time (or so I have been told) -- but the licenses were lost, maintenance allowed to expire, and no records kept to help me retrieve our license information!  All I have left is V9.1 installed on one of my file servers.  Aarrggg!  Backup Exec has never impressed me much (too flaky at times), but it certainly does accomplish everything I am after.


Sorry -- I mis-spoke.  I tried AceBackup (not Cobian).  That is the one that I could not get to run as a scheduled job without leaving the server with a user logged in.
Most Valuable Expert 2015

As far as I know Cobian doesn't have a free server version. It's like everywhere, for Home type OS's, you'll get plenty of free stuff, while for utilities for M$ based Server OS's you have to pay. It's similar with Antivirus Tools. For the user OS's there is plenty available for free, while for a m$ based server I've only seen 1 or 2, one of which also came from the Linux world and won't do realtime scanning, and I think it has also been discontinued.

As for zmanda (is it zmanda, not amanda?) as it is linux based, you will probably have issues if you want to backup things like SQL, Exchange etc without stopping the service first, and also with System state and active Dir stuff.

BE, in my opinion was OK before symantec bought veritas, like most products from other companies were before symantec bought them. If I'm not mistaken Version 9 which you have was still made by veritas.


Amanda is the paid (or Enterprise) version.  zmanda is the open-source version.  The console is strictly UNIX (runs on several distrubutions).  But there is a Windows client that will do server backups.  zmanda does not do SQL or Exchange.  No big deal though since I always do my SQL backups and other maintenance directly off SQL jobs.  For Exchange, I am already using the 1 copy of Backup Exec we have left.  What I am looking for right now is strictly a file server data solution.

Amen brother on the Semantec statement!  But even early versions of BE were not my favorite (understand that I come from a background of working on "real" servers before Microsoft was around in the server market -- and I have experience with high-end Enterprise backup solutions).  Too many failures if something is not set up just right, or if an odd change messes up the job, or an upgrade looses the tape drive, etc.


See this link and work hard on unison see you will have most of the things you want and of course it is on windows too,,,