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I have a growing number of PCs and laptops in my home that need a backup solution. My question is 2 fold:

  1. Most commercial backup vendors appear to license by the machine, are there any products that give a license that can be used on all your machines, without a per machine cost?

  2. An alternative is to have a centrally controlled back up strategy controlled from a single PC with an attached hard drive that can back up other machines on the network. What backup software is suitable for this approach? Will this software be windows/Linux interoperable?

I've searched for duplicate questions but don't see anything that addresses the multi machine/cost issue.

OSs in network will be Windows (XP, Vista, 7) and Linux variants. Not pattern to when machines will be switched on.

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7 Answers 7

It would be nice to know the OSs and the UpTimes of the PCs...this what sure help people.

Also a solution or part of it might be a DropBox like server.

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Syncplicity allow you to use "as many computers as you like" with the standard subscription. If you don't want to take advantage of their synchronization functionality, you should be able to turn that off, and just backup all your machines using the same account/license on each.

Unfortunately I don't think they have a Linux client at present.

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This won't handle backup for your Linux machines but for the Windows machines on your network, I highly recommend Windows Home Server. The license cost is managable ($100) and it'll handle up to 10 machines, which is sufficient for home use.

An option for the linux hosts would be to rsync criticial data to a fileshare on one of the windows machines and make sure that that gets backed up regularly via the WHS.

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A solution that I've used successfully in the past is BackupPC. It runs on a single server and periodically pulls backups over rsync or ssh or samba from all the other machines. It has many useful features, too many to describe here.

BackupPC is free and open source software.

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I can heartily second this recommendation. I have it backing up a mix of Windows and Linux boxes. You mention: "Not pattern to when machines will be switched on." -- BackupPC is especially good here, in that it has the ability to poll for hosts periodically and then give priority to hosts that have been "missing" the longest. –  Joe Casadonte Jan 30 '10 at 12:20

I have been very happy with Mozy. Here are 10 things I love about Mozy:

  • I can pick my encryption key or let them manage it for me
  • Backups are always differential and efficient
  • It integrates with Windows Explorer so I can view file history at a glance and restore as needed
  • It is off-site, so if my house were to burn/flood/etc. the data would still be safe
  • I can recover files using their web interface
  • The free version is generally ample to backup critical documents and evaluate the service.
  • They will mail you a set of DVDs if you need to recover massive amounts of data and don't want to wait for it to download
  • The software is highly sophisticated in understanding junctions, EFS and other less common file system features. And giving you the choice how to handle them.
  • They have Windows and Mac OS X clients (no native linux client yet)
  • At less than $5 per month, it is very affordable. How many months does it take to break even on the $100 external drive? And how much life is left on that drive after about 2
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A lot will depend on the size and spread of data you wish to backup on the machines, and how they will generally be connected (do you want to update the backup of a laptop when you have it off-site, for instance).

I use a technique similar to those described in this very useful article to maintain offsite backups of my docs and settings from my main box, netbook, and mail server - it should be quite easy to implement on a number of machine if the files you backup are in consistent places (just one script to copy to all the machines, and setup a SSH key pair for each for authentication).

The rsync algotithm is a very efficient way to maintain backups of potentially large amounts of data even over slow links, and being a command line utility it is easily used in scripts that you can run manually or automate via cron or windows' scheduled tasks. rdiff is another similar option, which uses the rsync algorithm to create "delta" files for each run (rdiff-backup wraps this utility to produce an arrangement that works much the same as rsync+hardlink snapshots). There are a number of extra front-ends available for them too, which either just add a GUI front-end, wrap them to provide a specific arrangement in a more friendly way (though losing some flexibility), or both.

There are a number of ports of rsync+ssh for Windows (the one that is part of cygwin being the one most people use, cwRsync is another apparently popular option). Though you might need to be running Linux/BSD server-side to use the hardlink-based snapshot technique (I'm not sure if the Windows ports support hard links though they may as the NTFS filesytem can support/emulate them), if you are sticking using Windows server-side rsync will otherwise work well and rdiff's technique doesn't need hardlinks anyway.

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You may want to check Linbox Rescue Server. This is a solution which belongs to your second alternative.

The backup server is a Linux Redhad distribution and the Client PCs can be Linux, Windows or multiboot.

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