Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bring in the CLONES -- Do You Really Have a Backup? Or, HEY!, Backups Fail, and What Are You Going to Do About It?

OK, we all have our computers backed up, right? Right?

Those of you who answered "No", or who did not answer...hey, you GOTTA back up your machine. But it's a PAIN, right?

And, I often wonder, is that backup REALLY complete, or there at all? Or corrupted, and it just LOOKS like it's there ... until I try to restore something from it. Sigh.

If you use the Windows supplied backup software, which is different for Windows 7 and  Vista and different again for XP, you may think you have your files backed up, BUT when you actually go to restore a file, you may discover, with Vista, for example, that only non-binary files have been backed up.

With XP, the hodgepodge of complete system backups with "System State" saved, along with incremental backups can easily overflow available backup devices.

Sadly, it's best to have multiple backup strategies in place, because, well, you know, you may not have what you think you have when you need it. So, belt AND suspenders.

Use the Windows backup tools.

Also, CLONE YOUR DISK.

Make a complete image backup of your hard disk to a similarly sized disk, or 2 disks, once or twice, a week. That's what I do with my important home system, and it has saved my bacon more than once.

Yes, it's overkill. Yes, I am backing up a lot more data than I have to. Remember, though, redundancy is safety. Belt and suspenders.

Plus, your backup, as a cloned disk, can be BOOTABLE.

You lose your primary disk. You still have your backup clone(s). You boot from your external cloned disk -- which means you are up and running from a hard disk catastrophe in minutes. Try doing that with a conventional backup! You can then do a so-called bare-metal restore from your clone to your new primary disk. Oh My God, it's a wonderful thing.

There are several commercial products available that do this wonderful thing.

Norton Ghost 15.0, Casper 7.0, and Acronis True Image Home 2011, are all programs which offer the ability to clone your disk. They all do other things as well, from full-fledged backups, to scheduling, to, well, all kinds of stuff.

The most important thing for me, though is the cloning.

Casper is the simplest, though by no means simple, and I use it all the time, and it has saved me from drive failures, Windows update and upgrade failures, and dumb things I don't want to talk about.

I schedule mirror image backups 2X a week to 2 (external) eSata drives in sequence.

You may not have eSata ports, but you certainly have USB ports, so use an external USB drive, or better yet get an external drive with both eSata and USB interfaces.

External USB eSata enclosures are available for less than $25, and you can get a 500 GB Sata 2 2.5" Seagate Drive for $60 -- it takes 2 minutes to snap the drive into the enclosure, and you're ready to go.

I have purchased just such items from Amazon (no connection but that of a satisfied customer).

Now, my cloned images ARE there on my external drives, and I KNOW they are, because I go look. Also, I am notified when Casper has completed its cloning operation.

It can happen at night, and it does not get in my way.

It's a good thing. Safe. Portable, too, those external hard drives.

Also, if you want to upgrade your hard disk, the nice thing is that Casper will STRETCH the Windows partitions to a larger drive. You want to go from a 500GB drive to 1000GB drive? No problem, and the whole disk will be used.

Clone yourself. Well, your disk anyway. Clone ZEN.

~Ted

1 comment:

John said...

Ted, I have used Acronis True Image for years along with a USB external hard drives. Works great for cloning. I cannot believe how many small businesses do not make backups.

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