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Backing Up Laptops In a Small Business?

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the against-disaster-the-gods-themselves dept.

Data Storage 293

Bithmus writes "I have been tasked with finding a way for our company to handle our laptop backups. We currently have nightly backups of our servers, but no backups of laptops. In our business we develop, implement, and sell another company's software; I guess that makes us a Valued Added Reseller. During development our consultants will create copies of a customer's database on MSDE on their laptops. If a hard drive crashes, all of the work done on that laptop is lost. There are other files that need to be saved, but the databases are really the important items. Ideally these databases would be stored on the SQL servers and the other files stored on the file server, but this is not happening. What do Slashdot readers do to protect data on laptops or computers outside of a local network?"

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File synchronization... If you must... (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#20217779)

For a small business? Probably simple file synchronization. Right-click on a network drive and pick "Make Available Offline." You'll still have to train people to store their shtuff on the network, but at least that way they'll have access to it even if they're not on the network.

Of course, you might run into some issues with files being locked and such, but you're probably going to have that anyway unless you go with either a big expensive solution or you just get people to use SQL server databases instead.

However, just because it needs to be said...

Ideally these databases would be stored on the SQL servers and the other files stored on the file server, but this is not happening.

The first time that someone loses a million dollars' worth of data or one of your consultant's laptops (with customer data) gets stolen, it will start happening. I don't have much sympathy for this kind of thing. I mean, it's kind of like saying, "Ideally, the money in the bank should be behind the counters with the tellers instead of just laying around in the lobby, but this is not happening." Make it happen. If you can't, at least make your management aware of the risks they're facing so that when something horrible happens, you've got a nice paper trail showing that you're not the scapegoat they're looking for.

If you were a big company, you could probably buy something expensive to mitigate the risk, but it still wouldn't be a good idea. At my big company, we use Connected DataProtector, and I hate it. Once a day, it runs a backup of my laptop and everything on my machine comes to a grinding halt for five to ten minutes. Oh, and it doesn't back up files in use (you know, like MSDE files under development), so a lot of stuff doesn't get backed up anyway.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218025)

The first time that someone loses a million dollars' worth of data or one of your consultant's laptops (with customer data) gets stolen, it will start happening. I don't have much sympathy for this kind of thing. I mean, it's kind of like saying, "Ideally, the money in the bank should be behind the counters with the tellers instead of just laying around in the lobby, but this is not happening." Make it happen. If you can't, at least make your management aware of the risks they're facing so that when something horrible happens, you've got a nice paper trail showing that you're not the scapegoat they're looking for.

Yes, exactly. The submitter already knows what the correct solution should be and should be asking "how do I get employees to follow sane backup policies?" not "how do I design a backup solution which can handle hostile users?"

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (5, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 7 years ago | (#20218277)

Simple: []

BackupPC keeps track of a device's ping history. If the device only comes in during the day, after a couple of days the system will start backing it up as soon as it connects to the network.

I use it to back up the LAN, portables, and PCs connecting via VPN -- given that it can back up via RSYNC, SSH and SAMBA, pretty much anything with a HD connected to the network gets put into the system.

The backups are also mirrored for off-site storage so there's always an in-house revision system and an emergency remote restore point. The system works well, and for small businesses can easily store 1.5TB of data on a single 250MB HDD (make sure to mirror).

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (3, Funny)

Scutter (18425) | about 7 years ago | (#20218517)

The system works well, and for small businesses can easily store 1.5TB of data on a single 250MB HDD (make sure to mirror).

Really? That's some AMAZING compression. Still, where would you find a 250MB hard drive these days?

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

compwizrd (166184) | about 7 years ago | (#20218555)

he meant 250gb, but either way, it does a nice setup for duplicate files.. every file gets CRC'd or similar, and if it already has a duplicate, whether it's from a previous backup, or even a different server, it just hardlinks to that... so 30 windows pc's with similar setups would only take a few gig to have a years worth of backups

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (3, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | about 7 years ago | (#20218753)

I hacked early versions of this software back when we were backing up PCs running Win3.11 and SuperTCP. Craig wrote it in about ten minutes and even way back then it was fairly robust.

Nice to see it survives to this day.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

lolcopter (1142251) | about 7 years ago | (#20218081)

For laptop security we use this: [] For remote laptop users we schedule a batch file that stops services (if needed) and we use this for backups: []

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (5, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | about 7 years ago | (#20218087)

For a small business? Probably simple file synchronization. Right-click on a network drive and pick "Make Available Offline." You'll still have to train people to store their shtuff on the network, but at least that way they'll have access to it even if they're not on the network.

This is the right idea, but I smell a major WTF at this company. It sounds like the developers aren't using version control. They really just need to set up a repository for each project (SVN is my default recommendation, but something with better support for binary files would be useful here) and just back up the repositories.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (4, Insightful)

Da_Biz (267075) | about 7 years ago | (#20218247)

If you can't, at least make your management aware of the risks they're facing so that when something horrible happens, you've got a nice paper trail showing that you're not the scapegoat they're looking for.

Parent is 100% bang-on. Years ago, as a well-intentioned, bright (but organizationally naive) systems analyst/engineer, I did not do enough to document systems design risks. This was partly because I was simply too confident in my abilities.

Today, I'm careful to report on certain aspects of system functionality that are key development objectives--and what business risks are tied to those objectives not being met. Sometimes, a business has to make the hard choice of willingly flying by the seat of their pants, but a good consultant or employee is there to make the consequences of all choices clear to the management. It's more than just CYA.

If it's logistically possible, a VPN running over a Verizon, Sprint or AT&T Wireless data service may be what's needed. Perhaps it maintains a real-time connection to the back-end or perhaps it backs up periodically. In any event, it would reduce the "exposure window" of damage, i.e., if this laptop is stolen in the next four hours, I know the data was backed up at least once in the previous four hours.

The cost of wireless data cards and service is plummeting: this may be a good time to consider it.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

nuckfuts (690967) | about 7 years ago | (#20218401)

I would NOT recommend using the "Offline Files" feature in Windows. It sucks. It maintains no folder hierarchy whatsoever. If you start with 1000 files neatly organized in 50 subfolders what you'll get with "Offline Files" is 1000 files dumped into a single folder.


Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | about 7 years ago | (#20218579)

This is blatant misinformation.

They are techincally stored in a fashion similar to this (not really, they are split up so directory sizes don't grow too huge) but they appear in their normal folder trees. (you access them exactly as you would if you were network connected)

Why post flat out deceptive comments?

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

growse (928427) | about 7 years ago | (#20218589)

Errr, no you don't?

My work laptop has it's My Documents folder pointing at a network drive which is offlined. When I connect to the vpn or the work network, I can synchronize it fairly quickly. The central file server is backed up to tape every day. If I break my laptop, I get a new one, whack a standard image on, and my files are all still there. If I delete the remote copy (because I'm stupid), I just request yesterdays tape be restored for me.

Works great. Folders and all.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (1)

imemyself (757318) | about 7 years ago | (#20218763)

I don't think you were using Offline Files the way it was meant to be used. Yes, if you set files to be available offline, then you can see them all (w/ no hierarchy) in the Offline Files folder/shortcut that you can place on the desktop. The point of offline files though is for files to still be accessible when you go to the mapped drives that they were on. For instance, lets say you have a file such as Z:\folder\document.txt (stored on a mapped drive), and it is set to be an offline file. When you are not able to connect to the file server, then document.txt will still show up in Z:\folder. When you open it you will open the copy of it that is cached on your computer (in strange looking files in C:\windows\csc). You actually don't even have to use mapped drives, I'm pretty sure that Offline Files will work with UNC addresses (like \\server\share\) as well.

I've used Offline Files on my laptop for the past year for my home directory. While I've always sort of been skeptical of it, it has actually always worked fairly well. Additionally you can have the files encrypted on the client's harddrive, to make it difficult for someone to get them by booting to Knoppix or something.

Re:File synchronization... If you must... (2, Interesting)

ManUMan (571203) | about 7 years ago | (#20218495)

Here is a quick attempt to address the questions above.

First, File synchronization is the easy way to go. I would avoid using the off-line files feature of Windows xp. I've had lots of problems with it. First of all, if the network connection drops for any reason then the user ends up off-line and can't print. Depending on how savvy your users are this can be a problem. I suggest SyncToy from Microsoft or another third party solution.

On the security side, we have Lenovo Thinkpads. With the embedded security chip we can setup encrypted drives that allow users to store files that cannot be opened without the users password (or fingerprint). This software and hardware comes standard on most of the Thinkpads.


C10H14N2 (640033) | about 7 years ago | (#20218593)

I use Citrix to work from my laptop and have a 3G card that sustains about 500Kb/s data, which is plenty for that. If the laptop is dropped/stolen/run over/burned, I've only lost hardware and can just wander over to any machine with web access--and often don't even need to install any client software. Setting up a standard VPN+RDP solution is pretty simple and a lot cheaper (read: essentially free).

Besides, it is not an entirely bad idea to nail into people's heads that their laptops should essentially be blank slates should they be lost or stolen. By working over VPN+RDP, they can use all the resources you have internally without exposing that data to outside threat except for the most extraordinary circumstances (say, MI6 is listening) while requiring only a very modest amount of external bandwidth and everything is backed-up at LAN speed as often as you require.

Clone 'em (3, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#20217783)

For years, I have ordered all of my systems with at least two hard drives. For laptops, I order an additional external drive. Currently, I have a very simple protocol: I use OS X and clone the entire hard drive with operating system to a second hard drive with SuperDuper! [] It is fast, it is easy and if the laptop dies, I can simply boot directly from the backup drive, be back up and running and I don't even have to reinstall applications or set all my preferences. It's like nothing ever happened. By the way, I also use this approach for all my workstations. Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Shirt Pocket software other than being a satisfied customer.

Re:Clone 'em (4, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#20217987)

For years, I have ordered all of my systems with at least two hard drives. For laptops, I order an additional external drive. Currently, I have a very simple protocol: I use OS X and clone the entire hard drive with operating system to a second hard drive with SuperDuper! It is fast, it is easy and if the laptop dies, I can simply boot directly from the backup drive, be back up and running and I don't even have to reinstall applications or set all my preferences. It's like nothing ever happened. By the way, I also use this approach for all my workstations. Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Shirt Pocket software other than being a satisfied customer.
This is a great idea with a few minor faults:
1) Security. If I can steal one of your backup drives, datawise, I just stole the notebook.
2) Efficiency. While I don't know SuperDuper, I assume it clones the entire drive. This seems like a waste of time for a few changed files. An incremental backup would be much faster and more efficient with maybe full backups weekly.
3) Reliability. I assume each backup overwrites the last, correct? If the system crashes while a backup is being made, you just killed the original and your only backup! The odds of it dying during the backup are slim, but it has happened before. You may want to consider getting an external HDD that is 2x the size of your McDrives and split it into two partitions. Only back up to the secondary partition. When the backup is complete, copy the secondary to the primary. If the system crashes while you are copying, you won't be able to boot of the primary, but at least your data will be recoverable.

Still, it is not a bad plan, especially considering the falling cost of IDE HDD's and enclosures... it's certainly more expensive NOT to backup!

Re:Clone 'em (2, Interesting)

texas neuron (710330) | about 7 years ago | (#20218175)

OS X has encryption built into the OS. This is a must for any laptop, IMHO, that contains any data of value. If you have a hard disk crash (as I did when my laptop and hard disk crashed from about 4 feet to the floor), then nothing is recoverable. Hence a good backup and recovery plan is needed.

Probably overkill but I burn data files on a regular basis to DVD in case you want to go back to a prior saved file that has been deleted from the computer. Then clone the hard drive and use backup software to save changes until you are ready to repeat the cycle. It will take a little while to restore your computer if you do crash but given the odds of crash are low, the faster daily backups are much faster which win out over the long run.

It may be that the next OS for Mac will handle the backup, finding files that were previously deleted, and syncing in an automated way. Still waiting to see how they put it all together in practice.

Re:Clone 'em (1)

Jeff Carr (684298) | about 7 years ago | (#20218191)

SuperDuper does do incremental backups, but it's apparently Mac only...

Anyone know of a good equivalent for Linux? (Yes, I know of a couple of ways, but I'm looking for the best.)

Re:Clone 'em (3, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 7 years ago | (#20218329)

1) Security. If I can steal one of your backup drives, datawise, I just stole the notebook.

It is regrettable that SuperDuper doesn't support encrypted backup targets.

2) Efficiency. While I don't know SuperDuper, I assume it clones the entire drive. This seems like a waste of time for a few changed files. An incremental backup would be much faster and more efficient with maybe full backups weekly.

FYI, it does do incremental backups, but they can be a bit slower than rsync, mainly because it does a bunch of tests when copying. The main appeal of SuperDuper! is that it copies everything, including alternate data streams on files (a big deal for us OSXers sometimes), extended FS attributes, and files that OS X would otherwise not allow you to, making the backup drive fully blessable and essentially indistinguishable from the original.

I am a happy SuperDuper! user as well, my only gripe is that it lack the encryption and the ability to do "snapshots" of different versions of the filesystem -- though the latter is likely to be addressed by Time Machine.

Re:Clone 'em (1)

kabz (770151) | about 7 years ago | (#20218581)

I also use this tool to clone my macs onto external hard drives. Actually it does a file copy rather than a dd, so it's a great way to verify that all files are readable, and defrag my drives into the bargain.

There is also *nothing* like the security of knowing that you can easily recover from a disk failure to where you were within a few days. And I have had a hard drive fail (in my PB), and I did use SD to recover.

Re:Clone 'em (1)

djarum72 (122163) | about 7 years ago | (#20218073)

For years, I have ordered all of my systems with at least two hard drives. For laptops, I order an additional external drive. Currently, I have a very simple protocol: I use OS X and clone the entire hard drive with operating system to a second hard drive
I do the same but with a twist because my company requires encrypted
Home Dirs (FileVault). The OP should be using encryption on his laptop
drives as well.

1. Every so often -- 4-6 weeks say -- log OUT of my account & run full backup.
The backup will include the encrypted disk image.

2. Every few days -- mount the encrypted disk image on the backup & run rsync on
my home dir only. I could use SuperDuper for this portion as well.

With FileVault, I can NEVER run a full backup from witin my account, that would leave
unencrypted files on the backup disk. This process works, but its not dead simple as
backups ought to be. I don't think SuperDuper or any solution I have tried handles FileVault
seamlessly enough. I'm hoping the next Mac OS X will... been hoping since FileVault
(which is awesome) came out!

Re:Clone 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218557)

FYI, if your company is running OS X server, and you can be set up with a mobile home directory, your data can be encrypted with FileVault on the laptop, and backed up unencrypted when you sync with the server. It's a nice solution... :)

(I can't remember my password today...)

dd? (2, Interesting)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 7 years ago | (#20218643)

so it's dd with a GUI and you're paying for it...?

Laptop Backup (1)

broggyr (924379) | about 7 years ago | (#20217793)

External drive or network share?

another way to think about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217809)

instead of backing up, you should try to back down. It's better for your nervous system.

Worry about laptops getting stolen! (5, Insightful)

sdriver (126467) | about 7 years ago | (#20217841)

Maybe you should be worrying about all your customers data floating around random laptops...

Directly put your customers data on big boxes at the office... let people remote desktop in and work. No longer will you have a backup problem for laptops - nor a security problem.

Re:Worry about laptops getting stolen! (1)

sleekware (1109351) | about 7 years ago | (#20217919)

Encrypting the laptops may be a better option, still allowing the portability of data yet rendering the data unrecoverable to a thief.

Mod Parent Up... (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 7 years ago | (#20217977)

...if and whenever you can, get the data locked up tight in your home network.

If you otherwise cannot avoid it, get each laptop user a geek-stick of appropriate size (a couple of GB), format it with an encrypted file system, and make 'em store everything even remotely sensitive on that. The odds are good that no one is going to go out of their way to target and steal a geek-stick at the airport (at least not as much as they'd want your laptop), and you can be reasonably sure that it will survive being dropped, kicked, shoved about in luggage, etc.


Mod parent up (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | about 7 years ago | (#20218199)

let people remote desktop in and work.

Since we're talking about laptops here, this is THE solution IMO, covers both failure and theft. Granted, off the LAN, it could get a little sluggish, but you know, security, right?

External USB Hard Drives (2, Insightful)

sleekware (1109351) | about 7 years ago | (#20217843)

I have found USB external hard drives to be excellent for the purpose of backing up data from either a laptop or desktop. There are also external hard drives sold as one-touch backup solutions as well. Make sure the data is encrypted or the hard drive is physically locked up, because an external hard drive is easy to swipe!

MSDE? You've got an easy solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217845)

Set up a copy of sql server somewhere on the internet, preferably behind a VPN.

Configure sql server to allow remote connections, but only over SSL.

Then, replicate your laptop databases to the main sql server at your office.

You get the benefit of SSL for strong encryption, but it's still pretty simple.

Re:MSDE? You've got an easy solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218307)

I agree with this one, Internet storage would be the best. Since they are using notebooks it should be assumed they travel, and so an annoying fat external HDD would be a pain for them. Any hotel gives Internet access so have them run a script/batch file/app each night - leave it go for a few hours - then it will be backed up. You may need to get some software that only does exponential backups to your storage site, it will save your consultant's notebooks upload time.

Write a login script (2, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 7 years ago | (#20217847)

I don't have time to look up the exact syntax for your- but your consultants do log onto the domain back at home from time to time, right? Here's what you need the script to do:

1. Stop the MSDE service, put up a msgbox asking that all other applications be closed.

2. Run a VB Script or some other program of your choosing that copies the files to a location on your network (you can always reconnect old access databases as long as you save the MSDATA directory).

3. When done, restart the MSDE service.

Sure, your consultants will hate it (it'll take a few minutes every time they log on) but it's the only real option.

Re:Write a login script (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217913)

Idea, meet angry user [] .

Re:Write a login script - MOD Parent UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217967)

This should work, write a program or script that runs in the background as a scheduled task. Get used to adding include (C#)
using System.Data.SqlClient;
using System

System.IO.File.Copy(OldFileName, NewFileName); //you may want to append a date the file was archived too

ETC use the system libraries!

Bacula (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217851)

I use Bacula for backing up our laptops, but the SQL servers on them are not important, it's filled with fake data anyhow.

How about running a cron job^W^W Scheduled Task and have that do a dump daily, and then have that be pushed up to a server somewhere?

Several options... (3, Insightful)

CoolVibe (11466) | about 7 years ago | (#20217855)

Some posters already mentioned storing data on a fileserver that's backed up (synchronisation or otherwise). I do have to stress one point about that: Laptops are easy to lose and easily stolen, so whatever touches the disk of said laptop, ENCRYPT IT.

not very much (1)

theheff (894014) | about 7 years ago | (#20217859)

I haven't seen much in this area. I use Retrospect for all my computers at work, but laptops are kind of come-and-go. I have 2 backups scheduled every day, and the laptops are lucky if they catch one or two of those per week. And quite honestly, I don't find Retrospect very dependable for that matter, so it's only use it to say "we have a backup server running if anything happens", when in reality, I will do data recovery on hard drives before doing anything with Retrospect. Did this turn in to a rant? I guess my answer in short is that there's no viable backup for laptops that is 100% dependable because of their portability and dependence on connectivity. My department uses a highly-monitored network drive to store nearly all of our information to avoid disaster.

RTFM (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 7 years ago | (#20218315)

I haven't seen much in this area. I use Retrospect for all my computers at work, but laptops are kind of come-and-go. I have 2 backups scheduled every day, and the laptops are lucky if they catch one or two of those per week. And quite honestly, I don't find Retrospect very dependable for that matter,

That's because you don't have it set up correctly. Retrospect is fully capable of doing opportunistic backups. Has been for a little shy of ten years. You set a policy for the max age of the backup, pick which clients you use the mode for, and as soon as the client appears on the network, it gets backed up. If you have that set up, then you don't have them on a fast enough network connection. Wireless, at 3MB/sec, ain't gonna cut it. The number of files also has a large effect on completion time; Retrospect chokes on its catalog file.

Not that I'm defending it, don't get me wrong. It's a dying dinosaur. There are numerous alternatives these days. BRU and Atempo are the big boys...

ZFS to the rescue (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 7 years ago | (#20217871)

Get a low end 64-bit computer running opensolaris with a nice fat ZFS pool. We use that for backing up laptops at my OSS consultation firm. It works great.

What about stolen? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217875)

I would be just as concerned with this other matter.
How are you protecting sensitive data on the laptop if its stolen?


Use CVS etc. (3, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20217883)

Don't keep critical data in laptops.

Surely if you are doing any development etc work then you should be storing code/data in CVS or equivalent running on a server.

Remember that source control is not limited to just software. You can use it to store all kinds of stuff (documentation, artwork, video...).

Any business model that depends on critical data in laptops is broken.

Re:Use CVS etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217941)

Exactly. Just check your C drive in every night before you leave.

Re:Use CVS etc. (1)

owlstead (636356) | about 7 years ago | (#20218713)

CVS only knows about differences in plain text files. For a backup solution, I would consider it horribly broken. If you are going to use software for other things than it is intended to, you should really worry about reasons why it may fail. Sometimes there are good reasons for using a software system for other purposes than it is intended. But in this case I'm not so sure (redundancy would be a problem, renaming might be a problem etc etc).

This is a great question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217909)

This is something I am starting to research at work. Right now we use Tivoli Continuous Data Protection, which seems to work good, and it also keeps multiple versions of documents. We just have mapped drives and do "Local Backup" which points to that drive letter. The only problem we've had is when a laptop hard drive died, and with the way all the documents are saved to the backed up location, the versioning information is included so that you have a document with a bunch of older versions (Document.doc, Document12345.doc, Document 12346.doc, etc). It can take a little while to clean up the older versions, but definitely better than losing the data altogether. If anyone knows of a laptop backup software for Windows XP that is relatively cheap (or even better, free) and does incremental real-time backups to a network (or mapped drive). I don't think versioning is that necessary since most people at my work would never even use it anyways, plus we have a backup server for that.

Only problem I see with Tivoli CDP is that I don't know how it would work if you have users storing data with MSDE. If they are working with mission critical information, then that data really should be stored in a server-side SQL database anyways.

SyncBack (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20217911)

I've been using SyncBack for my work laptop. s.html []

I'm happy with it so far. You can configure whatever folders you need backed up, where, when, and it does intelligent checking for whether it actually needs to create backups of files based on any number of file attributes.

Re:SyncBack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218143)

SyncBack is excellent.

I might point-out that the only SyncBackSE (the for-pay version) can backup open/locked files (like Outlook's .pst files). Which may be important in a business environment.

Encrypt those drives! (4, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 7 years ago | (#20217915)

I'm not sure what business you're in, but whenever you start storing customer database on laptops, you've got a potential security risk. I work in Healthcare and whenever a laptop or tape with hundreds of thousands of patient names gets stolen, bad things happen. The hospital involved typically has to send out mailings to everyone potentially impacted, which can get extremely expensive and damage their reputation.

We had a case of a vendor that ended up making other customer data (fortunately not ours) available on the Internet to the point where Google was indexing patient billing records. It was sad in a way, the owner had spent a decade building up his business and overnight the company vanished.

Though this isn't the answer to your question, please be cautious with the data on your laptop. Even if you have no medical customers, odds are you work with data that has privacy implications. Treat it with care.

Batch Script (1)

ResQuad (243184) | about 7 years ago | (#20217929)

You can do all sorts of amazing things with Batch scripting. For example, you can create a batch file to backup any or all databases from MSSQL Server out to files. Then you can take those files and xcopy them to a network server. Now all you need to do is setup a scheduled task to execute said batch file. We've been using a process very similar to the described one above for years w/o any issues. Granted the laptops need to be connected to the network, if they aren't at night, have the scripts run during the day sometime. Also, you must remember, that if the laptop is offsite for a while, it wont get backed up - but as long as its "home" for a backup once in a while - all is not lost when the laptop dies.

Re:Batch Script (1)

Barny (103770) | about 7 years ago | (#20218131)

Or an hourly task set to rsync the drive to that share, so any time they plug into the lan for more than an hour, they will have done a backup :)

Realistically its not that hard, just talk to "the boss" about getting the workers to jack their laptops into the lan before lunch (although without a good topology you may rip your networks guts out if some big jobs have just started).

Mozy Pro (1)

ashs2dst (243002) | about 7 years ago | (#20217973)

I use Mozy Pro for a very similar problem. While, I like doing all my own backup design and implementation, I could not resist the affordable price, and ease of configuration of mozy pro.

mozy pro (2, Informative)

conn3x (989931) | about 7 years ago | (#20217991)

I don't know how well it will work with databases, but we've been experimenting with [] . Its cheap, and I think a major company just started to use them for their desktops. It reticulates splines against already saved data, you can govern how much bandwidth/processor it takes up, can run on its own scheduler, its hipaa compliant(448-bit blowfish encryption), cheap and easy to implement. Of course it freezes once in a while.

Versioning Control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218001)

Developers should be commiting to a centralized managed repository and not be coding and storing there code locally. End of story. They should be making commits, those commit and those commits should be being handled by a post-commit hook even to possibly get sent to a testing environment for QA to test on the fly (if you are really ballsy and short staffed).

Retrospect and/or RDP? (2, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about 7 years ago | (#20218003)

For laptops, (disclaimer: I'm not in any way affiliated with Dantz, but have had very good success with their products, ever since Retrospect 1.0 on Macintosh System 6 in 1989.) I do recommend Retrospect. It can back up open files, has solid encryption, can back up to almost anything, from hard disks to tapes and network shares, and can back up SQL servers. If you can get a laptop to VPN in, I'm pretty sure, you can get Retrospect to back it up (it used synthetic full backups, so only changes get copied over the network.)

Another idea, if you can configure a VPN, is to put all the MSDE data that the laptop users use on one Windows 2003 machine, and run SQL Server and Terminal Services. Then, you can focus on backups of that machine (Retrospect has a lot of options for keeping SQL Server backed up), and less on worrying about keeping client files copied.

Two options (1)

didde (685567) | about 7 years ago | (#20218013)

I have been using BackupPC [] for some time now with great results. Despite its name, the software is quite powerful and easily fits borderline enterprise requirements. It'll function with most platforms out there, and has some nifty options for laptop users - meaning the intermittently connected machines.

I have also used Symantec's BackupExec with the Desktop and Laptop Option (DLO) [] with mixed results. It fits the bill if you're running a homogeneous network.

I wish you good luck. Having fully backed up laptop machines is A Good Thing in my book. I often find disks in portables to be more error prone than stationary machines', though this is probably caused by the wear and tear of a mobile PC.

Upon Their Own Head Be It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218015)

Lay out some ground rules, make them agree to them, and then if it goes tits up, upon their own head be it.

Otherwise why not provide a database server for testing, that they can access over VPN or something? Then tell them that local databases on the laptop are treated as volatile entities and will not be utilised in deployment. If they have data in them they need, they can script the creation of said data, and then commit the script into version control on their development branch or however you have that set up. Make not following the development policy document a disciplinary issue, but document it well so they know what to do without having to ask around.

But most of all, let them know that it is their problem if it goes wrong, and save your own skin by continually making people above you aware of the issue, occasionally CCing your boss' boss in the conversations.

Add pr0n in a hidden directory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218027)

on both their laptop and desktop. Then when the valuable data goes missing, you can easily discredit the employee that lost the laptop. They get fired, you keep your job. Problem solved.

Mozy (3, Informative)

Alcimedes (398213) | about 7 years ago | (#20218041)

They have a corporate and individual client. The individual offers unlimited backups for $5 per month. The corporate is something like 50 cents per gig, plus $5 per month. The nice part is it's a very intelligent backup client, will run from anywhere, and encrypts the data as you go. (you can use their key or generate your own.)

You should check them out. I've been very happy with them.

Re:Mozy -- too bad it is unreliable (1)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | about 7 years ago | (#20218233)

I tried them. I used a personal private key to encrypt the data (never trust your data to a 3rd party where it is not encrypted by you). Then I replicated a data crash and tried to restore the files to a 2nd computer. Result? I could not get the data to decrypt properly (and yes I did enter the correct key). Google for this issue, it is well discussed...

cron + rsync (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | about 7 years ago | (#20218045)

I set up all my labs laptops with cron jobs that run scripts that track when the drive was last synced, and handles things appropriately using rsync + SSH.

To make things even easier for users to protect data they see as important, I have an icon they can click to sync to the server at any time.

Re:cron + rsync (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218491)

Considering that the bloke that asked the question using MSDE (and is even asking this question!) "cron + rsync" is going to sound like Greek to him.

Re:cron + rsync (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | about 7 years ago | (#20218537)

I do something similar, but if the laptop happens to be off, or simply not connected to a network at the time that the cron job should go off it misses an entire day's backup. Is there any good solution to this? (ie, a simple way to force it to run the sync as soon as it does get a network connection or gets turned back on)

Re:cron + rsync (1)

gold23 (44621) | about 7 years ago | (#20218755)

You might want to check out anacron: [] . It was written for exactly the case you're describing.

Do you know any scripting? (1)

tsstahl (812393) | about 7 years ago | (#20218049)

Start here: []

here: []

and here: aspx []

Run the backup to local drive as often as you feel necessary. Having the information on a second place of the disk improves your recovery chances _when_ you have to send that bad boy out to a service for recovery.

Copy backups to the network upon login. Copy backups to the network upon login. Copy backups to the network upon login. And finally, make it impossible, or at least very irritating, for the user to interrupt this step.

Personally, I would advocate working off of the professionally(?) managed servers.

Unison (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 7 years ago | (#20218059)

I'm currently playing with Unison [] which does syncing through SSH, it runs on Linux, MacOS X and Windows (on Windows you have to install SSH though) Is runnable from a command line and is configurable from a simple text file describing what directories you want synced and what exceptions there are.

It's very similar to rsync except that it has an added module that keeps a history of the directory contents to properly handle syncing file removals/renames/etc. It is quite nice.

Sounds like you already have a solution! (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#20218091)

Ideally these databases would be stored on the SQL servers and the other files stored on the file server, but this is not happening.

Ok, so why not do that? You just say, "this is not happening," but you don't say why you can't make it happen.

Problems like these tend to depend a bit on the context. The best solution depends on what your needs are. I don't typically have Windows laptops these days-- luckily the laptops at my current company are much more likely to be Macs. So I put an rsync script to copy everyone's home directly over SFTP to a backup server, and then encrypt the whole thing with FileVault. If I need to, I exclude certain sorts of files (iTunes library and such), and all that's really needed is an internet connection with SFTP ports open. I feel relatively good about the solution. It's simple, it works, and as long as users remember to log out of their laptops (admittedly, a big "if") the data is pretty secure.

Robocopy from Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218111)

robocopy via batch file. either manually or scheduled task it. You can be granular about what you back up that way, and it's a touch more automated than digging through files to back up the ones you need everytime. it'll also only backup changes so it's easier on the network that way. You need to decide if you want your end users controlling this as well as it'll limit/increase the options you have.

we use robo for file copies between servers which works ok but there is limited visibility into the app as you can only log to a text file, then you have to manually scrape the text file for errors. it's cheap(free from M$), and works well, it's just the management that's a bit of a pain.

Me personally... (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 7 years ago | (#20218135)

I only have a laptop at the moment.
Anything I don't want to lose is backed up to 3 separate external hard drives.
I recently had to replace one of the external drives, hence the redundancy.
(It was a Fanton HD.. POS.)

planning for backups by partioning (2, Informative)

infonography (566403) | about 7 years ago | (#20218169)

I have an XP laptop here, I repartition the basic install to have 15gig (on a 80GB disk) as a root disk with only the base OS on the drive. The remainder was where all my data My Docs etc live. Beyond browsing data and applications nothing lives on the root disk I could have put the User home on the data disk but it's not wise. You could lose the data partition and be screwed. I lose the root partition, worse case I have to reinstall from media.

I just dup the root with regular Windows Backup, Norton Ghost, or what I am actually using now, which is EMC Retrospect. My policy hasn't shifted, just that it Retrospect does Solaris and Linux well too, from a base XP system. Currently I back up the root disk every two weeks in three backup rotation, Data gets done every 4 days. That seems to work well. That backup never amounts to more then 8 gigs to a mounted share. External disks are going to 750gb for about $260 which is a great deal. These days it's faster to plug in a USB2 drive and dump it to that then across a network.

Nice thing about this scheme is that when I went to dual boot this laptop I just had to reparation a non-OS disk rather then risk the OS being mushed.

Backup and Sync (1)

wap911 (637820) | about 7 years ago | (#20218177)

for backup including FTP I have been using Cobian Backup for years [] for sync [copy files on both ends] Horodruin is in use daily night at home morning and afternoon at office in.htm []

a few different options (1)

Topherbyte (747078) | about 7 years ago | (#20218227)

IANAL, but I manage several laptops for my partner's law office. After just 1 hard drive failure, encrypted, online backup has already paid for itself several times over. Just set it, forget it, and be prepared to pony up $10 or more per month per machine.

However, if your source files are enormous and you don't want to take the bandwidth hit each night, or you don't really need the ultimate peace of mind that off-site storage gives you, just learn rsync and create a script that copies the DB files to your local storage destination every N minutes or hours. When the destination file already exists, and unless you override the default behavior, rsync will transfer only the difference between source and destination -- usually speeding things up. YMMV.

I wore an onion on my belt... (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 7 years ago | (#20218273)

Back in '96 I worked as the database administrator of a county government budget database, 2 gigabytes of multidimensional data containing the work of about 100 people, to track where over $2 billion was going to go in '97.

After I improved the performance by a factor of ten by reordering the dimensions, I had enough free time to be 'proactive', finding and providing fixes for things such as everyones payroll being short by .8 percent; and creating an Excel add-in to perform common tasks (Sitting with the analysts, to watch their workflow, and observing them do things like manually comparing 2 very long columns of numbers to be sure they were equal... something very easy to automate, so I did)

At one point, I got the systems administrator to do a test restore of the nightly backup.

It seems that since the database software was running, the database file itself was always being skipped.

After messing around with shutting down and restarting the database every night (which did not work well). Eventually I just scheduled a 'report' that exported all the data needed to rebuild it from scratch to a CSV file, along with a copy of the schema.

Use what you have. (1)

Cervantes (612861) | about 7 years ago | (#20218313)

Use what you have... existing tools and infrastructure, and inexpensive or free software.
You have a network. Use it. Briefcase is your friend.
Set up your laptops with a PGP drive to hold all work information. Unless management likes the idea of your work product being stolen and given to a competitor.
Train your users about where to save their data. Then use policies (Windows, not HR) to enforce it.
If they're in the office regularly, use KIX scripts to copy the entire PGP file to the network. Poof, instant backup on startup. Just tell them to plug in and go for coffee.
If they're not, train them to do backups to media. A pgp drive on a memory stick isn't too bad. Better than unencrypted CDs.

Really, that seems like a good start. All it takes is some common sense and training.
Also, it takes my favourite rule of remote users.
"If you're not smart enough to do Task X, after I show you, do it for you, and give you written instructions... then you're not smart enough to have a computer at home."

A better approach (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 years ago | (#20218339)

Laptop users should never... ever... be storing files on the local drive for two main reasons. 1st, should the laptop get lost/stolen, you have a security violation. 2nd, the loss of productivity should the files not get backed up to the network as needed. Don't bother with offline file synchronization as it requires critical thinking of what to keep, and what to copy. Treat the users like idiots. I hate having such a condescending attitude, but better safe than sorry with corporate assests.

A better approach would be for all laptop users to do their work via Terminal Services. Only e-mail should be cached via Exchange mode. Should a user have to have the file stored locally (such a DOC, XLS, or PPT files), drill it into their head it's to be for read-only access. Any changes needed to be done should take place on the Terminal Server. This policy ensures current modified files are being backed up, and discourages users from hording sensitive data on the laptop.

And remember! You must be the BOFH. If you're not being an IT Nazi, you're not doing your job in the best interest of the company.

rsync and .bash_login (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218359)

This is super easy. Have .bash_login check whether the machine is at work and can see the backup server. If it can connect to the backup machine, use rsync to send any new changes to it.

Oh, wait, you're using Windows, right? Better get out that company credit card, then. Similar solutions to the above exist for Windows, but they magically cost $40/seat to copy, and the source code was written by Allah himself and must be kept top-secret lest its brilliance destabilize the entire IT industry.

Few ideas on what works for me (1)

commlinx (1068272) | about 7 years ago | (#20218407)

You can set up a scheduled task to backup the MSDE databases to a directory and automatically purge old versions just like you would do with full-blown SQL/Server. This gives a bit of extra when on-site because if a consultant accidentally drops a table or the like as they have previous versions and potentially journalling to recover from. I now use SQL Express 2005 on my laptop and if you search for "Expressmaint" you'll find some free scripts to replace the automatic maintenance procedures missing from the Express versions of SQL/Server. I can't remember the name but there is an equivalent for the older MSDE versions. Use the Windows scheduler to start the job when the laptop is started each day and periodically throughout.

Assuming the consultants are in the head office occasionally on a LAN then use the free Microsoft Robocopy command-line utilitity to sync the database backup folder and other source code / documents to the server. This could be dropped into the network login script. If they are not in the office this step could also be performed via an Internet VPN connection obviously at a slower rate so maybe it is something they would do overnight at home. Put an additional backup in the script before it starts to get the very latest backup of the databases.

For the final step you need a way to check the users are actually running Robocopy to sync the documents. If you give each user a different directory on the server you can either manually or via a script check the last modification date on the folders. I've been doing things this way for a while and both SQL/Server backup and Robocopy and quite fast so it's not too bothersome.

Windows Home Server (1)

mgrassi99 (514152) | about 7 years ago | (#20218431)

Not to sound like a fanboy, Windows Home Server is the easiest backup solution I've used yet. For years I've used a Linux box with a few drives RAIDed and shared a few folders via SAMBA, then used SyncToy to duplicate my laptop files on the SAMBA share. Yeah it works, but setting up the RAID and SAMBA is just a pain and SyncToy is pretty flakey. I joined the beta program for WHS and its ridiculously easy: you throw a few drives into an old computer, install WHS which is almost fully automated, then run the "connector" software on each client PC. It'll automatically back up every night, and mirror your data across the multiple drives in the host computer for redundancy. I'm not sure exactly what the launch date is, or what the licensing terms would be for a small business, but its worth investigating.

Norton Ghost (1)

David7 (946912) | about 7 years ago | (#20218433)

I recommend Norton Ghost. You can schedule nightly backups that kickoff automatically. I schedule my backup to start at 9:30 PM. I use the Windows scheduler to shut my machine down at 2:30 AM. That give the backup plenty of time to run, and shuts my machine down at a reasonable time. My only gripe is that Norton Ghost does not provide an option to shut your PC down after it completes the backup. I e-mailed them about the problem, but they said they had no plans to fix it.

It cost me $80 for a license, but it provides the ability to retrieve files from the backup without having to restore the backup. That feature alone has covered the cost of the license. Also, I rest easier at night knowing that I can restore my entire machine when the hard drive crashes. Notice I said "when the hard drive crashes". Hard drive crashes are inevitable, and if you are not prepared for them, you are a fool. One other note: I paid for my license out of my own pocket because my boss would only pay for an inferior solution. That is how important daily backups are. If your company will not pay for them, then at least cover your own personal situation.

My company does use a CVS repository and the company policy is daily check-ins. We are effectively using CVS as a daily backup, which it is not designed for. As a result, we have an enormous number of check-ins for every file. Trying to do a diff can become a nightmare as you step back one day at a time until you see the difference you were actually interested in. Also, because developers are forced to check in files before they are actually ready, the descriptions usually read like this, "Saving changes, WIP." Anyone who uses CVS as a backup solution is also a fool. It is a source code repository, not a backup solution. It is better than no backup at all, but most development platforms have a lot of tools and settings that cost a lot of time to duplicate from scratch. You can't check that out of CVS.

If your development platform is Linux or Unix based, you can always use the old method of dump and a cron job. If you do not know what this is, there is plenty of information in the googleplex about how to do this. I think someone recently posted an article to slashdot about it.

If you just want to do weekly snapshots, you cannot beat SystemRescueCD for price and power. We use it for switching operating system images for testing purposes. It can handle all versions of Windows and Linux (except 64-bit Fedora Core). You can use it to backup to a USB drive or to a remote system over the network. It can even backup partitions that use Logical Volume Manager if you know how to use it correctly. It also allows you to do something that very few competitors do: You can backup your master boot record separately from your partition. There are many times when having a backup copy of your MBR can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Captcha: rerouted

Hope and Pray (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218435)

Hope and Pray is our plan.
I hope it doesn't happen and Pray I'll have a job after I tell the CEO, "I told you so."

I wasn't given any budget and I was forbidden from using any open source. What do they want?

But even after all that, it will make me feel better to say it.

Example (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | about 7 years ago | (#20218445)

It sounds like you have identified what is needed to be backed up, now plan how :-)

If there is enough space on the laptop a duplicate copy of the database is a good first step, then rsync that to head office. You should be checking how often the rsync images are updated and chasing tardy users. This stage can all be scripted, we had reps who would plug in the laptop in the evening and this would run during the night every night.

OK so now you have the data in house and secure.

The next stage is what to do when they need the backup?

In a different scenario we used to have VMWARE loaded and running. When a rep said they'd just borked their machine. We sent a new laptop installed and updated with their last backup. We allowed them read only access through PC-AnyWhere to the VMWARE image with their data pre-loaded. The laptop always went the fastest delivery mech and had pre-paid postage for the returning laptop.

The idea was to have the rep up and running ASAP. Another company used to have the dbs sync at night and if the laptop borked we just sent a preconfigured PC with no need to sync the data as that would happen when the rep signed on and dialed in.

Rsync Backup (2, Informative)

googlebear (625615) | about 7 years ago | (#20218453)

I use Rsync on an hourly schedule.. with the -e option of rsync.. you can used a shared key to automatically do the the ssh negotiation.. (so your not prompted) works great..
cygwin installed for the windows laptops laptops..
the mac laptops already have rsync

you then need to put your rsync command into a script/batch file:


rsync -avz -e "ssh -i /home/root/rsync_keys/mirror-rsync-key" /home/

the second half of this is to do a nightly tar ball of this on the server.. if you want to get fancier with your scripting you could probably save some space with a tarball of only the modified/created files for the day... ----

All the best


Re:Rsync Backup (1)

googlebear (625615) | about 7 years ago | (#20218513)

I guess i should have mentioned that the script/batch file needs to be setup with the appropriate cron (mac/*nix) /scheduler (windows).. -Ian

BackupPC seems to work well. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 7 years ago | (#20218455)

I've been using backuppc for probably 3 years now. We use it mainly for our desktops, but it'll grab the laptops as long as they show up on the network for a couple hours a day. It uses single instance storage and compression to save space. Highly configurable. It actually backs up our entire network. Windows machines using smbclient, unix machines via ssh/rsync, allows users to retrieve their own files. The down side is, its not really meant for larger installations I don't think, as all the configuration information information is stored in plain text files, but it can be configured to deal with any machine in a range and stuff.

Now that I sound like a salesman, I'll go away. []

... Connected TLM ... (1)

ninjagin (631183) | about 7 years ago | (#20218489)

We use Connected TLM at my office, and it works pretty well. It helps if you're able to leave your PC/lappy on overnight in terms of hands-free automagic scheduling. PCMag had this review [] from years ago. Their latest offering is called something like "Data Protector" or something like that. There's a subscription cost, so you'lll have to assess if the money's worth the peace of mind. I've been pretty lucky and have not had a HD failure. Folks around me who have had their disks fail say it was a lifesaver. There are a bunch of other companies that more or less have the same kind of offering. I think Iron Mountain has a pretty good one, too. Hope it helps.

What about.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218533)

Imaging software... Iv used both Acronis and Norton Ghost and found either one to be just fine. It doesent take very long to make an image or to restore it and I found images fairly handy...

mac os x version (1)

bloosqr (33593) | about 7 years ago | (#20218621)

The mac version is using mobile accounts rather than normal accounts.. Mobile accounts are the laptop version of NIS/NFS (or ldap) login systems but with an additional set of scripts that sync on login/logout. This will provide you the backups you need for the laptops and also provide simple replacability of any given laptop/desktop system since all accounts are available on all machines with the proper setup.

Drive Snapshot (1)

Super Jamie (779597) | about 7 years ago | (#20218657)

We have a smaller site with its' own onsite server, probably similar to your business.

We use Drive Snapshot - [] - and just run a scheduled task to back the entire hard drive up (replacing that PC's old image) weekly.

This may or may not be of use to you, depending on wether your laptops are in the office regularly or not.

BackupPC (1)

Rabid Cougar (643908) | about 7 years ago | (#20218667)

I've never personally tried it, but BackupPC [] looks like it might be able to do the job. AdminsParadise [] offers the ability to get this set up and running quickly, and it appears to be rather pain free. Oh, and did I mention that BackupPC is licensed under the GPL?

Do any of you have any experience with this setup? If so, how well does it work?

Rule #1: Don't backup laptops (1)

swordgeek (112599) | about 7 years ago | (#20218669)

"Ideally these databases would be stored on the SQL servers and the other files stored on the file server, but this is not happening."

Well there's your answer: Make it happen.

Laptops (a) should NOT have critical information stored on them, and (b) should ABSOLUTELY NOT NEVER NO WAY be the only repository for critical information.

rsync (1)

YGingras (605709) | about 7 years ago | (#20218677)

Push images with rsync and back those up. Rsync will only send what has changed so you can push the updates from a crappy link once you have seeded the image from your lan. You could launch the backup only if the IP match a given pattern; you probably don't want to push a backup from a hotel room.

EMC | Avamar Backup (1)

FoolishBluntman (880780) | about 7 years ago | (#20218701)

++Strong Bias
// I work at Avamar, I helped found it in 1999, Avamar was bought by EMC back in November 15, 2006.
see "EMC | Avamar" []
Avamar's solution has very low overhead on a Laptop and after the first backup, subsequent backups usually take less than a minute. It also deals nicely with opened files. If you don't want to buy a multi Terabyte server to run it, it is available as a service from a number of vendors in a rebranded form. For example from AT&T it's called "AT&T Online Vault" []
--Strong Bias
There are of course other services/products out there, just look.

Some things I've looked into... (2, Informative)

nuckfuts (690967) | about 7 years ago | (#20218729)

First of all, to all you smug pricks who offer comments like "don't keep important data on a laptop" or "your business model is broken" - this ia a real problem for many people. If you don't have a real suggestion then STFU. It should be well understood in a place like Slashdot that not every IT guy gets to set corporate policy. Sometimes you have to work with what you've got.

On the topic of laptop backups, I've been dealing with this issue for years. Here are some thoughts:

For simply backing up a few critical files, consider a USB Flash Drive. I usually write a simple .bat file using xcopy to backup particular files or folders, then create a shortcut with a friendly name for users to double-click on. With a bit of thought you could probably create an autorun.inf file that backs up when the USB stick is inserted. One caution - drive letters may be slightly unpredictable.

For a more thorough backup, clone the entire drive to an external drive. There are many programs that can do this but these days my favourite is Acronis True Image [] . Acronis could clone on a schedule if you can train users to connect an external drive overnight, for example. It's always nice to have a complete backup including OS, applications and data. Acronis also lets you browse inside a backup image and extract individual files if needed.

What I've always really wanted was a solution that would detect when a server was reachable and backup transparently. I use something just short of this on my own laptop - product called Mirror Folder [] that I schedule to copy specific folders when I'm connected to my home network every night. This could probably work over a VPN as well. Very simple, very cheap.

If you have a larger budget than me you might be interested in something like Atempo LiveBackup [] .

Gparted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218761)

Use Gparted. Its a live Linux distribution that lets you copy partitions from on hard drive to another and works with USB drives. This works really well because one big USB drive can be used to backup many systems OS partitions. Its very fast and works very well. Its very similar to doing a disk images except faster because your just coping the partition between drives.

trueimage + usb hdd (1)

abonstu (682723) | about 7 years ago | (#20218789)

buy a hard disk usb device with size >= the internal lappa disk (even neater if its a laptop sized usb powered disk).

use acronis trueimage workstation, awesome software - images any disk on the fly (even current system disk), takes less than an hour to backup my 100GB disk. so you can be anywhere and have a full backup on hand. if you use the disk copy routine, you then have an exact duplicate of your existing system, so in the case of disk failure, you can just swap out the disks, boot up and carry on.

cheap, simple, light weight, secure, fast.

whats not to like?

Here's one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20218801)


I use it, and it's perfect for mobile users. Protects any type of closed or open file. Even custom apps.

Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files (1)

chathamhouse (302679) | about 7 years ago | (#20218815)

This is for windows operating systems only. The name may sound ungainly, but the software (particularly the recent v3.1 refresh) works really well for this sort of use case. Pricing is approximately $50/license, available in 25-packs direct from IBM, or in smaller increments from a reseller. Very good value for money, and I say this as a satisfied customer. ntinuous-data-protection/ []

Backs up to network drives, WebDAV folders, or tivoli storage manager servers. The first two will be applicable to small businesses.

The software monitors the I/O drivers, and just copies changed blocks once an initial synch has been done. This ensures that only the changed data is pushed over what can be a preciously network link.

It can also simultaneously keep a copy of the protected data in another folder/directory, allowing for immediate restore should a file get corrupted. Very handy stuff.

The most challenging element with the setup then becomes getting a quiesced copy of the database files. This can probably be acheived by having the administrators write a small script to stop MSSQL, run a manual backup, then restart MSSQL. A bit annoying, but backing up MSSQL live is normally the realm of far more expensive software.
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