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Backing Up Laptops In a Small Business? 293

Posted by kdawson
from the against-disaster-the-gods-themselves dept.
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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Backing Up Laptops In a Small Business?

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  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:25PM (#20217779) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by poopdeville (841677) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:46PM (#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.
      • by SuperQ (431) *
        SVN works fine for binary files.. in fact, all files in SVN are binary, and all diffs are binary. It was simpler that way to handle things like UTF-8, or whatever file format you want.
    • by Da_Biz (267075) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:59PM (#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.
    • by nuckfuts (690967)
      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.

      Yeccch.
      • by Ferzerp (83619)
        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by GIL_Dude (850471)
          Most likely he hadn't used offline files enough to know. If someone puts a shortcut on their desktop to "their offline files", then they do show like he mentioned. However, as most folks who use Windows know that is only 1 view into them and the standard view accessing them by either mapped drive or \\server\share\folder just like in when connected is more prevalent and works better.

          I will say that on XP the offline files feature is not very stable when used with large data sets and does not attempt to do
          • by Ferzerp (83619)
            i suppose i am just . jaded due to all the deliberate misinformation that lives here. i see motive behind simple ignorance.

            2 wrongs don't make a right (and before someone thinks they are witty.... 3 lefts yadda yadda yadda)
          • by JayAEU (33022)
            The problem with offline folders is that they only work well for one user on that laptop, especially if it's the home share that's being offlined here.

            But let's get back on topic. If it's not a really a chronological backup that's needed, then maybe https://www.foldershare.com/ [foldershare.com] could be a possible solution to the problem.

            It synchronizes user-specifyable folders amongst multiple machines in a real-time fashion, so this might work well if those roadwarriors also have a desktop in the office they could synchro
      • by growse (928427)

        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.

      • by imemyself (757318)
        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
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ManUMan (571203)
      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 sec
      • Mod up - I agree. Assume also we're talking about XP offline files - I've also had *lots* of problems with this. Not always easy to recover from either. I just don't trust it as a backup solution. It's more for nomads who come back into the office and want to sync their docs; not really a reliable backup solution for professional developers.

        Incremental backup via secure VPN via internet - IMHO the best option - should be easy to arrange. What do you do for your main off-site backups? Do you have a ser

    • 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 b
    • by L-Train8 (70991)
      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.

      A solution is not a solution if it doesn't get used. We have only 5 guys with laptops, but some are smart enough that they can cause trouble. I was using a network backup to tape drive, but these guys could go into their Windows task manager and kill the process, 'cause they didn't like the way the backups bogged down their performance. Since I had a solution in place, my ass was covered,
    • by vrmlguy (120854)

      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.

      At *my* big company, we also use Connected DataProtector, and I love it. I set the schedule [googlepages.com] to back up automatically on week-days between 12:30 and 1:00, when I'm at lunch and won't notice any slowdown. If for some reason I miss a backup for five days in a row (say, if I'm working at a client site with stiff SOX or HIPAA enforcement), it will nag me as soon as I connect to the Internet over anything faster than a modem. And finally, it asks me for permission before the backup begins, allowing the optio

    • by donaldm (919619)
      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 somethi
  • Clone 'em (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:25PM (#20217783) Homepage Journal

    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! [shirt-pocket.com] 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:38PM (#20217987) Journal

      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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by texas neuron (710330)
        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

      • Re:Clone 'em (Score:4, Informative)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:05PM (#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.

        • by kabz (770151)
          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.
      • I agree. As the owner of a small design office with up to a dozen, I used Retrospect to automatically back up everything including the Mac and Windows laptops. This is much better than the local option, and a tape was always off site!

        Thinking about losses made me shake. Thank god for beer...
      • by RedBear (207369)
        The grandparent post was a little odd in that he didn't bother to point out the fact that SuperDuper! has absolutely nothing to do with anything unless you're using Macs. I do recommend Macs to everyone I meet, especially now that they're Intel-based and capable of running Windows and taking gobs of inexpensive RAM, but Macs aren't for everyone and I rather doubt the original poster was talking about a shop that has even a single Mac on the premises. So mentioning a Mac-only backup solution is kind of a non
    • dd? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by saleenS281 (859657)
      so it's dd with a GUI and you're paying for it...?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BWJones (18351) *
        so it's dd with a GUI and you're paying for it...?

        Absolutely, yes. Because we have students that rotate through the lab that cannot navigate their way around a CLI initially. To get things done with them, we given 'em GUI apps then migrate them to harder things. Besides, I find SuperDuper! to be actually faster and easier to use with a GUI than with the CLI and I am happy to fairly compensate the authors for their work in increasing my productivity.

  • by sdriver (126467) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:29PM (#20217841) Homepage
    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.
    • Mod Parent Up... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985)
      ...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 dro

    • 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?
      • by weicco (645927)

        Well I think my home is better secured than our company's office. I have two dogs in here (weights 40 kg ja 80 kg) both with strong instincts to guard the house. Then I have shotgun in my closet but I don't think there's need to shoot after Osku and Kaapo has dealt with the burglar. What our office has? Burglar alarm and hopefully security firm will be there on time :)

    • by ednopantz (467288)
      ... 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.

      Better yet, unplug the servers, stop up all the ports with glue, encase the server in lead and seal it up in an abandoned salt mine...

      You need to strike a balance between security and usability. If the laptop users need customer data offline, then they have to get it. Encryption solves the security problem. The backup problem could be s
      • by jimicus (737525)
        IME, very few encryption systems meet the major requirement : are they "user-proof"? Bear in mind that it's all very well going on about encryption keys, but 99.9% of general PC users neither understand nor care to understand about them. And you'd be amazed (and faintly disturbed) how many people have a remarkably cavalier attitude towards security.

        Telling colleagues their password, writing it down, using the same password with an incrementing number on the end - all these things are commonplace. If the
  • 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!
  • Write a login script (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:29PM (#20217847) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Several options... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CoolVibe (11466) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:30PM (#20217855) Journal
    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.
  • 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 gu
    • 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

      • by mlts (1038732) *
        BRU is a great utility, and has done decent backups. I remember it in the sort of heyday of IRIX, using it to dump stuff stored on indigo machines to tape.

        However, it is sort of aging too. It doesn't do encrypted backups, and this doesn't sound like a big thing, but in these days of HIPPA, SOX, and other corporate regulations, having encrypted backup tapes means a quiet report to the local police about stolen hardware, versus having to report to the press data loss (if in California, and the tapes contain
  • Use CVS etc. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:31PM (#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.

    • by owlstead (636356)
      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).
      • The poster was bitching because the laptop users were not storing their data in servers etc but were instead keeping their data local.

        There are two ways to fix this:

        1. Fix the server access problem so that people work as intended.

        2. Use something like CVS to store back critical data.

        Using a laptop backup process to keep a broken system going is silly. Rather fix the system so it does not need backups.

        • by owlstead (636356)
          Maybe, but sometimes you get suboptimal systems. The software he is using might not scale well to these kind of client/server solutions. And even though you get wireless from cell phone companies nowadays, I would not call their service very reliable. I agree that a fix to store the critical data is needed. I'm just not sure CVS is a good solution for this. Backing up a database using file based backups is just horrible. I would rather go for some proprietary replication solution for the database. You can b
  • SyncBack (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've been using SyncBack for my work laptop.
    http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/sbse-feature s.html [2brightsparks.com]

    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.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:33PM (#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.
  • 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 du
    • by Barny (103770)
      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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by conn3x (989931)
    I don't know how well it will work with databases, but we've been experimenting with http://www.mozypro.com/ [mozypro.com]. 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.
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:39PM (#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.

  • I have been using BackupPC [sourceforge.net] 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) [symantec.com] with mixed results. It fits the bill if you're running a homogeneous network.

    I wish you good luck. Having fully backe
  • Mozy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Alcimedes (398213) on Monday August 13, 2007 @06:42PM (#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.)

    www.mozy.com

    You should check them out. I've been very happy with them.
    • 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...
      • by RebornData (25811)
        Using your own key with Mozy works fine *if* you take the option to save the binary key file (I've had to do this in a real recovery situation), but I've never successfully been able to re-enter a key as text.

        In general their restore process blows, but I still recommend them because once you figure it out the first time it's not too bad. My clients will be calling me if they actually need to get something back...

        -R
  • 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.

  • I'm currently playing with Unison http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/ [upenn.edu] 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 i

  • 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 c

  • 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.)

  • 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,
  • 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 an
  • 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 b
  • 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 approac
  • 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 t
  • 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 w
  • Rsync Backup (Score:2, Informative)

    by googlebear (625615)
    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:

    IE:

    #!/bin/sh
    rsync -avz -e "ssh -i /home/root/rsync_keys/mirror-rsync-key" /home/ root@myserver.com:/home/boldy_going/

    the second half of this is to do a nightly tar ball of th
    • by battjt (9342)
      I do something similar, but I keep 18 snapshots. Similar files are linked together by using the --link-dest parameter.

      This is a little old, but it worked when I wrote it up.
      http://battjt.soliddesign.net/ssnap.html [soliddesign.net]

      I'm able to backup my wife's whole XP machine and my OSX home directory every night to the office over a lousy asymmetric cable line. At the same time I back the office up to the house (about a dozen home directories and a w2k machine).

      Joe
  • 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 [pcmag.com] 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. T
  • 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.

  • "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.
  • 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.
  • by nuckfuts (690967) on Monday August 13, 2007 @07:41PM (#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.com]. 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 [techsoftpl.com] 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 [storactive.com].

  • 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.

    http://www-306.ibm.com/software/tivoli/products/co ntinuous-data-protection/ [ibm.com]

    Backs up to network drives, WebDAV folders, or tivoli storage manager serv
    • by pres (34668) *
      I like this tool a lot as well since going offline/online doesn't matter to it and doesn't skip a whole backup cycle. Also, does nice versioning if you need to go back a few revisions (turn this off if you have limited server space however).
  • Most, if not all of the big backup software vendors (i.e. probably including the backup software you use for your servers) have plug ins/agents that will backup both desktops and laptops.

    And usually it's not actually that expensive. A quick 30 seconds search through some suppliers puts the price at somewhere around £10 per laptop or desktop.

    Also, usually you'll find that these products feature delta compression/synchronization abilities, same kind of thing as rsync.
  • by Zerbey (15536)
    What the hell are you doing storing data on a laptop, anyway? Symantec DLO works well for me on my desktops, but I would never put sensitive data on a laptop - that's asking for trouble. Do you read the news?
  • iFolder (Score:5, Informative)

    by invisik (227250) on Monday August 13, 2007 @09:08PM (#20219725) Homepage
    Novell's iFolder is great for laptops that travel in and out of the office. Has an open-source version as well as a commercial--so management can pick their comfort level. Clients run on Windows, Mac (better support coming soon), and Linux. Setup some automated methods of dumping your MSDE data.

    Check it out: http://www.novell.com/products/ifolder/ [novell.com]

    -m
  • Get one USB-powered 2.5" external hard drive per laptop, and write some quick & dirty batch files. You can use the "set /p" command to account for changes in the drive letter.
  • Our server checks every half hour to see if a laptop is on the network. If it finds it, it does rsync-over-ssh to back up the laptop (we use a special SSH key for the purpose.)

    Our script also won't back up a given laptop more than once every 8 hours.

    This assumes that the laptops run Linux or some kind of UNIX. If you run Windoze, then you'll probably have to look for an expensive inflexible proprietary solution, but you should be used to that by now.

  • Oh yeah, I answered this two years ago: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=156736&cid=131 39296 [slashdot.org]
  • http://backuppc.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    It has support specifically for laptops.
  • Okay, so it's not free, it's not open source, it's Windows only, and it's from a company that you've probably not heard of.
    LiveBackup [atempo.com] from Atempo [atempo.com] will solve a lot of these problems. You will need a dedicated backup server, preferably with a lot of disk and a tape library/autochanger.
    With LiveBackup, as the network clients (the laptops) have changes made, compressed, encrypted block-level changes are sent to the LiveBackup server, and applied to each machine's backup image. Data is de-duplicated on the ser
  • Falconstor disk-safe replicator.

    It can work in a number of ways, but essentially its like a volume replication thing where it continuously replicates the hd itself to another device (usb drive or iscsi drive). Now while your on the laptop outside you can replicate to a partition on the usb drive. In the office you can use something like an iscsi lun to replicate to.

    Its not terribly expensive from what i remember for only that capability (like $99/laptop?). If you use iscsi and it cant see the iscsi lun (off
  • ``If a hard drive crashes, all of the work done on that laptop is lost.''

    Sounds to me like you could gain a lot from setting up a version control system. Run it on a machine other than the one on which primary development takes place, and have your consultants check in their changes. This will not only give you backups, but also a host of features (such as the ability to go back in time or make diffs between versions of files) that, in my experience, are very valuable. Needless to say, it also makes coopera
  • I'm using a laptop at work, and we are urged to make regular backups (using an in-house tool). Of course, those who know how to make backups do it with a better tool, and those who don't, well, I don't think they've even read the FAQ on that in-house thing.

    Periodic backups are fine for stationary and/or always-on(-and-connected) machines, but not so much for laptops (which may or may not be connected to anything when the backup is due). Alternatively, users would have to remember to occasionally start the

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