Full image backup of LAN workstations to Server share

Posted on 2009-05-20
Last Modified: 2012-05-07
Hi, I'd like to implement a full backup strategy of all the workstations on the LAN for a company I support.

I don't want to backup anything on their own machine. I'd rather move everything onto the server.

But instead of just file backups where when disaster, doing a recovery is getting the OS up and running, I'm looking at bare bones recovery methods.

So the idea is to do a full image backup with incrementals on a day to day basis, then save it onto the server.

When restore to say another machine, all we need to do is put a CD in, boot it, find the latest for the particular workstation and then press restore and wait.

What sort of configuration would work?
Question by:binele
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Expert Comment

ID: 24432387
How many workstations are we talking about? How much storage space would be needed for the backups on the Server? Does the backup need to happen while the user is logged in? We are talking about Windows Workstations?

I'm thinking you could use imagex and capture each workstation to a .wim file. Each workstation would have an image within the .wim file. Because of the .wim's Single Instance Storage it should be pretty efficient. Of course this depends on how many systems and how often you need to backup each.

I better strategy would be to have a 2nd hard drive in each workstation for backup. But again I understand this may not be possible. I'm currently working on a similar backup plan using imagex with 2 hard drives in a system. I'm always looking for creative solutions that don't cost money to implement.

Author Comment

ID: 24433258
Hi, it's a window's environment, all windows xp pro clients, about 10 of them.

Each will have about 50-60 GB thereabouts to backup and then incrementals.

Server needs a larger hard disk but that's no problems. Putting an extra hard disk onto the clients is just too costly.

Does imagex do a full image everytime? Or incremental?

Also, this method that you're talking about, how would we restore to a new workstation say with a new hardware configuration.
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Accepted Solution

TCB1 earned 500 total points
ID: 24437991
Here's how it could work. Let's say the network share is drive N:
Now the first problem you will run into with imagex is that it can not capture files that are in use. So a user can be booted to the installation that you want to back up. I've discovered a way around this issue by using a copy program that uses VSS (Volume Shadow Copy) service in windows. It's called Shadow Copy. Here's the steps:

1)Use Shadow Copy to copy all of c:\  to another directory, say c:\shadowcopy.

2)Use imagex to capture the contents of c:\shadowcopy to a wim file called N:\backup.wim.

    The wim file format uses SIS (single instance storage) to store files within the .wim.
    So the first capture to the .wim will be large and take a while. Each additional capture will be much shorter because it will figure out which copies of files are redundant and just save one copy and point to all the images in the .wim file that use that file. This in a way mimics an incremental backup, but the advantage is that each image is also a full backup. Also you have the option to also use none, fast, or maximum compression on each file.

3)Delete the C:\shadowcopy directory
4)Repeat on each workstation as necessary.

Remember that to take advantage of the SIS, each workstation each backup time gets captured into the same N:\backup.wim file. Since this would be a networking environment with more than one workstation possibly accessing the .wim file at the same time, careful timing of each backup on each workstation is necessary. (It could be setup to keep trying the capture until it's not in use.)

Now for restoring the image. For this you will need a Windows PE/BartPE boot CD/DVD.
1)Boot to bartpe.
2)Prepare the hard drive for image application.
     Since imagex is a file based imaging utility, it does not format or partition the drive or destroy the data  that may already be on the drive. It also doesn't write any boot sectors or MBR.  So to apply the image the disk needs to be formatted NTFS. You could apply the image to a current windows installation, but I'm not sure the resulting image would be problem free. Then you would need to make the image active and write a boot sector and MBR to the drive. (Use XP startup disk for this, dispart.exe, etc.)
3)Apply the image via imagex or gimagex (gui of imagex) to the hard drive.

Hope the above makes sense. I'll try to answer any questions you might have. Also if you want to look at a sector based imaging program that does incremental backups, checkout drivesnapshot. (Not free, but very good.)
Here are some links to the things necessary to do this:

Shadow Copy

gimagex (gui for imagex) (Also download the WAIK 1.1)

Good way to build a vista based PE Boot disk

Expert Comment

ID: 24439645
Hi binele,
Another way of doing this would be to use a product like Acronis Workstation:

This product is very simple, you install it on the PC's, and the backups would be pointed to your network share. It also has a number of nice features like Universal Restore which means that the images can be restored to any hardware (with imaging software like Ghost, it doesn't work if you want to restore the images to dissimilar hardware).

-Acronis can to full backups, incrementals, and differentials. (and verify the integrity of the backup after)
-You can put file-type exclusions in the backup to avoid certain kinds of files (eg. mp3s).
-You can specify username/passwords for the destination (if you're worried about users accessing each other's backup data, you can password protect the server store and specify the authentication details in Acronis).
-You can set up email notifications/winpopups on completion of the backups
-You can set priority on the backup so it will use more/less system resources
-Acronis compression is very good

If the PC dies, then the image can be restored by putting a CD in the drive and specifying the source image--either over a network or a usb hdd etc. (the CD is a bootable one created from within the Acronis application, but it doesn't contain any system-specific information. So you can burn one copy of the CD and use it on any machine in the network to re-image).

It's a very good product, I use it at most of my customers. If you want any more info let me know.


Expert Comment

ID: 24449578
forgot to mention, the Acronis images can not only be restored as a complete system restore, but they are also able to be browsed, so you can restore individual files from the image file--a very handy feature.
It will also backup files that are in use while the backup is running.

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