I have a small network with a "server" (an XP Pro machine) and 4-5 user computers.

The data on the server is valuable and I don't want to risk losing it. I want to use the smaller computers to automatically back up the server periodically. Perhaps have a different one check in each week and download any changes since the last back up.

Is there any software out there that makes this automation easy? I'm sorry if my question is a bit vague.

Edit: Also, it would have to make sure that if a file was deleted (or renamed) on the server, it gets deleted (or renamed) during the back up as well.

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    What kind of data are we talking about? Files like spreadsheets and such? Source control? Databases? – user155695 Jan 7 '10 at 16:54
  • Documents, Excel sheets and PDFs mostly. – JoshuaD Jan 7 '10 at 17:55
  • You could also script this yourself using the DOS copy and compact commands, and automate it by creating a Windows XP Scheduled Task. Keep in mind the 3-2-1 Backup Rule whenever setting up a backup system, as oftentimes backups only give users a false sense of security. – Kyle Apr 10 '14 at 18:33

10 Answers 10


I just set up FreeFileSync today, it is a no-frills windows, local-based (including mapped drives), free open source software at http://sourceforge.net/projects/freefilesync/.

Working pretty well so far, with easy options, batch files you can save (and run or schedule yourself afterwards), decent feedback, silent mode, timestamp/content comparison.

It seems to lack extensive naming and versioning schemes and organisation options however, and it does not have FTP, e-mail or other enterprised-oriented methods.

For my usage, it serves as a quite functional mirroring mode, where the deleted files from your source gets deleted from the destination as well. Quite useful mode for keeping a most-current safety backup of folders that are too large for incremental backups (such as music).


Karen's replicator is small, simple, and free.

For more complex (and powerful) backups, try Acronis or Genie Backup Manager.

  • I used networked mapped drives back and forth between several peers and a NAS drive running on an ubuntu machine. The whole office has been using Replicator for almost a decade and it is a wonderful incremental backup tool. Simple, straightforward, runs in a gui but offers command line batch options for "click and go" simplicity, and is free. She actually has several handy utilities that can be quite helpful. – Dennis Jan 7 '10 at 18:20

If you want to make reliable backups, it is not sufficient to use this or that application. You need a backup procedure that takes measures for dealing with potential risks, such as theft and backup medium degeneration. I've made a detailed small scale backup strategy which attempts to deal with a wide range of risks while requiring a minimum of effort.

  • Great article. Thanks. I'm not going to do it quite how you outlined, but your instructions seem like a great general how-to. – JoshuaD Jan 13 '10 at 20:01
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    It'd be cool if this blog/blog post had been backed up ;-) – nicorellius Aug 27 '14 at 20:17

Use your preferred backup software on the server and mount a shared folder from each of the clients as a drive letter on the server. Then you need to find an update software that will let you choose a different backup destination each week.

Otherwise you can find a way to have Windows change the destination of, say, the folder mapped to the Z: drive, each week.

Or you can set up a backup software of your choice on each client, and have each client backup a shared folder from the server every 4-5 weeks with a different computer scheduled to start each week.

Edit: I forgot to mention, I haven't heard of any one software that makes those sort of backup easy, except the last one I mentioned. Then you can use literally any software that lets you backup on a schedule.


Syncback could suit and dropbox as mentioned above


Acronis have some good backup tools!


http://crashplan.com has tools that does this kind of machine to machine backups.


I'd either use Deltacopy, which is rsync-based to send the files directly between the machines, or use Cobian to backup to Windows shares on the other machines. Both support scheduling, so you can automate them easily.


Depending on how much data you have, and how you feel about sending it offsite, one of the online backup services such as Backblaze may suit you.

Or, (again, only if you're okay with using an online service), Dropbox has a client you can install on all your machines and it will keep them in sync. Changes made on one machine get replicated to all other machines using the same account (as well as to Dropbox' servers, so you get an offsite backup as well); and Dropbox keep revision history of files - 30 days in the free version, unlimited if you pay for more space.


I have struggled with a one size fits all approach to this small office scenario.

I have used file sync programs including SyncToy, and they work, but users forget to store the data in the synced folders, so a no win.

I have used windows backup (it comes with MS product for free), but requires that people actually perform the backup, and have the skills to restore.

I have used copy programs including xcopy and robocopy and other derivatives. These all work well, but again it comes down to storing data in the right locations to ensure that the copies are performed. Also must either manually run or script.

All the above methods rely on there being an existing operating system, and the required application being operational, before the backed up data is restored and accessed. And this takes time when there is a catastrophic failure.

I have used disk clone software such as GParted to clone partitions onto removable Hard disks. This gives the advantage of just inserting the drive into another machine, sorting the errors, and you are operational. But it requires the skill to manage partitions and to sort the various driver incompatability issues.

So what I do now is to use an imaging tool, currently StorageCraft ShadowProtect. I take full backups of the machines, often multiple partitions, and take them offsite on rotating USB drives. Hardware Independent restore of images, to just about any hardware is possible. If I want to do a quick look into the files, the storagecraft ISO allows boot from CD and has file browser tool. I regularly restore to Virtual Machines to resolve issues. Only real trap is the windows activation when taking OEM from original machine to VM, but there are ways around every issue.

So many ways to backup, and none perfect. But I have standardised on StorageCraft for now, and am happy to pay the license fee, just for access to their support people, on the rare occassion that I encounter issues.

Additionally, I do not work on a customers machine, unless I have an image. I call it insurance.

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