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external hard drive backups

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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? 

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.

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.

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.

This is called a backup strategy. To execute such a backup strategy takes quite a lot of work and (self-)discipline.-Shades (July 09, 2017, 11:35 AM)
--- End quote ---

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.


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