Hey look, another backup question!

I want to put the final touch on securing our data. We just had an amazing bullet-dodging experience[sup]*[/sup] and now both (PC and Mac) work off of a networked attached drive (a Linksys NAS200) with two WD drives configured as a RAID 1 array (or however it’s described). But that won’t help in the event of fire, lightning, theft etc.

I have an off-site backup account at MozyPro, which has great service and reasonable pricing for the relatively small amount (2-4 GB) of current work, but the two to three hundred or so GB of archival and other files we’d want in the event of a local catastrophe puts them beyond our budget (their business accounts run .50 per GB per month). But wait a second…

A sufficiently sized external drive is cheap. Couldn’t RhythmBrother and I just set up something similar to the off-site services? That is, backup software running independently on each of our machines that sends data to the drive attached to each other’s computer. It would have to be encrypted, as it’s going over the Internet, and would probably need some way to run a check on the foreign data’s integrity from time to time, but it seems like all of the necessary components already exist in some form or another.

Of course, both our houses can get flattened by a wild giraffe stampede at the same time, so nothing is absolutely perfect. But this setup (RAID1 with the off-site) seems about as secure as secure can get without going overboard. It also seems easier than manually running tape or other backups and shipping them to a secure location – it’s all automated.

Are there problems I’m overlooking? Is there software that does this?



[sup]*For the curious: We run an editorial/graphic design consultancy out of our home. The hard drive on the Mac had years of stored artwork and email. Maybe seventy percent of the art was backed up, but not the email or other data files. We finally got around to backing up everything… the day before the drive died.[/sup]

Storing backups on two hard drives and storing the drives at a distant residence works good. Never bring in both drives to work at the same time, and leave the newest backup at the distant site. You switch off to the drive with the oldest backup each time you do the backup. Don’t erase backups until you need the space. You then have multiple points you can restore to.

I’m a total doofus about computers. So I don’t rely on fancy programs. I just backup everything on DVD’s, 4 gigabytes at a time.
I don’t use any compression or encryption programs --because that might make the data unsalvagable 3 years from now if I won’t have the right version of the uncompression/de-cryption program.

I just use the windows copy and paste function once a week on the most recent data. It fills a couple of DVD’s and I take them home from the office and put 'em on my bookshelf. Since your home is also your office, you might have to put the DVD’s in a box in a friend’s basement. But that might cost you a beer.

Even 3 hundred gigs of old files can be archived that way, if all you need is to copy them once and never touch them again. It’s a one-time expense to buy 80 DVD’s, and put 'em in a box . Then your remaining 2-4 gigs of current jobs you can copy to a single re-writeable DVD every day.

(In my case, my office PC only has about 20 gigs of data–I use re-writable DVDS, and just copy it all onto 4 DVD’s each week. I have 3 sets of 4 DVD’s which I re-use, so I always have last week’s set untouched.)

I’m hoping to eliminate the two greatest weaknesses to our current setup: human input and location. Burning DVDs and dropping off backups off still have elements of both.

As for human intervention, no matter how routine DVD burning becomes, it’s still something of a chore, and it’s still forgettable. The Great Bullet Dodge of ’07 could have been completely opposite. The nice thing about Mozy is that it runs automatically every night, without any action on our part. Sure, something can still go wrong, but it’s a LOT less fallible than either of us.

As for location, given that this is a home office and that we sometimes have no need to leave the house for weeks at a time, daily drop-offs would have a dramatic bearing on our lifestyle. Plus there’s that whole human intervention thing again. An automatic backup that sends data from here (NY) to RhythmBrother in Mississippi would cover the need to have backups offsite, without any of the above.

I guess I basically want Mozy software with the ability to specify the computer I’m sending it to.

Thanks again,


Okay, I’m talking through my hat here, because I don’t know much about the technologies I’m about to mention, and I’ve never done what I’m suggesting. So no doubt someone’s going to come along and say I’m full of shit. IOW, this advice is worth what you’re paying for it.

But it seems to me that Windows’ Task Scheduling and Backup utilities, along with some combination of Windows Remote Console, and/or VNC, and/or a Virtual Private Network might do what you want without too much trouble or expense. How exactly? Sorry, you’ll have to do your own research on the details. I’ve used VNC to remotely control a computer within my own home network. It was very simple and quick to set up. I don’t know much about WRC or VPNs, but they seem to have the capabilities you need. Perhaps someone else here can fill in the blanks.

The only thing that I haven’t covered here is encryption. IMHO (and again, I could be seriously wrong) I don’t think this should be a major concern, since I assume you’re not dealing with Top Secret data or HIPAA-covered medical records or anything like that. My guess would be that there is very little risk of your data being intercepted while in transit.

My semi-informed two cents.

Maybe Dantz’s Retrospect?

One thing that bugs me about web-based backups is that you are sending your precious data to a totally inaccessible location. You are at their mercy.

No matter how stable a company seems, it is still a foreign entity to you. If the CEO there acts like Enron, or if a hacker in Japan screws with their site, you are totally screwed.
It’s my data, and I want to keep control over it. YMMV

I think you’ve misunderstood. I was assuming that RhythmBrother is the OP’s actual brother, not a company.

Right… RhythmBrother is my sister-in-law’s husband.

I just can’t see spending twelve to fifteen hundred a year to archive our data on Mozy, when a couple hundred dollars will by a drive that’s twice the needed capacity. All that’s missing is the software.

The software search is getting a bit vexing–it all already exists in some for or another. Just look at Mozy and all of the other remote backup services: automated backups, bandwidth throttling, etc. I can’t but imagine that there are a lot of people in a similar situation… even non-business owners could do well to have all their family photos backed up on a remote location. Seems to me there’s either a void the market needs to fill, or there’s a void in my Goggle-fu.


Have you looked into Cobian Backup? I haven’t used it much, but I took a look at it a while ago and I think it might have all the features you need.

Consider USB hard drives as your solution. Set your backup going overnight or over the weekend and put the HDD with the backup in your briefcase in the morning, and take it home with you at the end of the day.

Cycle the HDDs. For instance, if you decide to back up weekly, you should have 5: one for each week and one for a quarterly backup.

commasense - exactly.

I’m so confused. Am I missing the forest for the trees? Do I just need a run-of-the-mill backup program that has FTP capability? If so, I’m pretty sure I can get past the two routers’ firewalls (mine and his), but how do our computers find each other over the Internet if we both have dynamic IPs? I know there are programs–even Windows Remote Assistant–that have the ability, but how do I tap into something like that and make it part of the backup software?

I’d suggest installing VNC on both machines from here, and first seeing if you can just get both computers connected. As I mentioned, I used it to control another computer on my own in-house network, and it was a breeze to set up on both machines.

The site says the Personal Edition has the following features (among other things):

  • Integrated Session Security provides protection from connection snooping, man-in-the-middle attacks and packet-tampering attacks, to name but a few.
  • One-Port HTTP & VNC allows VNC Server to serve VNC Viewer for Java and VNC sessions through a single TCP port, simplifying NAT and firewall configuration.
  • Windows Firewall Integration, making VNC Server more straightforward to deploy.
  • File Transfer allows you to copy files between your server and viewer computers over the VNC connection—no need for additional configuration.

Which leads me to believe the basic capabilities are all there.

Then it would just be a matter of making Task Scheduler start a VNC session and run a Backup utility to the remote computer. Seems feasible, but the devil is in the details. It might take some batch files or macros, or other clever tricks.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

It’s possible, with sufficient batch file glue, to set your computers to automatically FTP to each other at night. I just think that with two consumer level PCs and network connections, it’s going to break more often than it works. So you’re back to the human intervention. I’d suggest buying 4 drives big enough to hold your data. Each of you takes two, and every month completely back up to one and send it to the other person. Overwrite as necessary. Once the giraffes come through, the most you’ll lose is a month. You’ll still be better off than the house…

I’d look into setting up a VPN with Hamachi and using a file sync program to sync between shared drives/directories. I like SyncBack but there are many others, like SyncToy or XXCopy.