Good file sync tool for backup – Windows Server storage – Windows and Mac clients.


We have a Windows 2008 server that has an unlimited backup agreement. In the past Windows 7 users had used folder redirection to have their files stored on the server would be part of the backup, but this weekend we have disabled folder redirection (it caused problems overall and now we have a lot more laptop / remote workers)

Therefore we need another way of copying the files to the server, so they can be backed up.  My current thoughts to approaching this is creating a folder on the server for each user to where there files can be copied to and using a backup programmes on the client PC’s.

I’m currently thinking

Backup4 All (windows only)



Both of which would be installed on the clients to back up to the main server. Note we are now introducing some Mac clients into the network.

But just checking if others have a different opinion on a good way to approach achieve this backup. I’m open to any methods.
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If your intention is to set up syncing of the client data to the server and then backup the server, then you should go back to using Folder Redirection. This is literally EXACTLY what it does when combined with Offline Files Caching.  A home-grown sync system will not be any less prone to issues. If anything it will be more buggy. Sync in general is quite buggy and should be avoided.

What you want is backup product that has a "server/client" architecture.

The backup agent/client is installed on each of the client computers, and it connects to the backup server over the network, and through a managed, proprietary protocol it sends the backup data over to the server.

The backup agent on the client machine is responsible for reading the data from the client machine and sending it to the backup server. It should have some key features:

- Managed by the backup server
- Installed in an automated fashion (e.g. MSI file)
- Some sort of authentication / security system that prevents unauthorized restores
- Flexible backup strategy (e.g. when and what to backup and how often)
- Support for Windows Volume Shadow Copy
- Performs block-level differential backups (only the changed portion of a file gets transmitted)
- Encrypts data while in transit
- Gracefully handles network disruptions and resumes the backup when connection is restored
- Runs as a Windows Service, not a client application.

The backup server is a full-fledged server that is responsible for the efficient storage and maintenance of the backup data, and for saving/restoring data from the clients.  It also needs some key features:

- Deduplicated storage of backup data
- Storage of multiple versions of the backed up files
- Maintains and prunes the backup archive
- Backup data is encrypted
- Reporting and monitoring capabilities
- Runs as a Windows Service
- Capable of performing administrative "headless" restoration (e.g. data can be restored by an administrator even if the client computer and backup agent have disappeared)

The backup server could be your main server, but this puts a lot of additional strain on your main server having to deal with all the backup agents, better would be for the backup server it to be a separate machine either hosted or on-premises with its own storage and network connectivity.


There are many products that behave this way.

My personal favorite which handles everything I mentioned above is CrashPlan ProE:

CrashPlan ProE

And some other options:

System Center Data Protection Manager-
Symantec Backup Exec -

+ many others that other experts here could recommend


There are millions of backup products out there and most of them are crap.

You want to avoid "overly simplistic" backup products that have an architecture where the client computer is expected to be both the backup agent AND the backup storage system at the same time. This will help you weed out the majority of the small mickey-mouse backup programs out there that are made for a single user to save stuff to external hard drive.  Also avoid the Windows' built in Backup feature, sync utilities, manually written scripts that copy files over the network, or any backup product where there is only ONE piece of software that gets installed on the client and there is no server component.

"Cloud" based backup products are by nature a client/server architecture product - the agent is installed on your computer, and the server is the hosted service provided by the company, so most cloud-based backup products are suitable for your needs provided that they can be managed and monitored to your satisfaction. Of course you have to be aware of the bandwidth requirements for doing this and how much data you need to backup. Check out CrashPlan Pro ( for that.

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afflik1923Author Commented:
Thanks for this good write up. I will digest with interest. A quick response on the Folder redirection however. We have round this to cause numerous problems over the years of it's use. Permission issues and the awful Sycn Centre.

Some applications have difficulties installing / running properly. We've had issues with users installing drop box and iTunes for example. ITunes in particular does not like the Music folder living on the server. This particular company is a media company so they expected all users to install iTunes.

The biggest headache has been folder redirection.
Also more users will be moving to a different location to the server and connecting to the server over site to site VPN. The users we had like this before had a nightmare. I'm not sure of the Sync centre syncs at block level, but by using a third party sync / backup tool, at least it wont interfere directly with the running of the local OS in the way the Sync centre seems to.

I feel with a third party tool, even if there are issues with the sync, the operating system experience should not be affected. Also we can schedule when the sync occurs (therefore overnight).

So these were some of the issues we were hoping to avoid by removing Folder redirection.
Fred MarshallPrincipalCommented:
Someone here suggested SecondCopy8.  We're using it with good results.  I particularly like the features that it provides.
You can use it to sync or back up/copy, etc. etc.
You can run programs before and after, including sending an email no matter what or only if there are errors.
You can set a number of versions to be kept in an archive folder within the target folder.
You can schedule the "profile" runs.

What I started out with, and still use although overkill is:
Set the profiles to run manually.
Schedule with Windows Task Scheduler which fires off a .bat file which does [whatever] and starts a particular SecondCopy profile run.
Sends an email from SecondCopy.
Runs a closing .bat file for logging purposes (even though SecondCopy keeps a good log which is what I normally refer to).
At this point, I could just as easily schedule the profiles within SecondCopy and leave it at that without using the Windows Task Scheduler or any .bat files.
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Tobias is very helpful and will answer your questions if needed.
afflik1923Author Commented:
Thanks to all for some good input on this. It's a big subject.
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