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Are PDC backups needed?


brwd09
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Sorry, the title of this post should say "Are PC backups needed?" I guess I fat fingered it.

 

 

I have what might be a philosophical question. Do I really need to back up my PC's. If I point all of the user's "My Documents" folders to thier personal location on the WHS that should mean that all of their data is being stored on the server and not on the PC; correct? If that is the case, then the only thing that is actually on the PC is the OS and application. Since I have CD's or DVD's to install all of them I can rebuild that PC from those disks and the user data is safe on the server.

 

If all of that is true, do I really need to have the server back up the PC's? what do I gain from doing that? Which recovery will be faster, from the backup of build from scratch?

 

My reason for asking is that I am debating if I really need the WHS or not. Mine currently is having some severe issues (see my post about Delayed Writed Failed errors) and I need to do something. I probably should consider upgrading my hardware since I built this box a couple of years back from hardware that was old at that time. As i thought about this I started to think that the only thing I really need the server for is storage, and with Microsoft dropping DE.....

 

So I started to look as other storage options like FreeNAS, Drobo, and unRAID. I really like unRAID and am considering building one. I might consider keeping the WHS for doing PC backups and remote access (I actually rarely use it, but it is cool to have it available). I might try making ther WHS a virtual machine on my best desktop machine.

 

Having said that, would it be possible to have the WHS use the unRAID box as its storage? Would that buy me anything? One other iea would be to try building the WHS and unRAID both as virtual machines on the same box anf then have WHS use unRAID as its storage. Is that possible? If I did that, would the WHS be able toi directly access unRAID via the bus, or would it access it via the NIC such that data had to go out to the switch and back (I am new to virtualizartion).

 

Thanks for your help. I am learning as I go and I find these forums to be very helpful.

Edited by brwd09
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If you don't have any data on the pc, there's no pressing reason to back it up. In the case of computer blowing up, restoring from backups is far faster and convinient and way less nerve stressing than full os reinstall, including apps and settings to all of them.

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IMO, the real benefit of WHS is the PC backup function. I have had to restore 2 computers and it is so nice to be able to bring them back exactly as they where before the problem. All the applications, settings, files, everything right back to the way it was prior to the issue. In addition, WHS knows which files are common on various PC's it backs up and only backs up one copy, therefore saving space on the server. Even if I kept most of my files on the server, I would still use the PC back up feature of WHS.

 

unRAID, now you're talking! I have been using unRAID for a few months now and love it. Granted it is not the fastest solution and I would stay away from using slower drives (ie, 5400 drives) since the slowest drive will dictate the speed when it is being written to, but the ease of expansion and the use of parity protection make it even better than DE.

 

I tried the same thing you mention, using unRAID's NFS feature to provide storage to a virtual WHS. It never worked in a reliably. The connection kept getting dropped which would cause all kinds of issues. If it would work, it could be a great solution, but I never could get it to work and after talking on the unRAID forums, I was told something like this has never been done.

 

As for building unRAID as a virtual machine, the main issue is going to be can you boot the VM from a USB stick. I am pretty sure Hyper-V will not let you, heck Hyper-V really is only good for Windows based OS’s anyway. I have never used VMWare so I can’t comment on that, but I think Xenserver will let you boot from a USB. Check out this post:

 

Xenserver - boot VM from USB

 

So you may be able to do it by using Xenserver to host both a WHS VM and an unRAID VM. Connect them both to a virtual switch and create VM drives on the unRAID drives for WHS. Make sure to give unRAID direct access to the drives.

 

It is an interesting concept, but is seems to add a bit of complexity that I don’t know how well this would work as a long term solution. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can add their thoughts.

Edited by geek-accountant
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I have used the restore function 3 times on both a laptop and desktop and believe this is one the most valuable features of WHS. Thinking of the times I needed to reinstall the OS, all program and settings I know this is better. I actually developed for myself a checkoff sheet for whenever I do complete a OS reinstall...make sure I don't forget programs and definitely ensure I deactivate softwore (Photshop / Lightroom etc.) and deauthorize iTunes.

 

By reinstalling from WHS I have no such issues. I am also able to backup my sister-in-laws laptop so she can consider her data safe.

Just my 2 cents,

Tim

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There is an old adage for backup strategy called 3-2-1. Three copies of your data, two of which are on different media types, and one copy off-site. Right now, you have one copy; the ones one the server. RAID is not a replacement for backups.

 

You have a great mechanism for a backup solution in WHS. Not only can it create an initial image of your machine for restore purposes, your data is backed up to a secondary location (the second copy), from which you can off load to external media to create off-site storage.

 

Few people realize that with Windows 7 you can use Shadow Copies on the client (providing you have enough free space). Allocate what room you can spare on the client machine hard drive and that will determine the number of shadow copies available to you. Combine this with a WHS backup solution and you have an almost fool proof strategy.

 

I would rebuild your current server or start building a new one; it all depends on how valuable your data is. For computers that never leave the premises, you could redirect the Documents folder as you are doing now, but for laptops I would not do so. Either way, start looking into Shadow Copies.

 

Where I work, we run Shadow Copies on our File Servers three times a day; data can be restored by users from the server; all data is backed up daily; copied to an off-site COOP server. I am up to my eyeballs in data retention.......

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"Are PC backups needed?"

 

If you don't mind spending the hours required to get your system back to somewhere near the state it was in before your mobo died or HDD crashed, for example, then they are not. You've already backed up important files so you're safe there. Assuming you can find the installation media and product keys for the OS and all the programs you'll be reinstalling, it's just a matter of setting aside a good portion of a day to get it done. Because unless the only thing you're doing with your PC is checking email and playing Freecell, it takes a good bit of time to get all of that done. But if you like to check out new software, settings, hacks, or whatever, you might get a little tired of the whole reinstall-everything-from-scratch fiasco every time you hose the system. If you just want to get away from WHS, then you have other backup options, free and commercial. They certainly work, though free ones, W7's built-in backup aside, generally don't allow you to set a schedule.

 

So what do I think you should do? You should build a new Core i3-530 system, assuming you can afford it, and install WHS on that. Then import your data, copy and paste. And if you're able to back up the PC database backups with BDBB before your old machine dies entirely, import that as well. WHS will run quite well on that system.

 

Besides, if I remember correctly, you basically ignored warnings for weeks/months before this hard drive thing came to a head, right? So, the current problems with your WHS are not the fault of the OS. So stick with it. And go ahead and add a NAS if you want to. That's actually a great idea.

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"Are PC backups needed?"

 

If you don't mind spending the hours required to get your system back to somewhere near the state it was in before your mobo died or HDD crashed, for example, then they are not. You've already backed up important files so you're safe there. Assuming you can find the installation media and product keys for the OS and all the programs you'll be reinstalling, it's just a matter of setting aside a good portion of a day to get it done. Because unless the only thing you're doing with your PC is checking email and playing Freecell, it takes a good bit of time to get all of that done. But if you like to check out new software, settings, hacks, or whatever, you might get a little tired of the whole reinstall-everything-from-scratch fiasco every time you hose the system. If you just want to get away from WHS, then you have other backup options, free and commercial. They certainly work, though free ones, W7's built-in backup aside, generally don't allow you to set a schedule.

 

So what do I think you should do? You should build a new Core i3-530 system, assuming you can afford it, and install WHS on that. Then import your data, copy and paste. And if you're able to back up the PC database backups with BDBB before your old machine dies entirely, import that as well. WHS will run quite well on that system.

 

Besides, if I remember correctly, you basically ignored warnings for weeks/months before this hard drive thing came to a head, right? So, the current problems with your WHS are not the fault of the OS. So stick with it. And go ahead and add a NAS if you want to. That's actually a great idea.

 

I wouldlike to thank all of you for your input. You all seem to agree that a restore from the backup will be much faster, as well as more complete, then what I proposed with a rebuild from scratch. You are probably right. I have never tried to restore from a backuyp (at home or at work) but have rebuilt from scratch many times. I have ad 2 or 3 macchines backing up to my WHS but have done nothing to prepare for a restore. I was a little surprised when the pod cast was discussing restores and had a number of steps to take to prepare, so i need to look into that in more detail.

 

And yes DVN, I did not take action right away when I started to see errors on the server. It did not necessarily ignore them, but I also did not take action to find the problem and correct it beyond some reading.

 

Geek accountant, thanks for the input on Xen and unRAID. i am just starting to research them and would appreciate any additional links that yopu could send my way.

 

Lastly, if I do build a NAS, how would you suggest that I use it? Would it be drive space for the WHS or would I use the WHS for backups and remote access, and then use the NAS for file storage? If the NAS is used by the server, how do I do that and does the server see it as a single physical drive or does it see the individual drives in the NAS? Does anyone have links that you can send me that describe how that would be set up?

 

Thanks again for your inputs.

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You know, it's true that we can back up stuff to folder shares. But should we ever get in a jam, we could always mount the last PC backup and pull files from that.

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