another question on backing up

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 5, 2001
Kodak, Tn. USA
All this worm/virus stuff worries me about my "stuff." I back up QB often on a zip drive, but it's my writings and scanned photos that worry me most.

I have burned cds of "My documents" and "my images" etc. but if I do it, say monthly, what is the best way to do it?

If I save to zip discs, then can I just delete old stuff and save new stuff? Or do I have to use a new one every time?

Or should I burn to cd, and then do I just throw the old one away (well of course, I wouldn't really throw it away, I'd keep them all :rolleyes: ) It just seems like a waste to burn a new cd monthly (or I know lots of you all save daily.) What's the best way to do this.

I need a system.


You can reuse the Zip disks, but I would save two sets and alternate them in case something goes awry with one set.

For a while I was using CD-RWs for backup. Like Zip disks, they can be used over. But it was a pain. It took longer to format the CD than it did to do the backup. Now I just use CD-Rs, which are practically free these days. I pitch 'em when I'm done, though I am thinking about paving my driving with them.

My next PC will have a DVD burner. Burners and blank DVDs are becoming affordable and you can store an immense amount of data.
We use CD-RW or "rewritable" CDs. You can burn info to them, and erase it when you're done just like the cassette tapes of yore. The value of this is that when info becomes outdated, you can just dump it, and reuse the medium, whereas on CD-Rs, you only have one shot (practically speaking)to save info to it.
It's really a personal choice.

My choice is to use CDRs.(700mb capacity) They're about 20 for a dollar(or less!), and you just destroy them when no longer needed. If you back up personal files monthly, your yearly expense is less than a dollar. They're also faster and more reliable than Zips(100mb capacity and about $10 each?) or CDRW(700mb capacity, erasable).

For larger file backup jobs, i'll burn to a DVDR (4300mb capacity). The DVD burners are often as low as $125 and work at 4x speed.

Our POS database is so small at the shop, that we still back it up (daily) to a single floppy disk! ): We also do a weekly full backup of the accounting and pos program directory, via the internet -> the home pc (pcanywhere) The POS based backup only does the data itself, not the program. In a crash situation, you'll want both on hand to get back on your feet quickly.
Whatever the method, I implore you to back up your QB files daily. Our hard drive crashed last month and it was no fun reentering data from the last time I had backed up (about a month. Ouch.) I know this is a hassle, but much less of one than it could be.
A VERY common practice in the computer industry is to create a set of 7 (? how ever many days you are open) tapes or CDs (whatever your BU method is) and label them for each day of the week. Put a label on them and mark the "last date the medium is used. Then re-use them each week. Cycle them around. Do NOT use just one or even two backups. There is a high probability that a problem (virus/error in Database/bug) will not be discovered for some time. (at least days and probably more than a week) So, you also keep a copy of a weekly or monthly BU.

In most cases, the weekly or monthly is from scratch and a full BU. The daily BUs are incremental. In other words you only have to do what's changed.

I know this sounds complicated, but once implemented it's pretty quick and straight forward. Also, if you have a problem you will be VERY happy you can recover!

Cliff Wilson
On my POS computer, I use a utility called QuickSync that was included with the Iomega software package.

I keep a sync disk in the Zip drive all day and any time I save a change to any of the POS files, it is immediately copied to the Zip disk.

At the end of the day, I remove the disk, take it home, and copy it to the computer there.

I don't have to remember to copy the files to the Zip disk. It's automatic. The worst that can happen is that I might forget to take the disk home with me.

That happens 3-4 times each week.

I suspect that the "briefcase" program included with some flavors of Windows is a similar utility, but I've never actually fugured it out.

[ 08-20-2003, 01:31 PM: Message edited by: Ron Eggers ]
One of the problems that people have with backing up their data is that they don't know where all of it is. You have things in MyPictures, MyDocuments, MyWhatever, files from other software that writes it's data wherever it wants (accounting, email, word processing, graphics programs, POS software, you name it).

That can be complicated if you need your data in more than one location. In my prior life as a contract programmer, I would be away from home during the week and home only on the weekend. I needed to keep ALL my data in whichever place I was at the time. I have the same thing now because I keep all my data in sych between the computer in the store and my one at home.

This may not mean much to any of you just interested in backup but if you set it up for this, backups become trivial. There are several things that you need to do for this. If you do, then backups are easy.

The rules to follow (or at least my suggestions):

1. Create a directory on your drive that is for nonthing other than data. Mine is called otsi (OT Systems, Inc). Under it I have seperate directories for documents, spreadsheets, email, graphics, programming files (I still do some), accounting and other types. Every thing that I work on that I can save, goes into the otsi directory.

2. NEVER, EVER let the program decide where to place your data. Forget about MyWhatever directories. Any decently written program will allow it's files to be saved wherever you want. Many will also allow you to change the default directory to the one of your chosing. My otsi directory has all my files from quicken, MYOB, Outlook, Word, Excell, Photoshop and every other program I use. If your POS or other custom software won't allow you to decide where the data goes, then that is poor program design and you should complain to your vendor. Even programs that intially make their own decisions can be changed. Email programs are notorius for hiding your data. I use Outlook. There is no option in Outlook for where your data file goes. Microsoft puts it where it wants it. I discovered a trick that works for Outlook and Outlook Express. If the program can't find the file, it asks you where it is. I moved it where I wanted it, and the next time I opened Outlook it asked me where it was. I told it and now we are happy together.

3. Your data is now ready for your to do with as you please, not as your software pleases. You can copy it to any medium such as CD, zip, USP Hard Drive, etc. My otsi directory is currently about 350 MB. For backup, I write a CD. When I go to the store, I copy it to a 20G USB hard drive that I can plug in on either computer. Wherever I am, I can get my email or work on any file that I have. Another advantage of keeping the data in both places and on my USB drive is that it is allways backed up. I burn a CD about once a week but I don't have to worry in the meantime.

There are programs such as laplink, that will only copy the file that need to be copied from one drive to another. When I come home from the store, I may have modified only a few files. Laplink will copy only the changed files, not the entire 350 Meg.

Last week at the store (Actually an Antique Mall), one of the other vendors and I were talking about something that I had done a spreadsheet on 10 years ago. While we were talking, I opened up the file in my \otsi\xls directory where I hadn't looked at it in probably 5 years and several computers ago and won a convert to my data backup scheme.

BTW, another compelling argument for this style of data managment is moving to a new computer. Copy one directory and all your old data is now on the new. Painless.

One of the questions here is how many backups to keep. You never know how long you need things. I am networked at home and have a PC that is used basically as a file and print server. Hard drives are cheap. In addition to the CDs I burn, the networked PC has a copy of all my backups going back to 1996. I've pruned many of the incremental backups but I have about one for every month going back that far. Occasionally, I've needed to go back several years to look at things (my 1997 tax return for one). By keeping you backups like this you can prune unneeded files from your current data directory but still know that it is available. I go though my otsi directory about once a year and delete the deadwood knowing that it is still available if needed.

[ 08-20-2003, 03:41 PM: Message edited by: Larry Peterson ]
Another thing I like to evangelize to my all friends is called RAID - "Redundent Array of Inexpensive Disks". RAID used to be found only in large, high end servers but now can be found as options on new motherboards for home computers (my new cheap desktop for work, approx. $400, has it). And you can get HDs now for a buck a gig or less...

Basically, it allows you to take two (or more) hardrives and mirror them so that each time something get written to a drive it writes the data to both of them at the same time. If one drive happens to fail miserably on you, there's still a perfect copy.

You can also do other things like using two (or more) drives to make one huge drive, but another benefit in most cases is the sheer performance boost. While writing to two drives might be a little slower, it can read from both drives at the same time to be nearly twice as fast on disk access.
Raid is great and I use it for corporate clients (Netware and Windows servers with 15 or more users). It has a huge speed benefit, especially the SCSI flavor with 3 or more drives. IMO, it's a bit overkill for a single user.

RAID is not a substitute for backing up. That's still reallllly important. It'll protect you from a drive failure, but not data corruption/fire/theft. I've seen power supplies surge and take out all the drives in a raid configuration. (as well as the motherboard, etc)

Ironically, i'm working with a client's computer tonight - trying to salvage what I can from a dead hard drive. He had no backups at all, and so far i'm only getting about 50% of his stuff.

We still use our trusty floppies (14 of em, in a daily rotation). :0 I look forward to the day when we have a larger database that demands something better.

Raid is great and I use it for corporate clients (Netware and Windows servers with 15 or more users). It has a huge speed benefit, especially the SCSI flavor with 3 or more drives. IMO, it's a bit overkill for a single user.
I tell ya, once you go RAID, you never go back. I got the same warm fuzzy feeling the first time I booted XP on a RAIDed box as when I bought my first 3D graphics card. Everybody here in my department swears by RAID (and 3D cards)...

RAID is not a substitute for backing up. That's still reallllly important.
Yeah, definately... after using Microsoft's Visual Source Safe here at Wizard I've been using it at home to for all our important docs, personal websites, etc. And of course the VSS database gets backed up on tape every night..

For those who don't know what Source Safe is, it' a version control system that allows users to check files in and out to a database that tracks the changes made to the file, and allows you to post comments and labels and stuff. You can get earlier versions of a file in case a change was made that broke something or other.

I've heard rumors that MicroSoft is going to build file versioning directly into the operating system of the next big upgrade (currently "Longhorn"), should be interesting...
You're right -- I'd probably love Raid here on the home box. This machine has 5 120gb IDE drives, an 18gb scsi primary drive, a dvd burner, zip drive, cd reader, and cd burner. Speed isn't really a concern for me though...

I'll have to check out Source Safe!

Crikey!!! The most drive space I have in one box is 80 gigs. I can't imagine almost 2/3rds a terabytes in one box.. you must do video editing or something...

To be honest, over the last 14 years I've only had 2 drives go bad. Nowadays I tend to just get a new drive once a year, reinstall the latest OS and reinstall all my software.

Ron, yes, there will be a pop quiz at the end of the discussion. Please have your #2 ready (do kids these days still need pencils to take tests, or are they all on computer? My kid won't be taking real tests in school for a couple more years).
As an ex-programmer, I can give another vote for Visual Source Safe. It's one of the things in my otsi directory mentioned in my post above. I have all the source code for my web sites in VSS.

One of the major benifits of VSS is its ability to place tags on the versions of the files in it's archive and allow you to retrieve them. Let's say I create my first version of a web site, spreadsheet, whatever and I put it in VSS. Then I put a label on all the related files that I put in at the same timel say V1.0. When I make changes and put the new files in VSS I might label them V1.1. Each time I add changes to the archives and put them into production on a web site, I label all the current files (called the tip) with the same label.

Let's say I change 20 files on my site and put it in VSS labeled V1.3. A few days later I discovered that I might have made all those changed under the influence of (name your favorite poisen here) amd want to go back to the previous (or any) version. I can retrieve the old files out of VSS by label (Version 1.2) and put them into production. Let's now say that I'm not totally sure that the new files weren't correct but want to play around with the old files and keep those changes. VSS has a concept called a branch (think tree) where I make changes to V1.2 files and archive them in VSS as V1.2.1. Now I can choose between the V1.3 files and the branched V1.2.1 files.

A file can have more than one label. If you didn't change a file between releases V1.2 and V1.3 the same file would have both labels on it.

Files are stored in compressed and incremental format in VSS, so if you have a file with 20 changes, you don't have 20 times the file size.

To give an example, I was programming on a project at a major Wall Street bank in the 90's. The project was humongouse, involving more than 50 programmers. There were about 200 executibles (.exe, .dll, etc files ) in the final product. We had programmer's working on 3-4 new releases at the same time plus maintaining aout 4-5 production releases at once. During the development cycle of a release we would make daily tech builds (with a label like Rel4.3). Each day the programmer's would label all their latest code with this label. There was a dedicated PC for each release that did nothing but make builds. A tech build took 4-5 hours to build if there were no errors. When a release was in a position to be tested all the files with a Rel4.3 label would have an additional label of QA4.3.x put on the files and a build would be done for QA testing. The tech and QA builds would iterate (with resulting new labels for each) until a release was deemed suitable for production, when all the final QA files would be labeled Prod4.3 and a production build done on them. In the interim, programmers would be working on Rel4.4, Rel 4.5, etc, QA builds would be done on these, programmers would be doing maintenance programming on proir production releases like Prod3.5, Prod4.1, etc, and so forth. The entire effort consisted on thousands of files with probably millions of labels and an enourmous VSS archive. It may sound like licensed insanity but the entire thing worked because of VSS. Without it, they would probably still be working on the project.

What does all of that have to do with us. Absolutely, or probably, nothing. I just saw VSS in the post above and my geek side took over and started reminiscing. Sorry about that. I'll go away now.
Backup-schmackup! All you gotta do is just remember several gigabits of stuff, and type really fast...

No one-upmanship intended, but you oughta get a glimpse of some of the HDD's the Fone Company uses for it's switches and Voice Mail! Winchester used to make them, and they were about the size of a whole mini-tower.
Backup-schmackup! All you gotta do is just remember several gigabits of stuff, and type really fast...
That's the best idea yet!

No one-upmanship intended, but you oughta get a glimpse of some of the HDD's the Fone Company uses for it's switches and Voice Mail! Winchester used to make them, and they were about the size of a whole mini-tower.
I've seen some of that equipment at Verizon. They don't fool around

Back in the late 80s and early 90s I was responsible for administering two IBM mainframes, a Wang(be nice), and an AS400. Some of those drives were larger than refrigerators and held so little. These liquid cooled drives filled up a whole building and cost several million per year, just for the IBM maintenance plan. (we since migrated to a Novell Netware lan and wrote our own apps) Who would have believed that a PC would hold 10x more than a building full of those monsters, and do it so efficiently?

This thread is turning into a real geek-fest. I love it!
I resemble that remark!
Originally posted by Ron Eggers:
You gettin' all this down, Betty?

Yeah, I bought a can of that Raid stuff last week.

I'm getting ready to turn this over to my "in-house" system's analyst. He can talk AS400s with the best of 'em.

Seriously, I mentioned RAID to my husband last night, and he seemed suprised that I'd be reading about something like that on a picture framing forum.

But seriously, Betty. It's not so bad when a ya got guys, AND gals like Mike, Larry, Steve, WebGirl, ET AL, for us computer illiterates(ME at least) to ask questions!
That's one on the beauties of the G! There's almost always somebody who's more than qualified, and PERFECTLY willing to help with almost any problem we might encounter.(except Ron, of course, but don't tell him I said that...)

You guys and ladies are truly spectacular, and I for one, wanna thank you for helping ME when I start ranting about that PITA Gateway I have. (....did I tell you what happened when I did Windows Update yesterday??? Never mind. That's enough for a whole new bbs!)
But, really; Thanks all of you!
"True" RAID is still a relatively expensive proposition. Yes, you can get a M/B with a controller built in, but I believe you'll only find that in high end "workstations" and purpose-built server boxes. A controller card can set you back $500 to more than $2500. Then there are the SCSI drives - a lot cheaper than they were years ago, to be sure, but closer to $10/GB than $1.

That said, I have used an inexpensive IDE RAID setup on my servers ever since the day I lost a drive and my most recent available backup was from two days before. That was almost six years ago, and of course I haven't lost another drive yet. I almost wish I would, so I could revel in the satisfaction of knowing I had the upper hand that time....
I mean it when I say that this is fascinating from an academic point-of-view but, Betty, there's really only one thing you need to remember when backing up: Do not rely on your mirrors. Look over your shoulder and proceed very slowly so kids and other wildlife can get out of the way.

Okay, that's two - maybe three - things.

If you have a trailer, it's a whole 'nother matter.
"True" RAID is still a relatively expensive proposition. Yes, you can get a M/B with a controller built in, but I believe you'll only find that in high end "workstations" and purpose-built server boxes. A controller card can set you back $500 to more than $2500. Then there are the SCSI drives - a lot cheaper than they were years ago, to be sure, but closer to $10/GB than $1.
Au contraire, I think you'd be surprised at the prices you can find now..

From (my "go to" site for hardware) with shipping:

80GB EIDE Hard drive-7200 RPM: $64.90
73GB SCSI Hard drive-10K RPM: $153

Motherboard - AMD Athlon XP 333FSB upto 2800+, 6 USB2.0, Serial ATA150 Raid, 1394, AGP8X Video: $75.75

RAID card - Promise Fastrak S150TX2 Plus: $76 (and there's many of cheaper ones out there too).

Of course these are "build it yourself" prices, but still... on Pricewatch you can find complete systems now that are cheaper than the OS I'm running (XP Pro).

Is "the community" equating current IDE RAID technology to SCSI? I have to say, I am a bit nervous about my first HD crash, depending on IDE RAID. I know there have been a lot of people saying that it's not very reliable.

OTOH, if SCSI drive prices are that low, the controller becomes the only major factor.

Any further thoughts?
BTW, here is my backup scheme:

    What we were just talking about.</font>
  • Daily Internet Based
    $15/mo gives unlimited number of backups up to 2GB at an off-site location (mirrored in case your and their facility die at the same time). They use a format where only the changed portions of a file get sent, so once the initial backup is made there is very little info that gets sent, and it doesn't take long.</font>
  • Daily Local
    At the end of every day my entire Data drive gets copied to another computer on the network.</font>
  • Daily #2
    XP's System Restore. No, it's not the be-all and end-all, but one additional layer has been handy a few times (mostly with application installations gone wrong).</font>
  • Monthly
    My OS and Application drives get backed up to CD and taken home.</font>
Wow, you take this very seriously
Better safe than sorry!

I just do a weekly backup via the net to the home pc (this way I have a working copy of the POS to use for mailing list generation and quick price lookups), and the daily floppy based thing. Once in a blue moon a cdr copy.

IDE has a reputation for being VERY slow and easy to break, but the newer generation is catching up to SCSI as far as performance. I still use a SCSI for the C: and the slower drives are all 120gig WD IDE's(just used to store files). I picked up the 120 giggers for about $81 each.

Is "the community" equating current IDE RAID technology to SCSI? I have to say, I am a bit nervous about my first HD crash, depending on IDE RAID. I know there have been a lot of people saying that it's not very reliable.
I think it's due more to the lost cost of IDE and its ubiquitousness than anything else. I haven't personally heard anything specific about the unreliability of IDE RAID, but instead about the unreliability of certain models of drives.

Quickly goggle-ing SCSI vs. IDE RAID, I found this post from a guy at the Sloan Sky Survey (astronomers):

We here at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have ~18.5TB of IDE RAID arrays on
14 machines. The largest array we've built is 1.68TB, but you can build
larger using 160GB drives.
I also saw this from Hardware Central:
The popularity of SCSI is increasing rapidly, but this may be due to a misunderstanding. It is often thought that SCSI blows IDE away when it comes to performance. This is not necessarily true. Several factors must be considered when determining which type is better for you.

In most cases, IDE drive outperforms an equivalent drive in the SCSI format. This, coupled with the lesser costs, makes IDE a better choice. In some cases, though, SCSI is better.
Originally posted by Mike-L@GTP:
Wow, you take this very seriously
After having to re-enter two days worth of transactions I decided it wasn't something I ever wanted to do again.

The best part about it is that for everything but the monthly CD backups there is absolutely no user intervention required whatsoever. I do check the logs daily to make sure there was no problem, but that is probably not really required.
I think Framer should start a "computers, software and techie stuff" forum where you guys can talk about this all the time.

Oh. Never mind.