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I'm currently in the making of a backup plan for my 2 laptops (windows 7) to my HTPC (windows 7).

Right now the two laptops is running EaseUs Todo Backup Free with full disk/image backups to my HTPC. My HTPC runs a cloudbackup to CrashPlan.

These backups takes some time and nothing I would like to run everyday / all the time. Is there some nice software that "realtime" backups my laptops everytime Im on my home network, or should I run a file backup once every hour and set a disk-image backup one a week?

I dont want to be bothered by the backup software when Im not on my home network, but I would like it to backup asap when I come home. I dont want to install any server os on my HTPC since I use it as a media center.

What is good practice here and what solutions is out there that I havent thought about?

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Why not just back up once a week? Are you really dealing with data that needs to be backed up that much? – cutrightjm May 1 '12 at 12:14
I wouldn't feel comfortable with that, I do got alot of changes to my system and my files in a week and I want to be able to just restore my system as it was in case of failure. – thursday May 1 '12 at 12:26
You could presumably just run crashplan on your laptops as well – Journeyman Geek May 1 '12 at 12:53
true, but I find it easier to send the backups to the HTPC and then send them to crashplan because the HTPC is always on and the backups takes a while to upload. And I whant one copy at home if crashplan somehow looses my backups. – thursday May 1 '12 at 21:22
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Blatant self promotion - I wrote a little bit about this on the superuser blog.

Now on to your points:

These backups takes some time and nothing I would like to run everyday / all the time. Is there some nice software that "realtime" backups my laptops everytime Im on my home network, or should I run a file backup once every hour and set a disk-image backup one a week?

Real time backup is quite a difficult thing to achieve - to do this, as a developer you need to intercept changes to files or folders. The long and the short of this is that doing so adds a processing cost to every write operation as you must now check what has changed.

For small amounts of data, this is fine (e.g. Dropbox) but you start to run into problems with say whole disks.

Now, you might ask how disk imaging actually works and the answer would be copy on write. Basically speaking, a temporary space is stored and whenever files change, a copy is made of the original in this temporary space (the original being written to disk). This way backup software can access the file as it was at a given moment in time, without having to do any comparing or additional work. This is how VSS services work.

Anyway, clearly, even with differential/incremental backups this is going to take some time. I guess the question you have to then ask is how much of your system requires backing up in realtime, all the time. If you're anything like me, your basic system doesn't change too much, but the data you work on may well do.

In this case, it sounds like what you really need (assuming absolutely critical, must be backed up all the time on every change) documents is a raid 1 hard disk setup. This gives you mirrored volumes which can be disconnected from the raid controller and used standalone, so if one disk fails you still have a copy of the other. You could easily serve this volume over the network and access it from all of your network PCs.

If your data is not that critical, I would suggest a pattern which reflects your use - backups at key changes, along with regular small (incremental/differential) backups daily/every few days and full images weekly (every other week). Basically, adjust timings for your needs.

Finally, RedGrittyBrick's answer get's my +1 for the "testing" bit alone. Absolutely. There is no point doing a backup if you cannot restore from it.

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What is good practice?

Some (probably rather obvious) points

Backup changes only

You can use something like rsync, unison or robocopy to make backups which only transfer the changes rather than repeating the copy in full every time (I am not familiar with "EaseUs Todo Backup Free" - it may be similar)

Keep offsite media

It is advisable to keep one or more backups at different locations (i.e. different buildings) in case of fire or theft that could cause the loss of all data at one location. Your clod bbackup covers this but make sure you have the necessary credentials somewhere safe. You also need to make allowance for "cloud" companies going out of business suddenly.


Conventional wisdom is that you should regularly test that you are able to restore data from backups.

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very good input there, i'll keep all of it in mind when planing my backups – thursday May 1 '12 at 21:09

You should set your backups to be selective. For instance, update your Documents folder's backup once a day or some other high frequency, and leave your Downloads to be updated every other day or every other week (unless you do a lot of torrenting or things like that).

You might also want to consider LiveCDs as another helping tool here; sometimes, if windows is BSODing or has a persistent virus you might want to just stick in a CD to boot into Fedora or another Linux distro to just copy your important files to a flash drive or external HDD. I do it all the time (unfortunately).

A real-time backup is both unfeasible, unnecessary, and probably won't help the life of your HDD. Only do complete, disk-image backups every week or more; they use up inordinate amounts of resources.

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