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An executive asked me to do some research on backup solutions for him and some other executives. Currently they have been using Norton Ghost to image their computers to an external HD, which is a PITA for people not technically savvy. We have an in-house backup solution we use for some of our machines, but it is designed around storing the data on our servers, which they don't want.

I was wondering what programs other people have used to incrementally backup their PC's.


  • Relatively easy to use/configure
  • Incrementally backup files (e.g. only changed files).
  • Can be used with any drive (e.g. not network or cloud based)
  • Not a drive imaging program (e.g. Norton Ghost, PING)

Useful Features

  • Can be scheduled to run at regular times automatically
  • File encryption

Thanks for any advice.

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Is it important that these are executives, or just that the computers aren't servers? I mean, do the executives need something different from the rest of the employees' computers? – Rob Kennedy Jun 4 '09 at 16:43
It originally said "personal" computers, but I figured I would get alot of people coming in here to give me flac about this site not being for personal problems (without reading the entire question). I figured "executive" would prevent that. Also it points out the fact that if they want their own backup solution, they get it. Other employees I would just set up with our in-house solution. – tj111 Jun 4 '09 at 18:07

12 Answers 12

We have used the Desktop and Laptop Option (DLO) with Backup Exec. It works decently well and meets your requirements except file encryption.

For file encryption, the cheap route would be to simply install TrueCrypt on their laptops and use a strong boot password.

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It sounds like you want Carbonite or Mozy, although consumer-oriented solutions may not be reasonable in a corporate/executive setting.

If you want a "corporate" solution, consider Iron Mountain's Online PC Backup program. Iron Mountain's solution can be managed by IT centrally and has lots of "security" features that should appeal to the execs. It is more expensive than Carbonite or Mozy but is still relatively inexpensive.

These fail the "not network or cloud based" requirement, but that is not a wise requirement anyway. The backup to the USB drive sitting next to the computer is not sufficient to protect the organization.

If you can't do the off-site backup, using TrueCrypt to encrypt a USB drive and scheduling a batch file using robocopy or teracopy (or similar) to save to that volume is easy. My batch file that I run weekly on my laptop is below; f: is an external USB drive and the locations are for my Vista system.

md "F:\%USERNAME%\backup" 
md "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Desktop" 
md "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Documents" 
md "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Downloads" 

robocopy "%USERPROFILE%\Desktop" "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Desktop" *.* /E /R:0 /XO /LOG:"F:\%USERNAME%\backup\%username%_Desktop.txt" 

robocopy "%USERPROFILE%\Documents" "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Documents" *.* /E /R:0 /XO /LOG:"F:\%USERNAME%\backup\%username%_Documents.txt" 

robocopy "%USERPROFILE%\Downloads" "F:\%USERNAME%\backup\Downloads" *.* /E /R:0 /XO /LOG:"F:\%USERNAME%\backup\%username%_Downloads.txt"
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Robocopy with a scheduled task.

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Depends on the solution you have in place for your enterprise. For instance we use CA's Arcserve Backup product which relies on agents on target machines. You install the proper agent on machines you want and throw them into a backup rotation and you're good to go! The agents not only pick up drives but Registry states so you can restore bits/pieces. As for storing data on your servers, you're going to have to otherwise your solution is for naught. If you keep backups on the machine you're backing up and the machine goes missing or damaged, what are you going to restore from? If you're truly backed into a corner here then use Windows native backup tools and partition your hard drives. If there's corruption in Windows then at least having backups on different partition provides some sort of protection.

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Personally I am using "Vista Backup And Restore Center" with my computers to back up to an external USB drive. Comes with the OS, and can be scheduled to make backups and do incrementals.

I only run the backups on Friday nights, so I have to make sure the computer is on and in it's dock if it is a laptop.

For the laptop my employer has also installed a cloud-based backup tool, but I've never had to use it to do a restore.

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Unfortunately this has to work on both XP and Vista. Thanks though. – tj111 Jun 4 '09 at 18:03

Assuming you're in a Windows environment, especially Vista, you can redirect their some of their Profile folders (Documents, AppData, Favorites, etc.) to a server, then enable local caching so that it keeps a local copy on their workstation or laptop in case they disconnect or something else happens. Syncing a copy of the data to a file share on a server lets you explore additional options - roaming, replication to other sites/servers via DFS, and encryption if need be.

We're working on a solution based on this idea for our top execs who are mostly laptops. Dan Holme has detailed it in his Windows Admin Reskit book.

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Another suggestion, (although it's a little risky/beta right now)

I've been experimenting with Windows Live Mesh. It's got 5Gb of storage for free and I could see a setup of something like this:

1.) Create a Windows Live mesh account for your exec. Configure it on his/her laptop to autologin in the background.

2.) Create a folder with the exec's name that's shared between the mesh virtual desktop and the exec's desktop, one-way only. Configure it to grab whatever is in the exec's folder and replicate it to the server.

3.) Explain to the exec that anything they put in that folder will get magically whisked away to `backupland'. Explain the 5Gb limitation, indicate no music, pics, etc. are to be stored in there, because it's for business-critical files.

[An extra added benefit is that since you're working with one mesh account, you can add a bunch of devices and replicate the folders between them. Let's say you've got 3 or 4 execs, if they want, you can have "John Brown's" folder replicate to "Jane Smith's" desktop and vice-versa, or everyone's folder replicated to "Mister President and CEO's" desktop.]

Here's the link. Again, it's beta but might be a good interim solution, etc.

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Not sure why so many of these answers recommend cloud solutions when you specifically asked for something that doesn't have to be cloud or network based.

I've had OK experiences with EMC Retrospect; it can be a bit of a pain to set up, but it's totally hands off form the client point of view once you get it working.

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You can also try s syncback

Maybe roaming profiles will do the trick also.

hope this helps.

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To go back to your Ghost why not make it simple for them? Ghost can be scripted completely So create a second partition on their drive

When they boot they get a duel boot with 3 options

  1. Boot Windows (default after 30 seconds)

  2. Backup to Network

  3. Backup to External USB Drive

Option 2 & 3 boot to the second partition and run a bat script file to run ghost with a reboot computer when its done.

The executive reboots at the end of the day, picks 2 and goes home He arrives the next morning with his computer waiting for him to login

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Although it's a nice solution for at home, most Executives simply won't do this. If it takes manual intervention, it won't be done. As usual with backups, they are most frequently made automatically. – Martijn Heemels Jun 12 '09 at 21:28

Have you considered a service for this? Companies like digitlitilink text provide offsite backups that don't require any user intervention. They charge basically by the amount of data stored, however since they do deduplication user data compresses down pretty small. We're using it for a couple of very special areas that have backup needs they feel are different from the rest of the organization. It works pretty slick, restores are fast and easy, everything that is backed up is encrypted, and it can be restored to any machine.

It has a bit of a maintenance cost but for a few executives machines it should be much cheaper than the loss of the data from any of those machines. IT can get the whole machine OS and all or just selective folders.

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I'm not sure why you mention "Not cloud based" as a requirement, because that seems like a perfectly reasonably option to me.

Buy a copy of Jungledisk Workgroup. This does automatic, incremental, delta-only, encrypted, off-site backups to Amazon S3 storage. Deleted or modified files are versioned. All these settings are configurable.

You can even install it automatically and choose to lock down the settings so no-one disables their backups. It runs in Windows, OS X and Linux, and runs as a service so it even backups when the user is not logged in.

The cost is pay-what-you-use, and very cheap for what you get IMHO.

We use it to do daily backups on about 150GB of data from several production servers, and several employees' desktops and I can say I'm very satisfied with the solution.

The fact that it's cloud-based to a reliable party like Amazon is actually a plus for us. What's your reason for disallowing cloud-based solutions? Bandwidth is only an issue on the initial 'full' backup. Any other reasons?

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Whoever's downvoting me should at least tell me why. There's nothing wrong with questioning the poster's requirements, in a constructive way. Downvoting seems a bit silly since tomjedr's and other's answers have similar suggestions. – Martijn Heemels Jan 23 '12 at 0:08

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