I work in a very small print shop that has 3 servers and 7 client workstations. Considering the size of the company, I am trying to implement a reasonable backup/recovery plan.

The problem is the budget to do so is incredibly low to nothing, so I have to work with what I have available. The company prints files that are done in house and submitted by customers. We sometimes reprint old jobs, and need to pull up those from the fileserver. Also client machines are backed up to the fileserver as well.

The first two servers are controlling the RIP system, and proofing system, and both pretty much stay the same, with the exception of the jobs that are temporarily ran through them. They run on a single 7200k drive each. For these servers I have ghost images backed up on the fileserver and DVDs.

The fileserver is where I am uneasy about. Currently it (Poweredge 830) is running 2000 server and has the OS on a single disk, and the files on a 2nd 1TB disk. Currently nothing on the 2nd disk is being backed up offsite. I thought of proposing that they at least buy two 1 TB USB drives and alternate them by having one person take them home and then bring back in to keep a copy offsite. Alternatively I can FTP the offsite backups to an old machine at home through the VPN, but the files might be a little large (30-40gb a month).

If I could start from scratch and have a decent budget I would do things differently, but considering $200 would be the cap, would this setup be ok? Any other suggestions?

  • I know you said there is practically no budget but considering that the lack of proper backups can send a small business down the gurgler real fast, to say nothing of possible legal requirements, you should really be arguing to get some decent money allocated to this very critical area. Jan 24, 2011 at 8:24
  • If you have walking media then make sure you use some level of encryption. If a disk goes missing and you had no data protection you might have some explaining to do to your clients.
    – jqa
    Jan 2, 2012 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


Here are the things that bring instant concern:

They run on a single 7200k drive each

Well, at least you're backing them up onto the file server and to a DVD. This is a huge point of failure, and from my experience at a printing house thost 7200rpm disks are going to be worked hard (this was 10 years ago and they were printing 700Mb TIFFs generated by drum scanners - I don't know how much has changed since then) and the harder a drive is worked the earlier it will fail.

If it's possible, get some RAID1 onto those disks. If they're running any flavour of Windows Server (2000 or newer), XP Professional or any version of *nix you can add software RAID without needing to spend any money on anything except an additional hard drive.

I thought of proposing that they at least buy two 1 TB USB drives and alternate them by having one person take them home and then bring back in to keep a copy offsite.

This is actually a pretty good scenario if you're on a tight budget. I don't know what $200 buys where you're from (the price for those sorts of things in Australia is almost criminal and you'd struggle to get two 1Tb USB drives for < $200) but that's going to be miles ahead of what you've got.

You don't even need any special software for what you're proposing. Download a version of RoboCopy (the Server 2003 tools will have a version that will work on Server 2000, version XP010). Then a scheduled task that runs:

robocopy e: f: /mir (where e: is your source, f: is the removable disk)

Will give you a file-level mirror (not a byte-level mirror but that should be fine) of your files. Just make sure that both of your disks are assigned to the same drive letter (if not, just make it robocopy twice, once to each target drive, and the missing disk will just fail).


  • Magnetic media will eventually fail over time. In 10 years time, the chances of getting any data off the disk at all would be < 50%. This may be totally acceptable, but for financial data or mission-critical things this may not be.

  • The disks will fail at a higher rate than your source, mainly because they'll be spending a lot of their life in transit, bumping around in someone's bag and car, being moved all the time. So be prepared to replace them every 2 years or so.

  • By using the robocopy method any other computer that can read an NTFS disk can read your backups


  • Cheap. Very cheap. No need to buy tapes or tape drives.

  • By using the robocopy method any other computer that can read an NTFS disk can read your backups

  • Mark and I have proposed essentially the same solution, but his has the advantage of not requiring a linux conversion so +1. Jan 24, 2011 at 5:54
  • 1
    Just a note about the retention time of magnetic media that Mark mentioned. That applies to ALL media, not just hard drives. Tape also suffers from magnetic degradation, although modern tape technology writes multiple interleaved copies, something akin to RAID, which gives you a much greater chance of reading from the tape than you would have reading from a hard drive of the same age, all else being equal. This is why all magnetic storage should be refreshed by rewriting periodically, say every few years or so, if long term storage is desired. Jan 24, 2011 at 8:25
  • Fantastic! I was not aware of the robocopy command, I will have to research this further...awesome! I did know somewhat about "bit rot", but I did not know it happened so soon on a drive. Jan 25, 2011 at 1:36
  • @Skinny - robocopy isn't a new tool, but it wasn't well used until Microsoft shipped it standard with Server 2008. It's a fanstastic tool and I use it for all my file copy needs these days. Jan 25, 2011 at 1:40

I strongly recommend you go with a linux-based disk backup solution with something like rsnapshot. I think that's the only way in your price range to get the kind of storage capacity that you need.I recently set this up at a small business with similar money constraints and it works well. One caveat: you need a linux server, I'm guessing from your description that this is an all-windows setup. Maybe you can convert a windows machine to linux?

You can buy two 1TB drives and USB enclosures for just under $200. For a little more you can get two 2TB drives, which might be a good idea given the amount of data you are talking about. For backups, the performance of the disks over USB is perfectly adequate.

Once you have the two drives in the enclosures, you can configure a linux machine to automount them whenever they are connected, and then rsnapshot makes snapshot backups to the drive. You can configure the snapshots to balance disk usage and number of backups, but since the snapshots are done with hardlinks, only changed files in the snapshots take up more disk space.

A nice feature of the automounter solution is that when the drives aren't in use, they are automatically unmounted. This means you don't have to do much training to get someone in the office to swap the drives - just tell them to check if the light is flashing, and unplug if it isn't.

This setup is very simple and has proven robust in the year it's been running in the small company where I set it up. Someone in that office just swaps the drives once a week and takes the swapped drive home. Having snapshots is a really nice feature because it makes it really easy to recover files in the case of accidental deletions. This tends to come up every few months in my experience. Of course, if you are just backing up very large files snapshots may be a lot of overhead.

rsnapshot also handles backing up other machines, via ssh connections. I don't think it can do much with windows ervers though - the rsnapshot solution is fairly linux-centric. However, the rsnapshot faq does indicate you can back up windows machines using cwRsync.

  • rsnapshot sounds great!, I will look into this once I get some more unix experience... I want to get a centos machine going for offsite backups via ssh or ftp over a vpn, and the snapshots sound like a great way to go. Jan 25, 2011 at 1:43

I would suggest using CrashPlan, Crashplan is file backup, it uses VSS of windows to backup the files. If you backup to their offsite then it costs money (it is reasonable), but if you use it for only onsite then it is free. I suggest having onsite and offsite backup, but if you don't want to spend alot, then you can backup for free to the local extenal hard drive and you can also backup to another external hard drive in another computer.

It also have file version, which means you can restore a specific file that was changed. Restore deleted files. it easy setup. It doesn't backup SQL Server.

You can install Crashplan on all machines and point the backup to the external hard drive on the server. Great software and easy setup.

What's really good about it that it sends you alerts to your email for free, so you can monitor it.

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