I am responsible for managing the IT at a small company (5-10 workstations). One of the challenge is to handle backups. We already have a Linux server with a big HDD offsite, so this looks like the natural solution. This server is already backed-up to a couple of other locations through scripts I wrote for this purpose, so any backup there will be safe. But I have very few experience in backing up Windows and Mac workstations.

I am specifically looking for something dead simple (rsync + some reporting mechanism is what I use for Linux) as I don't want this to take too much time. The purpose is to back up the "My Document" directory incrementally.

I've looked into Bacula and Amanda but both seems overly complicated for such a simple setup - and I find the documentation lacking. I then stumbled over FreeFileSync which looks simple enough to setup in two minutes. It would just run at some fixed hour, connect to the server using SSH and sync modified/new/deleted files.

Does anyone has any experience with FreeFileSync? Any other tool I could try?

EDIT: The budget for this (apart for my wages) is about 0€.

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  • Do you have a domain that binds together the workstations? If possible you could implement roaming profiles and back them up. – Reaces Sep 30 '15 at 9:58
  • @Reaces I don't have this setup and it would probably take too much time. Thanks for the tip though. – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 13:25
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    Your small company desperately needs a more sane IT budget. – Michael Hampton Sep 30 '15 at 16:41
  • @MichaelHampton, Agreed 100% (and even more if I could), but these are my working constraints so far... – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 16:44

I'd probably use Crashplan PROe for that count of users and mix of operating systems. It will give you on-premises and cloud options and is relatively inexpensive.

It does not require Active Directory to be configured.

You can install it on your offsite Linux server to make it a backup target as well.

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    What ewwhite said. – Katherine Villyard Sep 30 '15 at 14:19
  • Hmmm. The only paying option of the bunch. The thing is that it will cost more than the overall IT budget of the (small) company. I'll update the question so that this is better reflected. – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 16:33
  • @pieroxy It's $60/user, negotiable. Each "user" can have up to 4 computers. I think the pricing is manageable for even the smallest organizations. $600/yr for unlimited backup isn't bad at all. – ewwhite Sep 30 '15 at 16:36
  • crashplan is free if you run your own backup target isn't it? – Journeyman Geek Sep 30 '15 at 23:04

Do not roll your own backup. Use Crashplan, Backblaze, or Mozy (sure others exist). I have used the latter two, and was happy with both. Both do commercial and personal, and are priced sensibly for SMB - I believe crashplan do too.

I know you said you have no budget, but you need to talk to your boss. This is a good skill to work on - negotiating IT needs with non tech stakeholders. Some conversation topics:

  1. How much is your time worth? I've set up backup systems like bacula, and it is an epic pain, and takes time to set up and maintain. You won't get that back in dollar bills, but I bet you're busy - think of the opportunity cost - what else could you be doing that adds value to the business rather than chasing down rsync-flavour rat-holes?

  2. How much is your data worth? If you lose a significant amount of data, it can sink a small company. The risks are overstated by some backup folks in their PR, but not by a great deal. Check this list for some examples of "scare stories". Don't overplay it, we don't want to be the IT guys who cried wolf, but do state the risks clearly.

  3. Backup is half the story. Restoring is the tricky bit, and monitoring to make sure your backups are succeeding. For a small setup this sort of check-up activity can be pretty onerous and time consuming. With these canned solutions, you have a level of surety. In addition, they're easy enough to use for you to leave instructions in case you re on vacation etc.

  4. Incremental backups are really handy, as is being able to recover an older version of a file. These are tricky with roll-yer-own - remember if you overwrite a file, and then you back it up.. you're backup is hosed too. Most canned solutions provide for this situation.

I know this isn't "an answer" - but believe me, you will be better off with this route.

  • Actually, I am pretty much in agreement with my boss on this topic. On Linux you have rsync, and with a couple dozen lines of shell and a crontab, you can pretty much do anything you want. Planned backups, incremental, versioning (daily, monthly...) monitoring, alerting, etc... Ok, with all options on, it's more than a couple dozen lines, but still. Windows is the only OS where this is not an option. But this is not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination. I can't imagine paying for something that simple. Thanks for the tips though, I'll have a look into it. – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 22:56
  • @pieroxy You're missing the point. This is Windows, not Linux... You don't need to reinvent the wheel. $5/user/month is peanuts for the protection a real backup suite provides. – ewwhite Sep 30 '15 at 23:20
  • +1 for "how much is your data worth". The budget for reliable backup/restore should be considered in relation to the cost of data loss. – Jenny D Oct 1 '15 at 8:05

I can recommend Veeam Endpoint Backup.


Originaly, Veeam is specialized in backup software for virtual machines like VMWare or Microsoft Hyper-V. But this year they released Endpoint Backup, a small and free software to backup hardware machines, either to a local drive, an attached USB drive or to a network share. It creates incremental backups, so the first time you run it all the data will be transfered. After that, only changes are transfered to the target.

You can also choose the number of restore points, select if the backups should run manualy or by task, and you can choose if you want to backup your whole machine or just parts of it.

Another awesome feature is that you can create a restore media (iso file), and if your machine crashes completely, you can restore it to any other machine, regardless of the hardware you have been using.

  • I want to backup to an external server through ssh, not local or samba. – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 11:22
  • Sorry, overread that... – Tobias Sep 30 '15 at 11:31

How about setting up a scheduled task on each machine to run robocopy or something similar?

You could have it send you a confirmation email when it completes.

  • AFAIK, Robocopy doesn't allow copying on a distant server, unless you have a drive mounted locally. I am reluctant to mount shares across the internet on all desktops... – pieroxy Sep 30 '15 at 13:22
  • AFAIK, Robocopy doesn't allow copying on a distant server, unless you have a drive mounted locally. You're mistaken. Robocopy works just fine using UNC paths. – GregL Sep 30 '15 at 17:34

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