Home Network Backup Advice Sought

I’m planning to add a computer to my home network which will act as a combination of a media server and backup for our other desktops. It’s going to have two or three Very Big Disks, with only the media partition backed up locally. All the other disks and partitions will be used only to back up other computers on the network. I’d been toying with buying a purpose-built NAS, but they seem temperamental, or expensive, or sometimes both, and this just seams easier and cheaper.

But I’m unsure exactly how to set this up. Ideally I would download or even buy some sort of tool which would load on the machines that need to be backed up and would automagically image the desktops in the dead of night and have a restore function I could run from a floppy or a CD. This dream tool would create a new image once a month, say, and incremental backups nightly. Each new image would, I suppose, have to overwrite the old one, as even the Very Big Disks are not going to be big enough to host multiple images from the many pretty big disks lurking on the various machines on our network.

Most of the machines that need backing up are running Win XP SP2, but one is dual-booting XP SP2 with SUSE, one runs SUSE alone, and one runs Ubuntu. For starters I’m most concerned with copying the XP2 machines and partitions, since they have work stuff on them, but in the long term I expect to transition the household to some flavor of Linux since Vista doesn’t seem acceptable. (There may be a holdout gaming machine for the kids if they are sufficiently persuasvie.)

I have a licensed copy of Win XP currently installed on the server-to-be. Inertia has an edge, but I could scrub it an put in some flavor of Linux. I’ve read both good and bad things about Norton Ghost 10.0 and Acronis, but little good about how either work for backing up to a network drive as opposed to attached storage. The feedback on Ghost suggests that the new version doesn’t image, and that the old one, which does, wants to be run from a floppy — that’s not a standalone, run in the background app. Worse, I fear I’d need one copy per machine I’m backing up — that gets expensive!

I found a list of Free Hard Disk / Partition Imaging and Cloning Software, but I don’t really want to trust something this critical to an unknown tool.

I don’t much like to bleg, but if anyone is doing this at home and has advice or pointers, I’d be grateful for it.

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4 Responses to Home Network Backup Advice Sought

  1. dammitboris says:

    i’ve used norton ghost 9 to backup over a network and its always worked fine for me, with one caveat: it does not support restoring to RAID, so if you have a RAID system, check to see if that’s been worked on in the latest version.

    that said, ive heard great things about acronis.

  2. Ned Ulbricht says:

    Well, since you asked nicely ;-)… I’m using rsync, cron and some bash.

    cwRsync is a MS Windows / Cygwin version of rsync. Sorry your comment submission form won’t let me post the url for it, but cwRsync is linked from the rsync download page.

    There are quite a few fancier backup packages based around rsync, and Google is your friend…

  3. if you don’t mind hacking around with linux, you may want to consider freeNAS. This is a bsd based distro built specifically for network storage. As far as the hardware, make sure you set everything up in a raid array, that way if you do lose a harddisk, you don’t lose everything. As for the media server aspect, mythTV is supposed to work well on Ubuntu.

  4. pjcamp says:

    If you stick with Windows, Acronis is probably as good as anything. I dropped Norton when they experienced .NET bloat. Acronis’ partitioning and imaging tools are solid, easy to use and unremarkable (that’s good in a utility). Norton is also good, but Symantec has really let it coast, and the code bloat was unacceptable.

    There’s also a shareware tool, Bootit NG, that has gotten some good press, especially from Fred Langa. Haven’t used it myself.

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