An Inexpensive, Easy Way to Back Up Users' Local Files

To backup users’ local files, you can add a second hard disk, then use a third-party tool to copy the data from the primary hard disk to the second backup disk.

My desktop computer has 140GB of hard disk storage. That's not braggadocio; it's a statement of fact. I know that other users at my company have similar amounts of storage. (Even basic desktop systems now come with 40GB or 60GB hard disks.) I also know that these users don't back up the files they store on their local systems. Every user has a home directory on a file server and that home directory gets backed up but nothing else. I keep drive images of the basic configuration that my company uses for the desktop computers so that if a system goes down for any length of time, I can get the user back to work. But users have many personal and business files on their desktop computers that would be lost if a complete systems crash occurred. Storing files locally, even temporarily, can result in many lost days of work if those files get damaged or destroyed.

Purchasing a tape backup for every user is impractical. And buying a network tape backup to back up just the users' desktops doesn't make sense because of the performance issues involved in copying gigabytes of data. So, I've started to take a brute-force approach to providing some data security for desktop computers. When I deploy a new desktop, I add a second hard disk. I then use a third-party tool to copy the data from the primary hard disk to the second backup disk. (Windows 2000's volume-mirroring capabilities work only on servers.)

This backup solution isn't expensive. Right now, 40GB hard disks cost only around $70. Software to automate data copying is available in almost any price range. Currently, I'm experimenting with Salty Brine Software's FolderClone. This software is inexpensive: An unlimited site license is $1500, and a single-user license is less than $30.

I gave FolderClone the first shot at solving my backup problem because I had used and liked Salty Brine Software's FolderMatch tool. Basically, FolderClone lets you build an automated set of data-replication tasks. FolderClone doesn't mirror a drive but rather synchronizes the contents of folders. I set up the software so that it synchronizes a large percentage of a user's primary hard disk with the backup disk every evening. Because the software synchronizes only changed files, the process is quick and painless. The software is simple to use, so I have no qualms about users adding folders to synchronize or changing their parameters.

This backup solution has an added benefit: By duplicating the user's network home directory on the backup disk, the user can work on the local copy of those files in the event of a network failure. When the network comes back up, FolderClone can then resynchronize the folders.

FolderClone is a straightforward, inexpensive automation tool that does what you expect. That combination is hard to beat.

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