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THE BEST TECHNIQUES for BACKING UP YOUR PC

Well, this sure is taking a long time.  I am having a LOT of trouble finding a good, reliable, simple, effective, quick means of doing backup of home PC installs.  "Backup" is looking a lot like one of these 8 methods:

-1. The easy way to "cheat."  Make sure your documents are in the "My Documents" directory, and copy this over to another PC, or to a network drive, or better yet, to a USB stick!  This is cheating, because you will still be stuck with recreating your PC, OS and programs if you actually lose your PC.  But at least you have your data. 

0.  The "company way."  Use the backup technique provided in WinXP - you will have to get it off the CD, but this is old and tried and true, even tho i don't think much of it. 

1.  The cheapest, which may involve a little work and a little technical know how.   You can be sure this will involve Linux and installing disk drives, etc.  Basically, you must install a second identical disk drive.  Every so often, boot a Knoppix live CD and run a "dd" to copy the disk image over to the second disk.  You can even remove the second disk and take it to work if you want to protect it.  My "joy of linux" page, and this page  have some details.

2.  The simplest, which may involve spending a few hundred bucks to acquire vendor products.  I am evaluating Symantec Ghost, and Acronis Tru Image, two highly rated products, along with network storage. All these products will allow you to make a disk image.  If you lose the disk image, then you boot the CDROM, and access the saved image on the USB drive, or the USB drive out on the network. 

3. The slickest.  Since PCs, diskdrives, memory and everything are getting so cheap, the best backup strategy may be to order a PC with RAID 1 capability.  This capability enables a background process to actually mirror your drive onto a second one.  If you ever have a problem with a disk drive, then just replace the disk drive.  The backup RAID 1 processing will bring the disk drive back into mirror mode automatically.  Of course this does not protect against completet computer failure, or a RAID controller failure. 

4.  The most brute force.  Buy a second identical PC, both of them raid 1.  Take the second disk drive out of your main PC every night and swap it into the other one.....   Stay tuned.  I am still working on this one.

5. The newest.  Backing up your data to a network resource.  Given the upload speeds of most residential connections, I can't believe this can yet be used for serious backups.  Say you want to backup 10GB.  This is 10,000 MB, or 100,000 Mbits.  At 1 Mbs uplink, this will take about 100,000 sec, or 1300 min, or 20 hours.  Well, you get the idea.  Of course it would be compressed, and could be differential backup, except for the first one of course.  Still, not sure I am willing to go there just yet.  Still needs some investigation....

6. Possibly the bestest... A variation on 3 and 5. Buy a small network storage unit which sits on your internal network - most of them are small linux embedded systems with RAID 1 capability. I use the D-link DNS321. If you have a linux/unix system you can setup cron jobs to tar/compress filesystems/directories/imp documents every few days. You can also do a 1, as above, and FTP that image onto the FTP drive. If you want to backup Windows systems, you can do windows networking stuff, complete with their wizards.... Argh, not sure I want to go there. Wizards, smizards....

Update Fall 2006:

This is depressing.  There are really no good, simple, reliable, steady ways of doing this other than the good old dd method.  Maybe the "cheating" method is best?  All these other techniques either take considerable money, expertise, time and effort, and which do not change depending upon the version of the product, or some update you need.  I think you are on your own depending on your actual needs.  Or if you are a business which depends on your PC and its data, I think you better hire someone to come in and do this according to your needs.  Especially if you are doing nothing now!  If you are a homeowner, just choose from the above.  Good luck!

Update Summer 2009:

I believe 6 is the best, but it requires some technical expertise in Linux/networking. I use it for my main linux PC, and my Linux server PC. I do use 2 for my wife's Windows PC, and my alternate Windows PC, using ghost on both PCs. And I have had to employ this technique because my wife recently lost a disk, and I lost a mobo in my Windows PC. So the Ghost (9 and 10) technique does work. Nevertheless, it does require some expertise in knowing just what to backup and restore!

 

Copyright John D Loop July 29 2009