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It's 2006 and Backups For Home User Still Tricky? 715

CranberryKing asks: "What is it about backups that always seems so difficult? I am trying to do a simple backup on my home XP system/s (about 30GB of files) that will write to my DVD burner. I don't want compression (most of it is MP3s, which don't compress well). I want a routine to simply write my selection to the DVD writer and spread it across however many discs are required (rather than me manually approximating and copying to each disc). I want the files on the disc readable from any system, so no proprietary backup wrapper or DAT files, please. My last attempt was using a free program that looked good called Simply Safe Backup, but it created two coasters before crashing with an unknown error. If I can just get a full backup to work smoothly, then I'll worry about scheduling, incremental, and encryption. This seems like a very common scenario for home & small offices. Is there an elegant, reliable & cheap (free) solution to this?"
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It's 2006 and Backups For Home User Still Tricky?

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  • by vwpau227 ( 462957 ) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:36PM (#16012744) Homepage
    Backups for the home or small business user do not need to be tricky, difficult, inconvenient or time consuming. But you do need to have the right equipment and software for the job.

    I would say that the method that you chose, which is using a DVD-Writer drive, is not the best solution to your problem. I have found a product that does work well, and that is the Maxtor OneTouch External Hard Drive solution. I have one of the newer models, the Maxtor OneTouch II and with the bundled Dantz Restrospect software, it works great. You can schedule the hard drive backup at a certain time or (and this is where the OneTouch gets its name) you can hook up the external hard drive anytime and press the button on the front, and the software will take care of the rest of the backup procedure. It is quite easy and even users who have in the past been put off by other backup solutions (like backup tapes and recordable CDs) have embraced it. You can add other features like incremental backups easily as well through the software as well, and it stores the files in the Maxtor OneTouch drive in a regular file system, so it can be accessed even on machines without the Dantz Retrospect software loaded.

    The issue I have found is that for most home or small business users, if the backup procedure is tedious or cumbersome, the user will not do the backups and data loss will occur. After using this device and recommending it to others, I have found it has gone a long way to solve this problem... it's truly a twenty-first century method of system backup.

    The last Maxtor OneTouch II I bought was under $200 Canadian and had a 100GB capacity and includes all the software and cables that you need to get connected and working right away.

    P.S. I do not work for Maxtor or Dantz, but I am a happy customer and I have sold this device to others in the past.
    • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:45PM (#16012793)
      That may be fine for folks like my dad that has a 30gig drive that's 80% empty.
      But some folks have 3 terabytes (not porn btw) of HTPC stuff, considering how cheap hard drives are now and there's no good way to back up that much data.. And with hard drives getting cheaper by the day, it seems that the only thing to do is just keep adding more drives. You reach a point of no return where you just have to take the risk of losing your stuff.

      I'm looking forward to the 1tb drives that have been promised by years end. Drop 6-8 of those in a vanilla budget box and use it as your backup, power it up only when needed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It still must take a while to back up 3TB to another box.

        Do you use iSCSI on Gb Ethernet, or external point-to-point SAS for something like that?
        Does the box need high IO through put as well?
        • 1000FX.. Start it up and forget about it. It's not so bad.
        • by Agelmar ( 205181 ) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:48PM (#16013095)
          I have a 2.04TB RAID-5 array (4x750GB drives) attached to a 3ware 9590SE controller. I back this up to a RAID-0 array every so often on my other computer (a bunch of random disks using LVM... I'm not so worried about using raid 0, because it's a backup, and I doubt both boxen will die simultaneously.) I have a crossover cable running between the built-in gigabit ethernet ports on each (Intel Pro/1000), and the backup speed is actually acceptable. (I find that unless you are really willing to lay out for a very good gigabit switch (as opposed to hub), the crossover cable adds a lot for not very much money. I use the second built-in gigabit port on one box, and an add-in 3com card on the other, for normal network activity.)

          My backup strategy is basically to NFS mount the other volume and create a giant tar file. Simple, and it works. YMMV
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) *

            I'm not so worried about using raid 0, because it's a backup, and I doubt both boxen will die simultaneously.

            Sure, the chances of both machines failing on their own at the same time is probably kind of slim.

            But what about external factors? Say, power surges, lightning, floods, fires? That is why backups kept on removable media, stored off-site, are needed.

            Yeah, tape drives and tapes are both expensive and too small; I have switched to two external HDs. I leave one plugged in overnight: it gets dumpe

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            (I find that unless you are really willing to lay out for a very good gigabit switch (as opposed to hub)

            Wow, where can I get a gigabit *hub*??

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Gothmolly ( 148874 )
            Why would you back up to a RAID 0 array? RAID0 is LESS reliable than a single drive.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Agelmar ( 205181 ) *
              Wow, did you even read my post? I'm backing up onto a RAID-0 array because I'm fairly confident that the source of the data (my RAID-5 hardware array) is not going anywhere. Yes, a huge RAID-0 array is highly fault-prone, but if my backup server dies, so what, I've still got the original (except in the rare case of both computers being killed simultaneously, which is an acceptable risk to me. I can't afford 2.5TB of offsite storage.) The RAID-0 allows me to throw together my miscellaneous drives and create
              • by arete ( 170676 )
                Here's the point I think the other poster meant:
                RAID0 is striping. So every other chunk of your data is on each disk - so every file is on every disk. So you are essentially guaranteed that any time 1 disk goes bad your entire array is useless - COMPLETELY useless. Lose 1/4 of the drives, lose 100% of the data.

                Unless you have an extreme need for contiguous, single file read/write speed, RAID0 is a poor choice. (For many asychronous reads a bunch of drives with your data randomly split between them is mu
      • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:51PM (#16013112)
        That may be fine for folks like my dad that has a 30gig drive that's 80% empty. But some folks have 3 terabytes (not porn btw) of HTPC stuff...

        This situation does not represent the average home user. For the average home user, the parent's solution is more than enough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        But some folks have 3 terabytes (not porn btw) of HTPC stuff
        Is it even legal to archive that stuff? I thought it was for time-shifting purposes only... basically once you watch it you're expected to delete it. I'm sure NBC or HBO or whoever wouldn't be very happy to know you're cataloging and archiving their intellectual property indefinitely without a license.
    • They were clearing out 250gig external drives at Future Shop last week for $109.00 Canadian. I almost bought one, but its USB. I'd rather just slap an ordinary hard drive in the box and copy the files across, then remove the drive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vwpau227 ( 462957 ) *
        I understand that there are cheaper solutions out there, including the one that you mentioned, The problem with trying to copy your own files manually to an external drive is that there is no easy and foolproof way to do it. If you try to copy the entire C: drive to the external drive using Windows Explorer, the copying will stop when the system encounters a file it cannot copy (for example, a user.dmp file), plus for those who don't turn on the option to display hidden and system files, often things like
      • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:59PM (#16012866) has 300gb seagates (pata) for $79 flat, no rebates and free shipping. That's insanely cheap.
        I saw someone had 160gb drives on sale for $29, no rebate.
        Big drives are getting extremely cheap and I'm digging it..
    • by Dredd13 ( 14750 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:59PM (#16012867) Homepage
      On the Mac side, the same hardware with a program called "SuperDuper" is even better. It'll create an exact -- BOOTABLE -- image of your hard drive. So, if it all goes to shit on the main drive, you can hold down the option key at boot time and choose to boot off your backup. Then, simply "re-backup" the backup onto the "main" drive, and you've restored your data.

      I've already used it a couple times when I was testing out Leopard. Same disclaimers as you: don't work for any of the companies involved, just a really big fan of a customer.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You don't need SuperDuper! to do that (although it makes it very easy). Go to Disk Utility, Choose Restore, Select the source and target disk, ???, Backup!!!
      • Carbon Copy Cloner (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vandil X ( 636030 )
        Carbon Copy Cloner [] is also another good Mac OS X backup utility that can make a bootable, mountable disk image or directly bootable copy of a partition.

        Highly recommended.

        (I am not affliliated with CCC, just a happy user)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by benbean ( 8595 )
        Another happy Super Duper customer here. I have a USB Lacie external drive that mirrors the size of my iMac's internal drive. With Super Duper's smart update option, my nightly backup takes about 20 minutes and I always have a complete bootable drive if the iMac's own drive goes belly-up.

        I also rsync my data once a week to an off-site server, just to be safe and to provide an extra layer of recovery if I don't realise within a day that I've lost something important and it is gone from my local backup too.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:40PM (#16012757)
    What you seem to want is a full disk copy, not necessarily a backup.

    You don't want compression. You don't want everything packed together. You want all the files and directory structure to be preserved as-is.

    That's a copy, not a backup.

    Try Ghost or something from Partition Magic, if you've got the money. Otherwise, buy a separate HDD and just periodically run a script that recursively copies all files on one drive to the other.
    • by itzdandy ( 183397 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:51PM (#16012820) Homepage
      excuse me, but a copy IS a backup.. and a direct copy of a hard disk to another disk is both a copy AND a backup.
      • by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:41AM (#16013933)
        A 1 on 1 diskcopy is a backup in the simplest sense thinkable.
        Backups should protect you against more than just disk failure.

        Let's list a few scenarios in order from more likely to less likely:

        1. User error (this may be personal but I've lost more data to inadvertent deletes than to any other events)
        2. Software error (corrupted files)
        3. Hardware breakdown (disk failure)
        4. Total catastrophy (like your house burning down)

        The exact disk copy protects you from scenario 3 and scenario 1 & 2 provided you find out about your problem before another copy was made which is by no means guaranteed.

        I would at very minimum advise to use a snapshot type of system (google for rsnapshots). On a relatively static dataset snapshots don't take huge amounts of space, but they protect you fully against scenarios 1, 2 & 3.

        Use rsnapshot on an off site (colo?) box to protect you fully from all four scenarios. There are even commercial parties that offer online backup capacity.

        These days where we store most of our memories (Digital photos and movies) on digital media I consider a solution like this to be almost a necessity. The chances of your house burning down may be slim but they're big enough to take measures.

        If you're more disciplined than me you may get by with regular DVD backups but I know myself, if I don't automate things it's a disaster waiting to happen...


        PS: I don't backup any HTPC files, I'm prepared to lose those.

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      You don't want compression. You don't want everything packed together. You want all the files and directory structure to be preserved as-is.

      Whats wrong with wanting a backup solution that is transparent and actually works? In case of emergency I really don't want to be stuck with a bunch of proprietary archive files or compressed files that only make a bad situation worse (bit flip in a normal file is easy to recover, in compressed file not so much). Of course there is a need for a little bit of metadata

    • by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:13PM (#16012942) Homepage
      Backups are "so complicated" not because there is any challenging thing about copying data from point A to point B, or journaling diffs, or whatnot.

      Backups are complicated because no two person's backup needs are the same. Those backup systems that provide few options and just say "this is the way it is going to happen" do not satisfy enough people's needs to become very popular. Those that offer too many options are near impossible for the average joe to make heads or tails of.

      If you tried to make a list of all the different basic backup philosphies people use in different situations, and on top of that, all the thousands of different tweaks and options and nuances piled on top of each of those, it gets quite daunting. The winner applications will be the ones that learn how to confine their scope just enough to capture a large market share, but still manage to be configurable enough to satisfy the power users in that segment, and finally and most importantly manage to supply sensible defaults and follow the "principle of least surprise." I think Bacula is among them, but that there will be another 3 or 4 for different "customer bases."
    • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:22PM (#16012986)
      Otherwise, buy a separate HDD and just periodically run a script that recursively copies all files on one drive to the other.

      This is exactly how I do backups at work. I have four active file servers and one server with a big damn hard drive on another floor that updates a copy of everything on all the other servers twice a day. I'm using XXCopy, [] and it works pretty well - even generates log files similar to BackupExec. Then on the weekends it runs a PowerArchiver script and dumps everything with a modification date less than 7 days old into a zip file and shoots it across the internet to another computer that extracts the zip file onto its own dupe of all the servers, keeping the zip for incremental purposes.

      All this for under $100 in software and two 300GB drives each thrown in their ownn old ass desktop. And it's completely automated - no room for human error.

      We all have friends (surely?) - we could be doing the same thing across the internet to eachother's houses. Two guys buy big hard drives to be hosted in eachother's desktop (or extra computer) and a script on each computer that dump changed files to a zip and shoots them across the net.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:40PM (#16012760) Journal

    "I want a routine to simply write my selection to the DVD writer and spread it across however many discs are required"

    A 250 gig hard disk is under $100.00. How long are you going to take to back up 250 gigs to dvds (It takes time. I did it once - never again).

    • You can't read the fucking summary? he's trying to backup 30GB - a mere 7 or so DVDs. What he's asking is far from unreasonable to expect, and everyone's just like "stop trying."
  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:41PM (#16012765) Homepage
    If you're running a home network with a mix of Windows workstations and Linux servers, I'd recommend bacula []. It can be tricky to setup, but it will backup to DVD, tape, hard disks, etc..

    I use it and it's prevented some real heartaches caused by deleted/corrupt files.

  • .Mac Backup (Score:5, Informative)

    by Queer Boy ( 451309 ) <> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:42PM (#16012768)
    That's what I use, but increasingly if you want an easy and elegant solution to any computer problem you have to be using Mac OS to get it. Of course, it's $100 a year for .Mac but you get multi Mac syncing, an email address, a website blah blah.

    But to the point, Backup lets you create plans based on what to back up, where to back it up to and how often. Then it pops up a window when automatic backups are going to start telling you that one is going to begin and do you want to cancel. I think it's great and 9/10 of the time I never have to think about it.

    • Backup was the first thing that came to my mind when reading the posters requirements, because it backs up whatever you like across as many DVD's (or CD's) as needed, all as plain files you can pull off by hand later if for some reason you do not have Backup.

      I'm surprised there are not more solutions that provide this very simply ability that really is a lifesafer when you just want to recover a little data.
  • Easy solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Make a splitted .rar (you don't have to compress - simply choose "store") and spread it over several dvd's.

    Maybe not the most elegant solution, but it work's - until you run out of dvd's :-)
  • If it's mostly mp3s, then try organising them in iTunes. If you select your whole library, and tell it to burn a data CD or DVD, and it doesn't all fit on one, then it will keep prompting you for additional media until it's all burnt.

    Otherwise, as another poster has suggested.. you could get a real OS. (or install cygwin ;-)

  • XP (Score:4, Funny)

    by iliketrash ( 624051 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:46PM (#16012797)
    "I am trying to do a simple backup on my home XP system/s"

    Patient to Doctor: It hurts every time I do this."

    Doctor to Patient: Stop doing that.
  • by Yahweh Doesn't Exist ( 906833 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:49PM (#16012812) ml []

    not for Windows, but arguably (will soon be) the greatest step forward for "home user" backups.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mh101 ( 620659 )
      Time Machine looks very cool, but it appears to rely on an external HD or network storage that's always connected. Based on what I've seen from the demo in the keynote and what's on their web site, it doesn't look like it would work well if you were wanting an off-site backup.

      But as you said, it'll be great for average home users. Someone needing a more robust backup strategy would still have to look elsewhere. But who knows... Perhaps Apple hasn't yet fully disclosed all of Time Machine's capabilities,
    • At this point, rabid Windows fanboys will descend to tell you that Apple is copying Microsoft, even though the functionality is only in Windows Server 2003, and Vista's version is nowhere near as easy to use or as intuitive as Time Machine. Expect a boring calendar control and file list from Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm not about to say that Time Machine is going to be the end all be all of rocking backup solutions, but having sat infront of it and watched it do it's buisness, it will allow the majority of mac users to go out and get that piece of mind with nothing more than the minimal expense of a external firewire or usb hard drive. Thats not to say that it won't be relativly flexible in a home or small to medium buisness environment depending on how things are run. I would have to hazard a guess that the new vers
  • It's 2006 and Backups For Home User Still Tricky? - What is it about backups that always seems so difficult?

    Well, your first misstep there is assuming that your experience is indicative of the average home user. I can tell you that your average home user doesn't really have more than 4.7 gigs of critical data that they would be interested in backing up.

    (The ones that do, just back up the less important stuff to an external drive. At leastr that's usually what I recommend)
  • Depends on the OS (Score:5, Informative)

    by maztuhblastah ( 745586 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:53PM (#16012831) Journal
    Mac OS X comes with Disk Utility. Using that, and Automator, you can set up a script to image your drive to a bootable drive image every night.

    Problem solved.
  • And it works out of the box without any muss or fuss and is a LOT faster than writing DVDs. That's if you simply want to copy data from point A to point B.

    For my Windows XP laptop, I actually use Ghost. If I need to, I can boot off the Ghost CD and restore my laptop from the last recovery point which is automatically done every morning to a USB 80gig hard disk. That 80gig disk is actually the old hard drive from the laptop. I'd replaced it with a 7200rpm drive to improve speed a bit and got an external
  • elegant, reliable & cheap (free)

    You aren't going to get all three in one package. Nope, no way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by grcumb ( 781340 )
      elegant, reliable & cheap (free)
      You aren't going to get all three in one package. Nope, no way.
      1. Plug in external USB/Firewire drive
      2. Right-click Desktop --> New shortcut
      3. Type: 'rsync -avv [--delete] c:\*.* [external drive letter]'
      4. Double click

      Nope. No way.

  • DAR = Disk ARchive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:55PM (#16012843)
    You should check out DAR []. It does exactly what you want. It's free under the GPL.

    It's command line based and you will need to read the documentation before using it, but it does what you want.

  • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:57PM (#16012850) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand why so many home users are against using a good, old fashioned tape backup. Look, you can get a DDS-4 tape drive from eBay for less than $100. In fact, I'm about to sell my Sun external DDS-4 drive there soon. You can then get a compatible SCSI card for about $20 if not less. Then you just have to get the tapes. A new box of ten DDS-4 tapes -- equivalent to about 480GB compressed -- can be found for around $50 on eBay.

    Because Windows Backup recognizes most tape drives, you can always use that to do you full and incremental backups. It's certainly not going to be anywhere close to something like Veritas NetBackup, but it still allows media management, is compatible from system to system (as long as it's the same version of Windows or newer), and you don't really need to do anything. Mark what you want to backup, make sure the tape is in the drive and ready to go, then back the stuff up. If you have a completelsystem crash, Backup can read the contents of the tape and rebuild the index.

    I know, I know, the Slashdot crowd doesn't seem to like tapes. Whatever. They work fine for me. I use a three month rotation with a full backup at the beginning of every month and incrementals every Sunday. For the infrequently-changed directories (almost called them file systems ... whoops), I use a six-month rotation.

    And don't complain about the slow speed of tape drives because that's what overnight backups are for. Let the system back up your files while you're asleep. Besides, DDS-4 goes at about 15-20GB/hour. Even if you just need to go out and run some errands, you can set it to backup as you're about to walk out the door.
    • Okay, my suggestion is probably dead because you want the data to be to be readable on other systems. I read that initially, but it just didn't click. (It's getting late here.) You should still consider this to be an option as well, even if you get an external hard drive. I've actually had Windows screw up (oh, there's a shock) and wipe an external hard drive on me because it thought that it was unformatted.

      Take my advice on this -- NEVER format an external drive as "dynamic". ALWAYS make it "basic"
    • by Malk-a-mite ( 134774 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:36PM (#16013044) Journal
      You don't know why home users don't use tape?

      "Look, you can get a DDS-4 tape drive from eBay for less than $100. In fact, I'm about to sell my Sun external DDS-4 drive there soon. You can then get a compatible SCSI card for about $20 if not less. Then you just have to get the tapes. A new box of ten DDS-4 tapes -- equivalent to about 480GB compressed -- can be found for around $50 on eBay."

      DDS-4, SCSI, Sun external DDS-4.... a large percentage of home users are still trying to get CD/DVD burning down without problems, and your suggestion is an entirely new tech that they need to buy used and will have even less support for?
    • If you're not processing transactions 24/7 this is pretty simple. I took an old machine, threw in a big ATA drive, and installed Ubuntu Linux and Backuppc, which Ubuntu has packaged. It automatically backs up every machine on my network, both Windows (via SMB) and Linux (via rsync). It has a Web browser interface with the manual permanently on line in the browser. While it doesn't do true "snapshots" it does give you a series of backup points going back in time, It shares redundant files to avoid needl
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrbooze ( 49713 )
      Yes, external hard drives are fairly cheap these days and are an easy way to do backups.

      But people need to think about what they are doing backups for. Are they doing backups for Disaster Recovery? Or for Mistake Recovery?

      Mistake Recovery is straightforward. "Oops, I just deleted my MP3 folder!"

      For Disaster Recovery, which kind of Disaster are you preparing for? Are you trying to protect yourself from your hard drive failing? Or are you trying to protect yourself from your house burning down or being r
  • DVD Writer... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @10:59PM (#16012863)
    Chances are even a generic OEM DVD Writer comes with write software that is able to do the simple backups you are requesting. (Although I am with many users, just add a new hard drive for backups, even a USB external is going to be about 50-100 bucks and will be virtually instant in comparison to DVD and just as reliable if not more.)

    WindowsXP pre-dates DVD Writing as the norm of the time (2001), so it doesn't inherently support it (which draws out the OSX and Linux crowds of telling you to get a real OS and then they list 20 command line tools that are fairly cumbersome.)

    Since it appears you are using Windows, when you can, move to Vista, Backups are easy, able to use DVDs, and can do full system bit by bit as well as file/folder backups, all with a couple of clicks.

  • Like others have already said, backing up to optical media is a pain.. Like seriously 4 gig discs? Ugh.. Painful.

    Buy a 320gig HD (about $120cdn), pop it into an external enclosure (or not), and use something like: SyncExp ( Pick your host and mirror drives, run it as often as you want manually or setup some automated crons. And yes, it's for windows.

    Otherwise go nuts and setup a slave linux box with a redundant RAID5 array and setup cron jobs there to backup all your critical data ev
  • The _easiest_ way I can think of to do this without either spending a lot of money or switching operating systems, is probably just get an archiver, possibly [] winrar, and on the create archive screen, select to only store the data (no compression, runs faster and mp3's are already compressed anyway, why compress them again?), and tell it to split the archives into whatever size you want (depending on what kind of dvd's you use. single or double layer, etc, just input the number of byte
  • 8 DVDs to back up 30GB or ....
    21,240 Floppy Disks

    either way you try it once and then ....Never Again!

    you are using the wrong media for your "EZ BACKUP"
    as others have pointed out, use an External HD with something like Retrospect installed.
    Push a Button, you're done.

  • Abakt (Score:2, Informative)

    by TardisX ( 15222 )
    I don't use Windows, but for my friends (the ones who can actually be made to care about backups), I recommend this: []

    Support both 'traditional' (compress/split) type backups and a file copy method (good for a USB hard drive, for less savvy users who want to be able to just plug the thing in and retrieve the file they just borked).

    Open source. Feel the love.

    Not the easiest thing to setup, so I set it up for them, save the profile, and tell them how to do a backup (plug in
  • Get a cheap IDE hard drive and an external USB2.0 enclosure. Either copy the files, or if you want a restorable image, use Microsoft backup. It's easy. Seriously. It will do your whole system, a whole directory, whatever. Why would you want to waste time changing a bunch of DVDs when you can just plug in a USB hard drive and COPY THE FILES (or use a program that's pretty much on every version of Windows, or is easily copied once from the CD?)?

    Bring it to your buddie's house, no proprietary crap to deal with
  • RSync and/or Robocopy with external USB or eSATA drive.

    Easy to get working, and the software is free (as in beer).

    If you're really looking for data protection, RAID the external drives...

    Backing-up to CD/DVD is too slow and time consuming for any system with appreciable amounts of data...

  • Ever tried SizeMe? (Score:4, Informative)

    by wolfemi1 ( 765089 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:20PM (#16012977)
    SizeMe is a very simple, free-as-in-beer GUI program for Windows. You drag'n'drop a mess of files into the window, and it rearranges them (but doesn't modify them) so that you can burn them to the minimum number of discs possible. It even lets you drag the images into Nero et al to burn them. Worth a look.
  • A few suggestions... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zerbey ( 15536 ) * on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:30PM (#16013019) Homepage Journal
    What, you don't want to shell out several thousand dollars for Netbackup and a tape library??? What's your problem!? (OK, so I'm a little biased... supporting Netbackup is what keeps a roof over my head).

    The number 1 mistake people make when doing backups: They write far, far too much data to their tapes. If I had a nickle for every time I saw a user backing up their swap partition and wondering why they where running out of tapes... well, it'd maybe get me a free meal a month. At a fast food joint. From the dollar menu. I digress. Make sure all of that 30Gb is stuff you genuinely can't get anywhere else. Oh, and RAR works great with all those important documents.

    Seriously, though. Why not use a tape drive? DDS tape drives sell for next to nothing on Ebay (my DDS-3 6 tape autochanger was less than $20). NTBackup is free and spans quite nicely. DDS4 tapes hold 20-30Gb of data and cost about the same as a high quality audio tape. Incidentally, Microsoft: Please modify NT backup to work with CD/DVD-RWs (or even DVD-RAMs). I wait for the feature with every new version of windows, it sounds like such a simple idea to me but they've never done it.

    Small business:

    Nero bundle a fairly decent backup product with their Burning ROM software. It's very reasonably priced. It comes free with many burners.

    Backup Exec isn't much more expensive and works VERY well. Tapes only, though.

    You're really, really cheap? Buy another hard drive and mirror your primary. 30Gb drives costs next to nothing.

  • Hard? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:40PM (#16013062)
    I think this is more due to a lack of decent backup software than anything else. Backups in windows always seem to be a pain.

    I prefer backup by disk image. This is easier on the mac:

    1) Plug in external firewire drive (or USB if you like)
    2) User SuperDuper to do a differential backup clone my hard drive to the firewire drive.

    Should my HD fail:
      - I can boot off the external drive and use it exactly as if it were the internal one.
      - I can clone the external drive back to the new laptop drive when I get it

    Should the laptop die or be stolen
      - I can obtain a new mac and immediately boot off the backup and work from there
      - I can clone the image to the new drive when I have time.

  • rsync (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:48PM (#16013096)
    just plain rsync.

    local to local or local to remote.

    works well, its free and I believe its multiplatform.

    copy disk to disk. tape is useless now - its too error prone compared to disks. disks are the new 'swappable carts'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by legoburner ( 702695 )
      rsync is also great fun if you put your source and destination the wrong way wrong as you get to sychronise an empty folder over your stuff. Not happened to me yet, but had some close calls. I am very glad that rsync is kind enough to included --dry-run as an option.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      rsync is nice - I use it all the time - but it's painfully slow and stupid when it comes to dealing with moved or renamed files and directories. Try renaming a 650MB iso, and then watch rsync blindly recopy the file across the network even though it already exists at both ends.

      Unison borrows from the rsync algorithms, but is much more intelligent, can be run GUI or console, and is cross-platform. I highly recommend it.

  • by porsche922 ( 868700 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:52PM (#16013118)
    I usually use synctoy powertoy for windows xp to do the backing up for me. It can run in a variety of modes and is usually good enough for most backups. otography/prophoto/synctoy.mspx []
  • On Win32? XCOPY (Score:5, Informative)

    by MP3Chuck ( 652277 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @11:53PM (#16013121) Homepage Journal
    Get a second HDD. Internal or external. Add a "Scheduled Task" that will run "backup.bat" periodically. backup.bat needs one line for an xcopy []:

    xcopy C:\ D:\ /d /e /h /o

    The first run will take a while, since it's copying everything. Subsequent runs will only copy what's been modified since the last backup. It really doesn't get much easier than that, if you ask me.
    • ... Or maybe XXCOPY (Score:5, Informative)

      by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:24AM (#16013878)
      XCOPY32 had no small number of bugs, and I'm not sure that they ever got fixed. The bottom line was that using it was a crap shoot. It might do what you told it to do in the switches, or it might do something else entirely. And using the same switches in the same order on a different disk sometimes produced different results. e.g the same switch settings that copied files from one hard drive, might set up an empty directory tree when run against a different drive.

      Many people solved that problem by downloading the freeware version of XXCOPY which actually works right. At least it always has for me and I've never seen any complaints from any others.

      I'm not sure that you still need to worry about that. But I'm not sure that you don't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh ( 229690 )
      And when somebody steals the computer, how do you restore the data?
  • Acronis TrueImage (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:01AM (#16013156) Homepage
    Acronis True Image is the only program so far that doesn't suck at backups. I use it constantly to backup to a USB harddrive I bought at discount. Perfect. Takes just minutes thanks to incremental backups.
  • make one (Score:5, Informative)

    by philipgar ( 595691 ) <> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:27AM (#16013273) Homepage
    first, create softlinks of all the files and put them into a directory called backup or something.

    then, just use a simple script, something like

    mkdir /tmp/somerandomdir
    cd /tmp/somerandomdir
    tar -c /backup > files.tar
    split files.tar -b DVDSIZE

    opendir(DIR, ".") || die "can't opendir $directory: $!";

    while ($current_file = readdir(DIR))
            #print "file is $current_file";
            mkdir $current_file+"dir"

            mv $current_file $current_file+"dir/"+$current_file
            mkisofs -o $current_file+".iso" $current_file+"dir"
          (can't remember how to burn isos on the commandline)

    of course, use a real language for the script, pretty it up etc, but it shouldn't be too hard.

  • by Pr0xY ( 526811 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:44AM (#16013357)
    Nero does exactly what you described. In the backup wizard, you simply select the files/directories you want backed up. It will then tell you how many CDs/DVDs it will take to store all of it. And you hit, go. it really is just as simple as you describe.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @09:49AM (#16015350) Homepage
    Well, let's start with a few things like causes:

    1. User error, in particular:
    1a. I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing error, aka luser error
    1b. I-know-what-I'm-doing error, aka admin/poweruser error
    2. Software issues
    2a. Corrupted files
    2b. Viruses
    3. Hardware breakdown
    3a. Disk failure
    3b. Short circuit, controller failure, leaky water cooling taking out multiple disks
    4. Crisis
    4a. Your house burning down
    4b. Break-in

    Then there's the importance of data, at least three:
    1. Personal/Important things
    2. A-lot-of-work things (like a ripped CD collection, recreatable but much work)
    3. Bulk data

    Back-up methods:
    1. In-machine backup (RAID)
    2. Near-line backup (DVD/external disk)
    3. Offsite backup (DVD/external disk)
    4. Network backup
    5. Internet backup

    The thing is, you don't manage to serve every need at once. Many here talk about external disks. I remember a slashdot post from a previous discussion, where the burglar had kindly taken the PC as well as the external disk lying nearby. Or if the house burns, it all burns. Yes, it sucks bigtime in any case, but at least now your digicam photos can survive. One of the hardest things about it, from what I've understood is that your past is pretty much erased. Clothes, furniture, souvenirs and trinkets.

    Another issue is the time between you discover the problem and the error occurred. Suddenly notice you must have deleted that important folder by accident, or it's been eaten by filesystem corruption, or bad sectors (yes, they get remapped, no they don't always manage to rescue the data). Or you want to return your system to a virus-free state. Good luck doing that with your daily sync'ing backup to an external HDD.

    Part of it is also the effort just actually doing it, even if it's just "One push" if you're going to hide it/put it in a fire safe/take it offsite. I would prefer having an automated network backup run, but my network stretches like 5 meters and my Internet connection is too slow. Some of the really important stuff(tm) could go over the Internet, but not all my bulk data. Plus, these should have more versions too. Overall, I find making a good backup solution is far from trivial.

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