Backup Strategies

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yogi
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Backup Strategies

Post by yogi » 08 Nov 2015, 10:55

As some of my recent posts to this forum have suggested, I've lately become intimately aware of the importance of backing up one's computer files. Being an old hacker (the good kind) from way back, I figured that I had it all down pat. Well, I do, sort of. But I have changed my ways in view of my recent needs to restore my default operating system multiple times.

The question of what to back up is based on individual needs. The entire hard disk(s) with your operating system can be preserved, bit for bit, if you make a system image. This is a major task that consumes a lot of copy time and a lot of disk space depending on how large your collection of software is. But, unless you are running a business and it's critical that you recover as quickly as possible, system images are overkill. They are nice to have, but not needed by the average computer user. The better approach to backups is to list all the individual directories and files you cannot replace by simply reinstalling software and only back up those on the list. These partial backups is what most of us home computer types can live with comfortably.

Once you have a list of what you need to back up, then just do it. Copy everything on your list in it's entirety to your backup media. You can do this manually, or you can use one of many programs out there designed for just this purpose. No matter how you do it, the first backup should be complete, or a Full Backup. Thereafter the choices are more varied. Differential and Incremental backups can be made after you have a Full Backup in place.

Differential backups work off that list of all the files you want to preserve. The idea behind this techniques is to only back up the files from your master list that have changed since the last time you made a full back up. This saves copying time given that not everything has changed and only a portion of the files on your list need to be sent to the backup volume. However, as you might imagine, it takes a lot of time to hunt through all the directories manually. Differential backups are definitely a job for software that can do it automatically.

Incremental backups work off that same master list, but in this case only files that have changed since the last incremental backup are copied to the backup volume. This type of backup uses even less time to copy changes, but is equally laborious hunting down those changes manually. Software is best suited for this task as well.

Backing up systems is one thing, but recovering lost data is quite something else. It is during recovery that you discover how valuable are those backups you've made. And, the ease of recovery is totally dependent upon what kind of backups you made. Ease and speed of recovery are also largely dependent on the software you use to do it all. Needless to say the more automated the process, the better. There are a lot of options, and a good disaster recovery strategy is often overlooked until you need to use it. Then it might be too late. So, plan ahead.

RECOVERY FROM DISK IMAGE is fairly simple given that the whole ball of wax is simply copied from the backup volume to the working volume. Reboot and you are in business instantly. However, as is the case with all backups, anything new that was added since the last backup is lost. If your ability to use your computer is critical, such as in running a business, then it is worth the effort to make a disk image daily. It takes a lot of time and should be done when the system isn't being used so that nothing is missed. The good news is, disaster recovery is a snap.

RECOVERY USING FULL BACKUPS is the next best thing to restoring from an image. This process involves manually installing the original operating system and any necessary programs/drivers first. Once all the software is in place, then the list of Full Backup files is copied over to the newly installed operating system. Installing all that previously existing software could be a long time consuming process, and the success of it depends on your ability to remember exactly what you had installed before you lost it all. Thus, all that time you saved not making images is now being used to recover from disaster by clean installing software and using Full Backups.

RECOVERY USING DIFFERENTIAL BACKUPS involves one more step added on to the Full Backup recovery routine. Anything that changed since the most recent Full Backup is in the Differential Backup store. Thus those changed files must be added back in after the Full Backup was performed so that the maximum number of lost files can be recovered. This typically involves restoration of the Full and only the latest Differential Backups

RECOVERY USING INCREMENTAL BACKUPS means you must perform the Full Backup recovery routine and then all the incremental backups in the correct order. Unlike differential, the incremental backups only backup those files that have changed since the last increment. Depending on your configuration, there may be several incremental backups in storage which will require several runs of the recovery software to get back to where you were before the loss. Any time you saved by doing only incremental backups is thus used up (and then some) in the recovery process. This might not be as bad as it sounds if you don't need to recover as quickly as possible.

My strategy for my home computer has been to do incremental backups. I would make one image periodically, and then one Full Backup. Incremental Backups were made five times before I would make another Full Backup and start the cycle over again. Thus my recovery plan was to reinstall all the software I lost, then recover the Full Backup, then recover each Increment separately in the correct order. This only took three days for me but I did it all manually. My instincts would not allow me to let the software recover automatically for me. I wanted to have full control over what was being restored.

And this brings me to the choice of software I use to make backups. Most backup software will copy your files, compress them, and then arrange them in some proprietary order on your remote storage volume. This is fine if you are not paranoid and trust the software. The software I use simply copies the raw data without compressing it or arranging it in some esoteric order. The advantage is that I can go look into those back up files and pick out only what I want. I don't have to do a full restore unless I choose to. The price I pay is the time and effort to do all this manually. As I said, three days was nothing to me, but it might put you out of business if your livelihood depends on how quick you can get back what you lost.

Just for the record, I now do images and Full Backups only.

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 08 Nov 2015, 11:20

Hi Yogi

All the above is exactly how I got myself into heap big trouble many times, and why I now only make MIRROR images of my data drives.

If you run a full-system backup, and keep an incremental backup, you are good to go IF you have a hard drive failure.
You can restore everything very fast and be up and running again.
However, if you have to replace the motherboard, you normally buy a newer mobo, new CPU, perhaps add more memory, etc.
It doesn't matter if you use the existing hard drive and move it to the new machine, or restore from backup, the likelihood the new machine will run is fairly remote, due to it using the wrong drivers.

This is one reason why when I did replace computers, I often did so making sure they were identical, which usually meant buying two or three of them at the same time. Can't afford to do that anymore. I'm lucky to get a bare bones within a price range I can afford.

Maintaining a MIRROR Image is not much different than using Incremental backups, except everything is there in the same order and ready to draw from if need be.

The first time you make the MIRROR of your drive, everything is copied because it does not exist on the destination drive.
But unlike Incremental backups which saves the daily changes in daisy chain fashion, a Mirror checks to see if a file changed, and if so, the file is replaced with the newest version. By the same token, if you delete a file on the original hard drive, you have the option of having it automatically deleted from the mirror or keeping all deleted files. Keeping changed or deleted files on the mirror can fill up a mirror fairly fast. So it is best to delete changed files and replace them with the current version.

However, as a safety precaution against accidentally deleting a file, or someone deleting a file, which would cause it to be deleted from the mirror. It is best to make a full Mirror and set it aside, disconnected from your system if need be and stored on a shelf somewhere. It also doesn't hurt to make a copy of certain important files on CD and store them by the dates they were created.

Occasionally a file may become corrupt on your main hard drive, and when you run the mirror program, it copies the corrupt file, overwriting the good copy on the mirror, so now you have two corrupt files. This is why it is good to keep a copy of your important files safe on another drive, CD, or DVD, and make a copy of those too.

I make a Mirror, then copy changed files to the mirror each day. The mirror is then copied off-site.

Why a Mirror. When you look at your File System on your original hard drive, everything is organized and ready to use. A Mirror is an exact copy of what you see on your original hard drive, so all the files are in the same place on the mirror as they are on the original drive. Where backup sets often have to be opened in order to find something, and in some cases, a backup must be restored before you can get to the contents of the backup set. This is why I loathe backup programs. Even those who let you restore everything to a new folder, you still need the space on your hard drive to restore the entire backup before you can access the data it contains in backup sets.

OK, off my hobby horse!

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yogi
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by yogi » 08 Nov 2015, 12:11

I guess mirroring is a form of backup, but it's in a class all of it's own. A mirror image is kept on an identical hardware configuration so that you can shut down the original machine unceremoniously and walk over to the mirror and pick up where you left off immediately. There is no restoration involved in that it's a fully functional mirror updated in real time. There is a very small risk of losing data if your system goes down in the middle of a transfer, but it's about the safest way to keep alive on a continual basis.

The problem of incompatible hardware and software is perennial. You don't have to restore to an exactly identical machine, but the target does have to be equal to or greater than the original in certain respects. You certainly would not be able to recover a 64-bit OS on a 32-bit OS, for example, but it might work the other way around. The backup routines I've discussed above assume you are going to restore to the original machine and not to something different. Additional precautions must be made if you are going to cross platforms.

I have to tell you something about my transition from the Silver Yogi to my ASUS monster. There were absolutely no similarities between the two machines other than the solid state drive (SSD) upon which Windows 7 was installed. I removed that drive from the Silver box and installed it into the ASUS, and voila. All I needed was the Ethernet card driver from ASUS and I'm still using whatever software was on that old box. Well ... I WAS using it until the most recent need to rebuild from scratch. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe Windows 7 is more clever than the average OS. I'm not sure why it worked. I didn't even have to re-authenticate Windows when I made the switch. I did have to when I rebuilt it though. My files were restored from the full and incremental backup store on my NAS. All the rest of the software was clean installed. That's why I am convinced images and full backups are the only way to go - unless I make a clone and do the mirror thing.

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 08 Nov 2015, 13:24

:eek:

Oh no ......

:worry:
Last edited by Icey on 09 Nov 2015, 08:07, edited 1 time in total.

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yogi
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by yogi » 08 Nov 2015, 13:48

Hello Icey. Are you having a good day? How may we help you? :mrgreen:

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 09 Nov 2015, 08:09

Hello boss. I'm having an extremely busy day actually.

I don't think you CAN help me atm. I don't think I even dare ask ..... not after reading what you and Gary were talking about ...

:facepalm:

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yogi
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by yogi » 09 Nov 2015, 09:37

Keep in mind who you are reading here. Gary and I tend to make simple things sound intimidating to the uninitiated because we get involved discussing details that are esoteric even to knowledgeable people. Perhaps you could start a new thread. That would be a fresh start with little or no jargon to clutter up what might be a simple explanation. :mrgreen:

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 09 Nov 2015, 10:58

Most of the years I was using Windows computers, and until most recently on the frau's computers, whenever we got a new machine I simply moved the Hard Drive from the old machine to the new one, and Windows would find the changed hardware and download and install the necessary drivers.
This is how we wound up with small 50 and 80 gig hard drives on new machines.
THEN they changed to SATA, and we started all over again from scratch.
I tried cloning her old IDE drive to a SATA drive, and I must have done something wrong, it did not work, so she no longer has XP to use. Which is OK, she's getting used to using Win10 now.
I did copy all the data from her backup to a clean hard drive, and then moved it over to her new computer.
But some of her old programs she loved, like her recipe program will not run on Win10. I've not found a way to run programs in other modes like you could on XP, such as, run in Win95 or Win98 mode.
Almost everything I try to figure out how to do on Win10 is not available in the Home version, you must upgrade to the Pro version to get any kind of useful functionality.

I'm trying to convince her to move up to Linux, as almost everything she wants to do, including her recipe program, the data from which is readable by a comparable Linux program. It doesn't work exactly the same, or look as fancy, but at least she would have access to all her recipes again.

Icey, don't pay attention to anything I talk about concerning computers.
I'm like Schultz. I Know Nothing! Obvious by my comments regarding same, hi hi...

I'm sure glad this phpBB lets me come back to a screen to Submit after I accidentally hit the Return To button instead!

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 09 Nov 2015, 12:20

Blimey Gary, I think you DO know stuff, unlike my pathetic self.

No thank you Yogi. I was going to say something about backing files up. Now I feel too feeble to even contemplate such a discussion, but it might arrive at a future time. : )

Carry on gentlemen.

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 10 Nov 2015, 09:25

Hi Icey

My frau bought a little, and I mean tiny, backup drive for her Windows computer. It does have a physical hard drive inside, it's not an SD card. Probably a hard drive used in tablets?

All she has to do is plug it in, and a screen pops up with two words, backup or restore.
After the first time of saving everything, thereafter it only saves the changed files.

She plugged it into her new computer, and hit the restore button, and it began asking questions she couldn't answer, or was afraid to answer. Do you want to restore everything to your hard drive? Do you want to restore everything to a selected partition on your hard drive (it will not be bootable). Do you want to open the File Manager to see your files?

I used the last option, to Open the File Manager to see the files, but it gave no way to copy the files she wanted, such as her picture folder to a new folder on her new machine. I thought how stupid, surely they must have some way of doing this. Turns out they do, but only if you have a large enough hard drive that EVERYTHING, including the OS, could be copied to an empty folder.
It was not until I made sure there was enough room to hold the entire backup exploded to its original size, and reached the very last page of the restore before I received a page that let you omit the OS or omit whole folders.

If they would have said up-front that you can select which folders you want to restore, and put them in a new location, it would have saved both of us hours of grief, and her waiting until I had time to study how her backup program worked.

Now that we know what it does and how it works, she originally bought two for the price of one, planning on giving me one as a gift, but it only works on Windows computers, so she kept it. She pulled the new one out of the box and it is connected to her new computer permanently. It will backup all of the stuff on her computer every night at 1AM. I've checked and things she changed as late as midnight was placed on the backup, so it works.

Pretty sure she got it from QVC. She buys so much from QVC, even the UPS driver hollers QVC when he reaches our door, hi hi...

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 10 Nov 2015, 10:13

Thank you ... I think.

That little gadget sounds good. I mean ... it's not a memory stick then? What's it called Gary. I want one if things're that simple! : )

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 11 Nov 2015, 09:44

I ran down to the house to get the brand name of the one the frau has for you.
It is ClickFree C6 - She got hers through QVC a while back.

Here is the link to their website http://www.clickfree.com/ but I only saw 1 and 2 terrabyte models listed under C6, and they did not show a price.
I checked on Amazon and they are around 100 bucks, but I know the frau only paid 135 bucks to get two of them, and that included the shipping and handling charges.

There are many companies who make such devices, so this may not be the best deal out there.

Tiger Direct has a 2 Terrabyte backup drive by Seagate for 89 bucks.
The more I look around at them, seems the frau got an excellent deal.

As for myself, I just prefer a simple external hard drive I can copy my data to.

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 11 Nov 2015, 13:02

That's beautiful Gary - tyvm! I couldn't find anything on QVC now, but Amazon sell them for the equivalent of $137. 76, so you can obviously get them cheaper in the US than over here, but on reading about them, they seem ideal for someone like myself - just plug it in and it does the job, and, according to reading, if you leave the USB plugged in, it'll automatically update every day! Does it save your bookmarks though, and desktop stuff? I know nothing, so have to ask the most simple of questions - sorry!

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 12 Nov 2015, 09:28

I'm sure it does Icey, it saves everything on your hard drive, including the Operating System if you set it that way.
I used to use Firefox eons ago, but switched to Google Chrome as my default browser.
If you sign up for their cloud bookmarks, then no matter what computer you use, all of your bookmarks (and passwords) are stored in their bookmark cloud.
You know from previous older posts how terrified I was of putting sensitive information out there on public servers where anyone could get to them.
Whether the following is true or not, based on who told it to me, I assume his information is accurate. After all, he is one of the top IT department specialists for a company who handles millions of credit and debit card transactions each day.
He said if a hacker really wanted my account information, it would easier for them to hack into my home computer, or into a companies computer where I ordered something, than to try and find me on any cloud storage device.
To do so, he would first have to hack my home computer to get my cloud account number and password, so would already have access to everything he wanted anyhow.
At first I did not let Google store my passwords, only my bookmarks, but it got to be a pain typing in my passwords at each site I visited, so I had to clear a file and start over, because once you hit that Never Save Password button, it seems there is no undoing that decision. Although I did find one way, and that was to change my password, but it doesn't always work, it still remembers the Never Save and doesn't give you the box to save the new password. Aargh...
I've even started using DropBox for some of my information now, since it makes it easier to move data to a Windows 10 Computer which does not recognize named LANs.

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Icey
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Icey » 12 Nov 2015, 10:45

Don't understand a lot of that, but thank you anyway.

I don't save any passwords as such, but they ARE stored because they just show up as a series of dots to represent the letters I used when creating that password, but we also have an IT specialist friend, who's done some wonderful work on our computers and ones we're "connected" to. I don't understand it, and neither do I want to - seriously - but because he works on very important security issues, I can honestly say that nothing is what it seems, and what it seems is nothing that he can't handle. I'm extremely grateful! : )

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Kellemora
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Re: Backup Strategies

Post by Kellemora » 13 Nov 2015, 10:36

Lucky You!
I wish I had the contacts I used to have back home.
If I did, I would have an awesome computer system here, and for cheap too!
Two of my closest friends had access to tons of commercial equipment as it was replaced.
They both had fabulous rack type systems they got for free, when a company upgraded to a different style.
And every time they replaced a board, they took the old board and fixed it for themselves, or to sell to friends.
Two of the computers they built for me eons ago, I still had when I moved down here, and they still worked, just so obsolete they were useless. All quality components that didn't die. Capacitors that didn't swell, etc.
I hated to throw away something which worked, but the frau insisted I get rid of all the computers and monitors I had stacked up in the corner. Most were CGA anyhow so didn't work with anything new. I first got rid of the old 286 stuff, then eventually the 386 stuff, Win95 and 98 era. But not before stripping out a lot of their parts, none of which ever found use in newer machines, and a lot of it is still piled up under a desk here in my office. Soundblaster 16, hi hi...

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