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Backing up to Hard Drives

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I'm considering dumping my tape drive and buying a cheap hard drive for backups.




What advantages does Retrospect to HD give over simple HD to HD copying?

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1) Retro Backups can store full backups and a *lot* of incremental backups. Want to restore a file or the entire drive to a point a week ago, two weeks ago, a month ago, 6 months ago... ? I once had to do a restore of an entire drive and it took three tries to a backup about a week earlier (Monday, Sunday, Saturday...) before I found the last one that didn't have the serious corruption that was causing me problems.




2) Backups support "Snapshots" (restore everything back to the exact state) whereas Data backups don't.




3) Data in a Backup set is compressed so it take less space. You can therefore store more incremental backups, multiple full backups, etc. One example strategy--a full backup incrementally backed up nightly & recycled monthly on the first Sunday *and* another full backup incrementally backed up weekly & recycled every 6 months on the third Sunday. This give you short and long-term backups, has some backup overlap so that you don't "lose" all history immediately after you recycle either backup, and protects you if one Retro backup file becomes corrupted.




4) Incremental Backups are usually quicker than Data backups (although the Snapshot can flip this... So schedule the thing to run at 2AM while you're asleep).




5) Can password protect or even encrypt the Backup set (in case you're doing this at work, using a removable drive, etc.)




6) Backups sets will maintain all file properties, filenames, etc. This even works if you backup from a Mac to a PC disk or vice-versa--the backup is just a file. Data backups can have naming and permission issues (not a big issue if you're only concerned with backups under W2K only on NTFS disks, etc.) if you have to copy or move file between OSes and file systems.




7) Viruses are unlikely to be able to attack anything inside a Backup set (unless it just deletes the whole 25GB file...) whereas Data file backup are fair game.




The only downsides I've ever encountered are that you *must* have a running copy of Retrospect to access file in the Backup set (e.g. your main drive just crashed and you want a file back quickly, your only Retrospect installer was on the main drive and is in the Backup set...Dummy!) and it will take a little more effort to find and restore a file in a backup set vs. just dragging it back from a folder. Of course you can *also* set up a Data backup for some special files/directories that you might want immediate backup access to even after a crash.






BTW, to make a second HD *really* useful:




a) Buy a big one (80G+ are < $90, 120G are < $130) and format NTFS to have plenty of backup space and avoid file-size issues. If you have a big enough one, you can store more than one Retro backup, a disk dup backup, an image backup, etc. if you think you need to.




B) Preinstall an OS (W2K is a good choice--can R/W NTFS or FAT, no annoying activation issues)


and Retrospect and make sure it will boot on your system (Admin, password never expires). You can boot and restore your normal C: drive (after a fix, reformat or replace) from the backup drive.




c) Use an imaging program (e.g. DriveImage, NortonGhost) to store an initial image of your C: drive. You may choose to or not to update this occasionally. Can be used to restore the entire HD to a set point followed by a Retrospect restore to the most recent (or incremental) desired date without needing to fiddle around with an OS reinstall, XP Re-Activation, the so-so Disaster Recovery process, etc.




d) You can install the second HD in a removable bay (can occasional swap with other HDs for off-site storage, can "grab and go" in an emergency, can more easily take to another PC).




e) Put the backup drive on another IDE channel from your C: boot drive. Putting two HDs, the C: and your backup drive, as a Master/Slave on the same IDE channel will *really* slow backups due to IDE limitations ("single transaction bus"). Using ATA66, I can backup 20G of data in an hour or so (excluding the Snapshot) with this arrangement. When I once tried this with both HDs in a M/S IDE channel arrangement, Retro told it was going to take a day or so (many, many hours). You can do this with good IDE arrangement (e.g. IDE Primary: Master=CDRW, Slave=HD C: ; Secondary: Master=Backup HD, Slave=Zip drive) or by adding a PCI Expansion card (Promise, Maxtor, SIIG) to allow more IDE ports and point-to-point cabling.

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Thanks Go,




Got any recommendations for removable bay for home use?




Now I have a separate partition for restores. It has W2K and Retrospect on it.




This works well for restores to my boot partition. If the drive fails however, I'll need the recovery print out to recreate the partitions.




A dockable drive appeals to me. A 80GB HD is about the same price as a similar capacity tape. That makes HD almost as expendable as a tape!




I have no more internal slots so I'll need an external device. That leaves IDE devices out due to short cables (40 cm max). When Serial ATA drives are mature they will be excellent candidates. They have plugs around 8 mm wide and can be 1 meter in length. It's also hot swappable.




For now I'm stuck with SCSI external removable bay. I may be able to stick it on my cheap SCSI port now used by my tape drive :)



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A separate partition (rather than a separate drive) doesn't seem like a great system, mainly because if the disk fails you'll lose access to the backup as well (esp. if the whole drive is toast). I separate HD is a better idea.




A bunch of no-name companies make drive bays. I've used several from InClose (www.inclose.com) that are < $20 (combo unit) for the docking bay (part in the PC) & removable drive tray (part the HD is put in) unit at my local PC store. You can also buy just the drive tray for <$10 if you decide to add another removable HD (e.g. backup rotation, off-site storage, etc.). They include a lock (not very secure, more so that you or someone else doesn't just pull the thing out when the PC is on), a fan and some power/activity LEDs. The bay mounts in a 5.25" slot, where you might have your CD, etc. Most PCs have at *least* two of these and many have three 5.25" slots.




They come in at least two formats based on the connector used to mate the drive tray and docking bay. The older style is a Centronics connector that doesn't have as many extra ground pins for shielding, and so the vendors suggest only using this for ATA33/66. For faster connections (ATA100/133, will work fine at 33/66), they recommend a higher-density style (PMD-96i-IDE?) that has more pins for better connector grounding/signal integrity. In practice this isn't a *big* difference since the bigger issue is the IDE cable, and I'd recommend using an ATA100/133 "ultra" cable here in either case (much better grounding and signal integrity). If you're starting from scratch (no existing docking bays on other PCs) you may was well start with the higher-density docking bay.




As far as not having any more internal "slots" I'm not sure what you mean--places to mount a HD or IDE positions? If you just mean mounting positions (and you don't want to go removable), I have several PCs with a HD tied/taped inside to the bottom or a side panel rather than screwed into an "official" bay since I was out of internal slots. If you're out of IDE connections (Primary Master/Slave, Secondary Master/Slave) I mentioned the IDE expansion cards (Promise/Maxtor/SIIG for < $50, can even buy some that are RAID controllers that can be put in non-RAID IDE config but switched to RAID if you ever want to do that) that you can add to get four more IDE slots. I've run into some boot "gotchas" with W2K (not sure about XP) with these cards but they can be worked around.




The problem with SCSI is, although it can be faster (a non-issue for this backup use), they're much more expensive (not because they *need* to be but because they can...) and *much* smaller at more modest prices. You want an 80G for a backup drive, not a 20G.




I agree that Serial ATA (thinner cables so a lot easier to cable, longer cables) will be great when they're mature and the prices come down. I wonder if we'll buy drives in parallel ATA *or* serial ATA or they'll start making drives with both I/Fs on the drives.

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My problem now is that I have no more front panel slots to mount an internal removable drive. I was planning to get a bigger box, but I got a deal on a mini tower, so I am stuck for front panel space.




I'm thinking that I'll get a cheap internal hard drive for now. I like being able to have several incremental backups to choose from.




When the USB 2.0, Firewire, or Serial ATA external devices get cheaper, I'll get one of those.




I won't have easy removability, but is should only take 5-10 mins to yank the backup drive if I need to.




I better check to see if I have an empty plug on one of my ATA controller cables.

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I think just adding another internal HD and forgoing the removable bay is a reasonable compromise. I did that on one of my PCs.




As far as USB 2.0, Firewire, etc., the issue I'd be concerned with is--can you boot from these? I'm assuming that serial ATA will be bootable. Even if your backup data is safe and perfect, the utility of a second HD is greatly reduced if you can't boot from the drive and restore your main drive. In some cases (e.g. when using those IDE expansion cards) you can boot from connected drives *if* you've pre-installed a driver (may need to pre-install the driver while HD is connected to a regular IDE connector). But I don't know if USB, Fireware, etc. drives can boot your system even with a special driver *on* the USB/Firewire drive.




On the flip side, I've thought that a USB 2.0 or Firewire drive, with a *long* cable, would be a cool way to provide protection. Mount the drive inside a firebox (would have to drill a small hole for the cable and power cord and caulk it up) and hide/mount the box in a closet, under the house, etc. away from the PC. Even if your PC was stolen or there was a fire, you'd have a good chance of having the backup drive survive.

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ARGH I have no plugs left on my ATA cables.




I only have 1 PCI slot left also. Looks like my choices are;




1. buy another ATA controller and buy another internal HD.




2. buy a USB 1.1 external device (about 10 times slower that USB 2.0 or Firewire).




3. buy a Firewire external device and attach it to my notebook (my only PC with a Fireware plug).




No 1 is the cheapest alternative.

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I got a ATA100 controller card and 80GB drive to use as the backup media. I also upgraded to Retrospect Pro 6.




The full local backup went from 1 hr and 40 mins (with tape) to 35 mins :) Most of the time is snapshotting 155K files. I saw peak transfer rates over 1200 MB/min. the average reported as 700 MB/min. My VXA-1 averaged 160 MB/min, which is respectable for a consumer tape drive. The time to do the snapshot did not change significantly because it is limited by the drive being backed up.




Not to shabby!




This was the first time I've done a network back with Retrospect. My notebook took 2 1/2 hrs for 21K files. That's on a 100Mbps local net. It reported 33 MB/min. Here again the snapshot was slow, especially over the net.




When my tape drive gets fixed, I'll use that for monthly full backups.



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