Home | Blog | Software | Reviews and Features | Forum | Help | Donate | About us
topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • July 20, 2017, 07:50:32 AM
  • Proudly celebrating 10 years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Author Topic: external hard drive backups  (Read 887 times)

techidave

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 1,033
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
external hard drive backups
« on: July 09, 2017, 09:44:45 AM »
I am looking to back up my home computer using multiple external hard drives.  At the moment I have around 80 gb that I want to backup.  I am looking at the WD My Passport or a WD My Book.

I have Win 10 Pro 64 bit.  Should I use the default Win 10 Backup and Restore or another program?  Or the software that comes with the drive be good enough?

Is cloud storage safe to use?  Are my cloud files at risk of becoming infected if a file becomes infected on my computer? 

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2017, 10:20:28 AM »
I am a fan of Macrium Reflect (free) for backing up complete drive images to an external drive, which is what I would recommend.

Cloud backup -- I have come to love it; there are several thread on the forum about it.

If you get a virus on your desktop, the infected versions of files WILL be backed up to the cloud.  What saves you in this case is that the cloud services VERSION the files -- so you will have in your cloud backup both the previous good version of each file as well as any infected file.  Not only is this great for restoring corrupted files but will help you identify exactly which files got infected.

Shades

  • Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 2,202
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2017, 11:35:35 AM »
If your backup solution synchronizes your local content with the cloud content, then yes, your cloud files can be just as corrupt as your local ones. It depends on your detection rate (how quickly you detect any file is corrupted by virus/malware or media error) and the rate of synchronization (how often do you synchronize your local data with your cloud data).

If your backup solution uses synchronization in combination with versioning, the time constraints on detecting corrupted files is less demanding, but still very important. At least you have an earlier version to fall back upon. Of course, this is moot when you don't detect file corruption quickly enough, because your good copy of the file is still overwritten, depending on the amount of file versions your backup solution can handle.

Now, you can cover your behind a bit by using incremental backups (also known as: deltas), that way you have a (hopefully good) base copy of your backed up files and the incremental backups will only have the altered files since the previous incremental backup, all the way back to your first backed up files. An incremental backup set is usually quite fast to make and doesn't require that much storage space. However, such a backup is useless without all the previous incremental backups and the original base copy.

Now you want to use portable hard disks, so your choice of media is ok enough regarding storage capacity and writing speeds. Still, it might not be such a bad idea to have a copy of the original base copy on write-once media, such as DVD-R or DVD+R or writable BluRay discs. And store these carefully in a controlled environment off-site. The rationale is that no virus or malware can alter your base copy on these discs, because of their write once functionality.

With all of the above in mind, you must define for yourself how important the data you are backing up is to you. For very important data (for example: digitized photo's or tax returns) it could be a good idea to do all of the above. Less important files you could only cover by incremental backups, etc, etc.

This is called a backup strategy. To execute such a backup strategy takes quite a lot of work and (self-)discipline. What is worse, you also need to make sure you can retrieve your backed up data. Something you really don't want to find out when you actually need to restore files. You can test by doing full restores in a virtual machine or bare-metal system you have laying around. This can be time-consuming task too.

You could save yourself quite a bit of time by selecting a random set of files in a backup set and restore these in a VM/bare-metal PC. If successful, you can believe that the remainder of files in the backup will be restorable too. you could also generate hash codes from the files you want to backup and verify these hash codes with the hash codes generated from the files you have restored. Hash code checking is a decent enough method to use in backup solutions that are highly automatized.

Any backup strategy must cover the questions:
  • how important are the backed up files to me?
  • how often do I want to create backups? (real-time, hourly, daily, weekly, etc)
  • where do I store my backups? (safe, off-site, cloud, etc)
  • how often do I verify the created backups

When you have defined that for yourself, you also have a much better idea about which software to use (including the level of automatization). I ended up using Bacula (open source enterprise solution), which can do all of the above, but it was really dreadful to setup. Afterwards it has proven to be very reliable. It allowed me to do full backups and incremental backups of both Linux and Windows PCs at varying synchronization rates completely automatically for on-site and off-site storage on hard disks and write-once DVDs.

Personally, I don't have much faith in cloud solutions for file storage, specifically here in Paraguay. To me, the cloud is only useful for quickly ramping up computing resources when needed. Anyway, that is completely different discussion. The only reason I mention this is that the cloud is not part of my backup strategy. But I am sure you can make Bacula work with the cloud as well, if you so desire.

Having said that, Bacula has a steep learning curve, is Linux-based and requires you to install a client on a Windows PC before you can use it to backup, so it is not everyone's cup of tea. Now I haven't looked at the back-up options included with Windows since Windows Vista came out, but I remember Fred Langa's reasonably positive comments about such options in his Windows Secrets newsletter contributions.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2017, 11:55:52 AM »
Another thing I would suggest if you are worried about virus/ransomware corruption -- make sure you do not leave your external hard drive connected all the time.. otherwise it could get corrupted by whatever infects your main machine.  Better to connect it only while performing the backup.

skwire

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,780
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2017, 04:27:06 PM »
This is called a backup strategy. To execute such a backup strategy takes quite a lot of work and (self-)discipline.

Agreed.  FWIW, here's my current backup strategy:

  • Seven Windows computers comprising three desktop PCs, three laptops, and one server.  The server functions as a do-everything type of server: file, media, mail, FTP, etc.  Also, one ESXi server hosting all manner of VMs (mostly work-related but not all).
  • Four users: myself, my wife, and my two daughters.
  • Each of the desktop and laptop PCs have a mapped drive to the server.  Each user has their own user folder on the server to store important stuff.  Homework, photos, etc.
  • All, yes, all, files on the server are duplicated across at least two physical drives in the storage pool.  I use StableBit Drive Pool to pool the storage drives and handle the duplication.
  • Each of the seven Windows computers use the free Veeam Endpoint Backup software for nightly differential image backups to the server's storage pool.  Yes, even the server backs up its boot drive to the server's storage pool.  I keep the last five days of images for each computer.  These images are triple-duplicated within the pool.  Veeam makes it painless to browse any of the backups to restore files.  Veeam can also do a bare-metal and volume-level restores from any of the images.
  • Each of the seven Windows computers also use CrashPlan to back up their files to the cloud.  I have been a user of the CrashPlan Family Plan for years.  It's $150 per year and allows unlimited storage for up to ten computers.  It's also easy to browse and restore files from CrashPlan, albeit slower than local file restores from a Veeam image.

I'm happy to answer any questions about my setup so feel free to ask.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2017, 08:11:22 PM »
I also use crashplan, btw.

wraith808

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 8,836
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2017, 09:24:17 PM »
I find it useless and wasteful to back up everything, personally.  I only back up data.  I keep the data localized, and the actual live files are in a onedrive folder, as I get 1TB free.  I also on a schedule, compress the same data to an archive that is moved to my NAS.  I used to back up everything and image it, but when I did need it, I noticed that for the most part it was copying files rather than trying to restore it wholesale- a crash can be a good opportunity for housekeeping.  I will say that I think that even though I get my 1TB per user free through O365 (which I only switched to using when Cubby ceased services), I'm going to pay for something separate.  OneDrive doesn't version, I found out, other than for Office files.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2017, 09:28:42 PM »
The most important thing is to back up your data...

But the pain and hassle and stress that you can avoid by having a full drive image backup is immense.

If you have a recent full drive image and you encounter a complete hd crash or infection, you can be back up and running within 15 minutes of buying a new hard drive.

Without it you are looking at days of reinstalling windows and your apps and then dealing with discovering all the settings and files you forgot to back up.

I think drive images are an essential part of saving your sanity when things go wrong.

Tuxman

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,867
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2017, 05:46:14 AM »
Is cloud storage safe to use?

Is storing your files on other people's computers safe to use?

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2017, 07:23:11 AM »
Is cloud storage safe to use?

Is storing your files on other people's computers safe to use?

We live in a universe where one is constantly weighing risks and choosing the best imperfect solution.
No action is risk free.
The online backup tools use encryption to store your files on their computers; they encryption is performed locally and the online service does not have your encryption key, so neither they nor anyone else but you should be able to decryption the contents they store.
You have to balance the risk of something going wrong with that encryption scheme against the risk associated with being burgled, caught in a fire, having a hard drive crash, getting hit by ransomware, etc.  Pick your poison.

wraith808

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 8,836
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2017, 08:08:49 AM »
The most important thing is to back up your data...

But the pain and hassle and stress that you can avoid by having a full drive image backup is immense.

If you have a recent full drive image and you encounter a complete hd crash or infection, you can be back up and running within 15 minutes of buying a new hard drive.

Without it you are looking at days of reinstalling windows and your apps and then dealing with discovering all the settings and files you forgot to back up.

I think drive images are an essential part of saving your sanity when things go wrong.

I used to think that.  Then when it happened, there was a lot of work, because I took the opportunity to do an upgrade and at the time you couldn't restore to a different sized partition (not sure if it's still the same).  And it didn't take me that long to get back up and running, and I got rid of a lot of dross I'd accumulated over the years.  Then I mounted my old image- and realized I didn't really need anything.  I looked through, sure that I hadn't been keeping a backup of the drive for nothing, and realized I had.

Now I keep my programs (for the most part) on a different drive than my data.  And I just back up my data drive.  And you have a lot more options with just your data to back up.

Is cloud storage safe to use?

Is storing your files on other people's computers safe to use?

Depends on whose computer you're storing them on.  This is a spurious argument facilitated by people as it distills it down to anyone's computer with any security in place, and it's just wrong.

Tuxman

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,867
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2017, 08:11:04 AM »
Depends on whose computer you're storing them on.

Do you only entrust your personal files to people whose lies are not too obvious?

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 37,217
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2017, 08:19:26 AM »
Quote
and I got rid of a lot of dross I'd accumulated over the years.

That is definitely a thing..  It can be extremely beneficial to occasionally start from scratch and install the programs you use on a new clean OS, etc.  But I'd hate to be forced into that and not have the ability to go retrieve the settings or documents from something I forgot wasn't being backed up.  I stand by my position that full drive images are so easy to do these days, and backup drive space so abundant, that it is foolish not to make occasional full image backups.

Quote
at the time you couldn't restore to a different sized partition (not sure if it's still the same).

a modern drive imaging tool like Macrium is happy to restore onto partitions and drives of different sizes, and you can always resize later.

MilesAhead

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2009
  • **
  • Posts: 7,499
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2017, 08:56:42 AM »
@techidave do you have USB 3.x or another fast interface on the machine?  USB 3.0 docking stations have become very cheap recently.  If you already have USB 3.0 on the machine you could use the docking station with bare 3.5" HD Sata III 1TB or larger for very reasonable money.  Then you could use a simple sync program to copy files from the internal HD or SSD to the WD drive in the dock.  I used to get WD Black 1 TB drives for about $84.  I think they are even cheaper now.

For backing up my C: partition I use Macrium Reflect.  But I tried making an image for data files one time and the image produced was actually larger than the input data.  Also it was slow because it was trying to compress the data.  If you have a dependable file by file sync program it can be much faster as it only copies changed files.  As Mouser suggested, don't keep your drive in the dock all the time.  I used a small plastic stack of drawers I got for $8 at Walmart that held 6 WD drives.  I put the drive in an anti-static bag then slid it in the drawer.  Not a fireproof solution but if you combine it with Cloud backup you should be ok for a single machine.

It may be something to consider for local quick access backup in addition to the suggestions made by other posters in this thread.  Another cool thing you can do with a USB 3.0 docking station is slide an SSD into it.  If you play around with heavy file manipulation stuff like video muxing and put source and destination on the SSD you can get amazing throughput due to the nearly instant random access speeds.  IOW, if you get a USB 3.0 dock you may be able to have fun with it in addition to the backup chores.  Last time I priced them they were only around $20.  What might run a bit more is if you have to add a USB 3.0 expansion card to your machine.  For just backup I did not see any great speed increase with the SSD as the sequential write speed of the SSD I had was not all that much faster than a WD Black Sata III "spinner."  But as I noted the random access times of even a cheapie Kingston SSD are insane.  Just another angle to consider.  :)

« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 09:09:12 AM by MilesAhead »

Shades

  • Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 2,202
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2017, 09:16:35 AM »
Depends on whose computer you're storing them on.  This is a spurious argument facilitated by people as it distills it down to anyone's computer with any security in place, and it's just wrong.

It is not completely wrong. Besides, what type of data are you backing up and is it possible to get into legal trouble? For example: you work from home and store by accident or as an ad-hoc transfer solution, store your work on your cloud account. In my case, I would get into serious legal trouble, even for the briefest of time that work would be on any server other my own or at the customer. You better make sure something similar doesn't apply to your personal situation when you (accidentally) mix work/private stuff using any cloud solution.

Which level of security you cloud solution provides is not the issue or, for that matter, the legal team they employ to keep the data you store on their servers safe. Legal ramifications of simply "misplacing files" could be much, much more problematic than any cloud solution is worth.

Spoiler
Of course, cloud file storage solutions are no option for me, because of the unreliable power grid and as a consequence spotty internet connection (sub-station generators running out of fuel has happened several times already), make the cloud a very crappy solution here in PY. And there is latency to consider when the cloud is accessible. In the main cities of PY this is managed much better, I have no doubt, but that is not where I live.


wraith808

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 8,836
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2017, 01:11:41 PM »
Depends on whose computer you're storing them on.

Do you only entrust your personal files to people whose lies are not too obvious?

You love reductionist absurdist arguments, instead of engaging, don't you?  So that people waste time constructing meaningful arguments that you have no defense for right?  Not falling for that this time, but I will give a similar time to you in my argument against yours.

Encryption Keys.

I forgot wasn't being backed up.

This is the issue, I think.  Backup plans should be thought through.  And the ability to just backup your whole machine (especially for non critical uses) makes you lazy in my experience.  Yes, I agree for servers and such that it is critical to keep up.  But for my development and such (which is my only critical use) I have my source in a non-local VCS, and my environment duplicated on my other machines (instead of trying to make my machine a standing and sitting desk, I have two stations that I work on- in addition to my remote machines that have the same), so it's really not necessary for me to waste the space to back up 5 different machines totally.  Just had this happen on one of my work machines, and I was able to keep working on another machine, and after I got my primary back up and running, I was able to get it functional in the time it took me to install dropbox and sync it, onedrive and sync it, and visual studio, and my other utilities I use by using a script that I keep on my dropbox to pull and install everything else that I don't have portable on dropbox from Chocolatey. 

I guess it really depends on your workflow rather than doing what works well for someone else.

Depends on whose computer you're storing them on.  This is a spurious argument facilitated by people as it distills it down to anyone's computer with any security in place, and it's just wrong.

It is not completely wrong. Besides, what type of data are you backing up and is it possible to get into legal trouble? For example: you work from home and store by accident or as an ad-hoc transfer solution, store your work on your cloud account. In my case, I would get into serious legal trouble, even for the briefest of time that work would be on any server other my own or at the customer. You better make sure something similar doesn't apply to your personal situation when you (accidentally) mix work/private stuff using any cloud solution.

It might not be completely wrong for your use, but as I stated above, having it fully encrypted with you being the only holder of the keys makes it spurious, other than as you say, legal ramifications.  But that argument argues against any use of cloud storage, which is misguided and wrong, IMO.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 01:22:00 PM by wraith808 »

app103

  • That scary taskbar girl
  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2006
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,711
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Re: external hard drive backups
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2017, 08:30:19 PM »
Quote
I am looking at the WD My Passport or a WD My Book.

Quote
Or the software that comes with the drive be good enough?

Good drives, I have a few of them. Crappy backup software, though. First thing I do when I get a new Passport drive is delete that software. It's a complete waste of space.

Quote
Is cloud storage safe to use?  Are my cloud files at risk of becoming infected if a file becomes infected on my computer? 

Dropbox has file versioning, so even if something does mess up your files stored there, you can always revert to previous good version of them. And the versioning doesn't eat into your allowed storage space.

What I would do is set the Dropbox folder to your Passport drive, then back up your files to the Dropbox folder. (paid accounts offer 1 TB of space)

That way, if something happens to your PC (hardware failure, dead main drive, etc.), you can just plug the Passport drive into another computer and keep moving along. And if something happens to your Passport drive, you can get another one, set Dropbox to sync to the new drive, and keep moving along. And if something happens to both your computer and your passport drive (fire, flood, tornado, etc), you can get another computer, and another Passport drive, then sync from Dropbox onto the new one, and keep moving along.


It is not completely wrong. Besides, what type of data are you backing up and is it possible to get into legal trouble? For example: you work from home and store by accident or as an ad-hoc transfer solution, store your work on your cloud account. In my case, I would get into serious legal trouble, even for the briefest of time that work would be on any server other my own or at the customer. You better make sure something similar doesn't apply to your personal situation when you (accidentally) mix work/private stuff using any cloud solution.

There are some of us (me) that work from home and absolutely must store work related files in the cloud, and for them to be sharable with customers, in order to perform our jobs. And my employer was mighty glad that I have a Dropbox account with ample storage space when this happened and made it impossible for customers to download their purchases.