New Backup Strategy

Over the weekend, my Windows Home Server threw an alert at me saying that one of my drives was about to fail.  This sent me into freak-out mode because one of the things that I’ve been telling myself that I need to do over the last few months is to update our data backup strategy.  Previously, I had been using my WHS box as the central network file share and simply backed it up to a cloud service.  For that service, I went with because, at the time, their offering was unlimited backup for 4.95 USD p/m and theirs was one of the only services whose backup client would install on a server operating system.  I had originally planned to use, but in an effort to keep businesses from using their “personal” offering, they disallowed installation on any server-based operating system (a move I consider to be extremely short-sighted at the very least).

I was actually relatively happy with my initial strategy (with the exception of WHS corrupting my MS Money files – no biggie there – once I started using, I dumped MS Money anyway).  The only problem was that either I didn’t read the fine print DSC01790 on, or they changed the terms of my account without telling me.  Long story short, my “unlimited” account got capped at 150GB.  Now, those of you who capture a lot of digital video know that 150GB is pretty much used up in a year (if that – there seems to be a kid multiplier in there somewhere) – so needless to say, I maxed out my account pretty quick and subsequently had about 3 months worth of photos like this one that were no longer getting backed up (hence the freak out).

So as I starting crafting a new backup strategy, I realized that I first wanted to look at my total data management strategy and take better advantage of some of the services now available.  The goal of this is to not just ensure that my data is backed up, but to make sure that the master store for my data is not on hardware that I own and maintain.  So in taking a look at the types of data that I have, here’s how it breaks out:

Code - One of the first things that I decided to do was move all my extra-curricular projects to cloud-hosted subversion.  This was a point of frustration for me anyways as I wasn’t versioning my own stuff (and I wasn’t about to install TFS in my local environment).  So – development projects moved to

Pictures – I decided to keep pictures on a WHS-hosted network share for 2 reasons.  First, both my wife and I regularly add and modify (file renames, mostly) picture files from our respective computers, so it didn’t make sense to have duplicate copies of the pictures tree on our machines – and I didn’t want the hassle of resolving conflicts with a P2P setup like FolderShare (in my experience, even using P2P to keep my work files in sync between the office and home yielded a surprising number of conflicts).  Secondly, I use WHS to enable family to log in remotely and browse photos, so keeping them on WHS made a bunch of sense.

Music – same rationale as pictures (minus the remote browsing).

Documents – I decided to move all of my documents (non work stuff) into folders on Live Mesh.  This way, all of my files are replicated in the cloud by default.  I realize that this is not the same as a backup, and I’m still exposed to some risk, such as if a file gets corrupted on my local drive, the corrupted file will be replicated into the mesh.  Given the relative importance of many of these files, right now that’s an acceptable risk.  My wife’s documents are also replicated to Mesh.

Video – With respect to video and backup, there are 2 major things that drove my decision.  First, in order to work on video projects, all of the raw video needs to be on a local hard drive (thank you captain obvious).  Second, I need a backup provider that really gives me unlimited storage.  For now, it looks like that’s going to be  So I got setup with their 4.95 USD plan and backed up my 70GB of family videos.

All in all, my setup looks like this.


I would love to refine this in the future to eliminate one of the cloud backup providers (I had looked at JungleDisk, but they charge per GB, which in my case would be double the ~10 USD p/m that I’m currently paying).  Between the 2 that I am currently using, all it would take would be for either to provide truly unlimited backup space or for to allow it’s backup client (for the non-business service) to be installed on a server OS.  I also know that I’ll need to deal with backing up that data in Mesh at some point, but I’ll kick that can down the road just a bit longer.

About Howard Dierking

I like technology...a lot...
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  • Todd

    Mozy’s restriction is absolutely ridiculous. I was using them for my main machine at home, but decided to rebuild it to run Windows Server 2008 instead of Vista. It’s still a desktop, but Mozy won’t allow it. Time for them to get with the program.

  • Ewild

    2 things
    1) Something I didn’t consider in my backup stratagy is to let everyone know in the house what it is. My issue was, if I stepped in front of a bus, knowone would know where to find all of the video and pictures. Check out this link
    2) Mesh scares me. You can’t turn off RDP, and RDP doen’t play by the rules. I thought I could put myself in the RDP user group, and have a very strong password, by Mesh doesn’t care about being in that group. Any login can log in. I logged in using my kids account with a 3 letter password, to a machine he didn’t have logon rights to. It seems too big of a risk that anyone could break into my mesh and get to any computer I have – even my work computer.


  • Brian Hartsock

    Into the cloud…..

    JungleDisk is awesome for almost all my data. The one exception is code. Too many little files.

    I’ll have to look up

  • Ben Scheirman

    I’m leaning on the HP MediaVault WHS because it also uses TimeMachine for Apple machines (and the occasional hackintosh that I may or may not be using :)) — but I’m reluctant to do so until Carbonite or Mozy decide to allow these products on WHS. I’m okay with paying, say $10/mo instead of $5/mo since it is backing up multiple machines.

    Carbonite has saved me many times in the past, but right now I don’t have any automated image backups of my machines, so if a file gets deleted or corrupted, eventually that will get backed up and I’ll still be screwed. With TimeMachine I have a revision history, so that becomes less of a problem.

  • Luke

    I went through a similar process a year or so ago when I suddenly woke up to the fact that I had a shedload of data I couldn’t afford to lose which wasn’t getting backed up. I went with JungleDisk and all was fine and dandy until this week when a new wake up call came – we were burgled :( Fortunately our desktop PCs weren’t taken, but it still made me realise there are three critical flaws in my setup:

    1) Despite implementing that data backup strategy, there was still data I didn’t want to lose that had ended up in locations that weren’t getting backed up – underlines how you really need to review regularly (as you’ve obviously done as that was the purpose of this post!) or stuff will fall through the cracks

    2) You absolutely have to backup data online, even if you run internal backups as well – some of my data was only being backed up internally but if the burglars had totally cleaned us out, all those backups would have gone too, leaving me with nothing. Total disaster.

    3) Security – even if I’d had backups of all my data, most of it is stuff I don’t want others to see. However secure my network is from outside access, and however secure my online backups might be, anybody helping themselves to the physical machines and taking them elsewhere would completely bypass most security and have access to highly personal/confidential stuff. I’m now in the process of re-evaluating my whole data management strategy to incorporate TrueCrypt to keep data encrypted and secure so if I ever do have my machines stolen, I not only have a backup of all the data, but can feel safe that nobody else will be able to access it. This brings it’s own problems however, such as getting TrueCrypt to play nicely with Windows Live Sync, but that’s another story!

    At the end of the day though, security should really be viewed as an equally high level concern as backups – something which it’s so easy to brush under the carpet but could be every bit as much of a disaster should a crisis occur.

  • Kevini

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to the video used by cameras, but if so, try using program called “Super C” (search for that) .. It looks kind of wonky, but is awesome. I can give it a whole folder of movies and recompress it to a WMV format where it looks very similar to the original, but gives me a size that is on average 1/10th of the original.

    For many videos, we don’t need top top quality of our kid crawling, and the space savings is worth it to me. We have 5 Gigs of video, after they’ve been crunched (and that is just the camera videos – doesn’t include the ones where i DO keep the high quality). If they were expanded, it would be an easy 50 gigs. So check it out, might not change your strategy above, but will make it a bit easier to manage.