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PC file backup

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dave_squibb
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Post Number: 319
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 08:55 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sorry if this is a bit off topic but what do you guys recommend for backing up your PC files?
I currently use BT Digital Vault at £5 a month for 50GB storage. They have just announced that they are replacing this with BT Cloud (same storage, same price) and that I have to download all of my stored files and then upload them all to the new location. I’d tell them what to do with it if I could actually speak to anyone .
The choice is either to find another Company that live in the real world or to buy a desktop hard drive (unless anyone has a better suggestion).
How reliable is an external hard drive? I guess that online storage is on a hard drive (or drives) somewhere.
All suggestions gratefully received.

Thanks, Dave.
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joe
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 09:31 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dave,

I use LiveDrive... not completly sure of their costs as I was one of there first users but it's around £100 / Year for 5TB of storage.
The feature list is impressive, but in my opinion fails to deliver in reality.
I won't be renewing.
The one feature I need is to trust that it's backed things up... and I don't...

Read the reviews of these solutions especially the ones where people have actually used the service for a while.

One thing to be carful of, and this may not be an issue for you, is that some on-line solutions won't backup certain file types. I tried Carbonite and it wouldn't backup files with extensions it didn't recognise unless you explicitly told it to. Thats a pain as I run Microsoft Sourcesafe and pretty much every file has a unique file extension.

If you value your data, DONT go for a single external harddrive. If it fails or gets knocked / hits the floor, you lose everything if you don't have other copies. Then you have issues with keeping all your copies in sync and forgetting till it's too late.

I opted for a NAS unit (Netgear in my case) and I've populated it with 4 x 2TB drives which gives me around 5.5TB of usable storage. The advantage is that the drives are running in a RAID-5 (actually it's X-RAID) and so if any one drive files, it sends me an Email telling me, but I don't lose any data. Replace the faulty drive, and the NAS rebuilds everything all on it's own.

Mine are 4-bay units because I need the space, but there are cheaper 2-bay ones.
Have a check on Amazon and search for "Netgear NAS"

Some on-line storage companies use drives, but they also shunt your less accessed files to a duke-box robot tape unit (LiveDrive seem to do this). You can get a warning message that a file you want isn't currently available, but try again later and it's there.

Joe
My projects, technical info and ramblings at www.hobbyelectronics.net/
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pebe
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 09:56 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I use a second internal hard drive. Initially I used 'EaseUs Partition Manager' to clone a copy of my main drive. Thereafter I use 'Allway Sync' to keep the copies of emails and documents updated on a day-to-day basis. Using this method, the files are not compressed as in the usual backup process and I can get at them immediately rather than having to go through the process of restoring. When I add programs I repeat the clone.
If my hard drive fails, then it is a simple matter to clone back from the copy on the second drive.

EaseUs also do a backup program with day to day incremental backup as required.

(Message edited by pebe on 22 March, 2013)
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g0hjq
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 11:34 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Depends how far you want to go really.

I've got a cheap microserver that I have loaded up with disks and use as a networked file server.

The most important files are also backed up to a USB drive plugged into the server. From time to time I swap the USB drive with one I keep elsewhere, so I always have two recent copies of every file, plus an extra archive copy. I use FreeFileSync to keep the USB drives in sync.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ProLiant-N40L-2GB-U-250GB-MicroServer/dp/B005LRCASM
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arw
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 12:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Best Windows backup s/w (IMHO) I've come across and I've tried quite a few, is Macrium Reflect http://www.macrium.co.uk/

backed upon onto one my favourite bits of kit, a Synology NAS RAID drive hooked through a gigabit router. It's very fast, and very rapid to mount a backup and browse for a file.
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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dave_squibb
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 01:56 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the help guys. That's ruled out a single external hard drive anyway Joe.
Still not sure if hardware or online best for me.
Lot's of reading to do.
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741
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 08:00 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Joe makes a fair point about ext hard drive - but to some extent it's a pays-your-money thing (?).

Even with redundant RAID, both could get stolen or perish in a fire...

Obviously, files saved physically elsewhere have advantages based on the physical separation (fire etc). Then again, more copies in more places is more trouble & expense.

I curently use some free software, SyncExp to backup/syncvhronise to an external Fujitsu 500 Gig. If this dies along with my PC I'll be pretty fed up...

Ideally then I'd also backup to the Web, or make lots of DVDs (with unknown shelf life) and physically mail them to a friend.

Maybe a set of USB sticks would do if they hold enough, probably better than CD/DVD.

Perhaps a USB stick that holds an SD card even? Just swap out the SD cards; they are pretty cheap.

Buy 2 or 3 SD cards, keep posting 1 of them to someone else..

Its a pain; but doing something is infinitely better than doing nothing.
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arw
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 08:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'd probably start with Amazon Cloud Drive for simplicity. Unless things have changed you need an Amazon.com US account and you get 5GB free storage there or pay a few pounds a year for more space. 50GB = $25 p.a.

I abandoned Carbonite and found it pretty expensive. Generally though I'm just keeping local backups on a RAID NAS, and some financial files are on Zip disks locked in a data safe that's fire and waterproof! It's possible to over-specify it and I think if the place goes up and I'm ruined then data will be the least of my worries.

I'd have thought an Amazon account 20GB pa = $10 would be a good start and see how you go.

-- Alan W
Alan W -- EPE

More online resources at www.epemag.net
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g0hjq
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 08:33 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Prsonally i dont really trust raid drives as the only backup.

If all the disks are of the same type and age (and possibly even the same batch), there is a good chance that two or more will fail at nearly the same time. Depending on the raid type, if this happens, you will loose everything.

Also if the controller fails, you cant just drop the disks into a pc to recover the data. The only chance of recovering any data is to load all the disks into a similar nas box, and hope none of them have been corrupted by the faulty controller.

Ive had both happen to me.
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tandy
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 08:52 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

An important distinction here, RAID is NOT backup. RAID will provide a way of avoiding down time when a disc fails if configured in a mirroring mode. It will not help when a file becomes corrupted, infected with a virus or you save changes you never intended to over a file.

Even with RAID you still need a normal backup routine, one that will allow you to revert to an old copy when you discover a problem.

Personally I have a DROBO (Raid type box) attached to a file server that all my files are on. I don't bother backing up things like music files and videos as they can all be re-ripped from the CD/DVD if the worst happens and chances are I wouldn't bother with half of them next time round. So all I am left with is a few GB of photos and documents that are important to me and those are automatically backed up to a second hard disk. As hard drives are relatively cheap I tend to get a new one every few years so I just pack the old one away as a cold backup.

Darren
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phonoplug
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Posted on Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 09:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I use Sugarsync. $50 for 30GB for a year. It also sorts out sync between the main desktop computer and my 2 laptops. There is a web interface so you can access files on any other computer too if you need.

I tried several different systems: box, dropbox and some other truly awful ones I am happy to have forgotten before I decided on Sugarsync.
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joe
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Posted on Saturday, 23 March, 2013 - 09:57 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Data backup/redundancy is a complicated issue. It’s also usually an expensive one as well, but people should understand the difference between data backup, and data redundancy.

Services like Carbonite and Livedrive are not usually backup solutions – they are data redundancy solutions in the strictest terms.
A backup is a copy or snapshot of your data that you can return to at any point in the future. Most of the off-site web solutions just store copies of your current files. Delete the file from your computer (by mistake or deliberately), and within a period of time, it will be automatically removed by your service. I think Livedrive say you have 30 days before they remove it. Worse, corrupt a local file and watch it get happily and safely stored by your service provider as well.

Data redundancy helps to protect you in the event of a complete failure of one of your data storage devices in that hopefully, the data is secure on another device. Most home users and in fact business adopt this approach these days, mainly due to the quantity of data they need to protect and the fact that the redundancy process is easy to fully automate.
Businesses often build in some form of backup solution as well, but often this is still to disk.

For personal use, it’s down to mitigating risk and a decision on how vital your data really is.

As some have said, some data can be recovered from other sources, even if it’s time consuming and not a particularly pleasant task. Some data like pictures and documents may never be retrievable once lost.

At any point in any data security model, if you keep data in multiple locations or on multiple devices you increase your level of protection, no matter what that device or where that location is, and some simple tactics can give you more “bang-for-your-pound”.
For example, copying important files to a USB stick is good… leaving the USB stick permanently plugged into the computer is bad. Fire, theft, or a well timed lightning strike all ruin your backup solution. Taking the USB stick out and placing it in the drawer is better, leaving it in the car or shed is even better. The downside here is “out of sight… out of mind”…

Keeping all your files on your computer, and having a file copy task that copies the data to some external device periodically is good, but it won’t protect you from corrupted files; you just copy the corrupted files around. It also won’t help you if your drive fails in the middle of editing an important document.

Using some of the features in your operating system can help; Windows 7 can keep multiple versions of your files for you if you have the space.

For your data to be secure, you can have all the backups, and redundant systems you like, but keep them all in the same location and you are, unfortunately, asking for trouble as you are completely vulnerable to fire, theft, flood, meteorites and quite a few other things.

If your data is important, then it should be stored at multiple locations and for most of us this means using a paid-for service. You are protected against a complete loss at your location, and you are protected against a complete loss at your service provider; though they could go bankrupt or have a fire etc and let’s be honest, how many customers actually check to see what technology these providers really have… and I don’t mean what they “say” they have.

For me personally, I’m lucky in that I have several PCs on a network, and I have a server. The server has sufficient disk space for my business and home related data and is RAID 5. The server automatically backs itself up to my NAS at night, and in real-time to an off-site service provider (whom I’m going to change soon), but this service provider does maintain copies of previous file versions so I have some protection against corruption. I also have some options as my NAS is up to 24hrs behind my server.
I run a decent anti-virus product on my server and I keep it up to date. I use a different anti-virus product on my PC's - hopefully one of them will spot infections.

My movies and music are stored on my NAS (and I've got the originals) as server space is limited.

In the event of a complete loss, I’ve got my important stuff located at my service-provider or NAS. In the event of a complete server failure, all my data is available from my NAS to rebuild my server or its replacement.

But the most important thing is that my solution works for me. I've a terrible memory so I don’t have to do anything like remembering to do file copies or change tapes. It’s completely transparent and automated, and that means it’s secure and it lets me know if there are problems.

For those that don’t know, RAID (Redundant array of inexpensive disks) is a way of trying to eliminate the fall-out from a drive failure. There are many “levels” of RAID but the two most common are mirrored and level 5; Mirrored means that two identical drives keep identical copies of the data. If one drive fails, the other “hopefully” is still intact. This is the best solution for an array of two disks. If you have more than two disks, you have some other options. RAID 5 spreads your data round the disks whilst keeping copies of the data blocks on other disks. The upshot is that if any one disk fails, you don’t lose any data. The downside is that if you have 3 x 2TB drives, you don’t get 6TB of usable space. If the disk controller fails, you’re in trouble no matter what RAID level you used; unless your hardware supports multiple controllers.

Typically with a RAID system, you are “supposed” to deploy drives with the same symmetry (identical specifications), but Netgear supports X-RAID (other manufactures will have their own offerings I suspect). This means that you can add multiple drives all of different specifications if you wish.

The drives in my NAS originated from 4 different vendors (so they would hopefully be from different batches) and 2 manufacturers. The chances of two drives failing at the same time is very remote even if they are from the same manufacture and batch. The Netgear NAS will send me an Email if detects a drive failure and my solution can continue working if any one drive fails.

People should implement solutions that are appropriate to them but “try” and imagine the worst possible data-loss scenario, and the impact that it would have.

Google, who don’t backup their data either as it happens, did an interesting study on drive failures.
http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/research.google.com/en//archive/disk_failures.pdf

Joe
My projects, technical info and ramblings at www.hobbyelectronics.net/
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dave_squibb
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Posted on Saturday, 23 March, 2013 - 12:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the further updates guys especially Joe for the very comprehensive explanations.
@phonoplug I've just signed up for a free Sugarsync trial (then $7 ish for 60GB). Looks good so far.
I will also get a few USB sticks and put the most critical files on these as well.
Thanks again to all, this forum is a brilliant resource.

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