Small non-profit seeks automated backup for Windows file server
August 20, 2014 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Our organization recently bought a new file server (running Server 2012), but the old server probably has a few years of life remaining in it. I'd like to place the old server at the opposite end of the building and use it to host real-time backups through the LAN.

We already do nightly backups to external USB drives, but these backups are "dumb" and do not include versioning. Ideally, I'd like to implement an automated backup system that would have the following characteristics:
  • The backup would be done in real-time. Or, if real-time is not feasible, at least it would be done more often than just once per day.
  • Files that are locked (in use) would still be backed up.
  • Backups would be done with versioning, and I could specify the number past versions that would be saved.
  • Files that are deleted on the source would not be automatically deleted on the backup.
  • I could exclude certain filetypes and directories from being backed up.
  • The backup program would be freeware or open source, or at least would be reasonably priced.
  • The backup software should have enough of a user base that I can be fairly confident that it's reliable.
  • The OS on the backup server doesn't matter to me -- it can be Ubuntu, or FreeNAS, or Windows 7, or whatever.
I've tried Googling this myself, but my head is swimming with all the different options that are out there, and the pros and cons of all of them.
posted by alex1965 to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some things to keep in mind:
* You're replicating data, *not* backing it up. A (the?) major requirement of backup is that it's off-site.
* Backups should be redundant, meaning that you have many copies, so that you're protecting against temporary failures in the backup software and media.
* Also, if you're replicating a server, you're only protecting against hardware failure and inaccessibility. If you have a malware infection that encrypts all your files, you're immediately going to replicate that problem to the other server.
* File versioning and deleted items recovery is already built into Server 2012 (called File History, or Shadow Copies).

You'd get most of what you want using File History and DFS. DFS will replicate your file server to another server in the organization and provide high availability, so that if your primary server goes down, the secondary server takes over. End users don't see a difference in an outage. DFS is free and built-in to Windows. It does replicate deleted files, but File History mitigates this.

You could also use Robocopy to copy the files periodically using a script. Robocopy will only copy changed files.

There may be a simpler utility for doing all of this, but I'm not aware of what it might be. You might try ServerFault or Microsoft's TechNet Forums for this question.

Most small businesses just pay for backup software. If I were in a non-profit with no money, I'd do Crashplan as a last resort, in addition to multiple scheduled USB drive backups. Crashplan costs almost nothing and can be scheduled. It gives you file versions, and they'll send you a hard drive (for a fee) in a major disaster. I'd build redundancy into my servers (hard drives, power supplies, etc.) as opposed to using multiple copies for redundancy.
posted by cnc at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2014

Response by poster: cnc: Thanks for the tips. We do off-site backups in the sense that I rotate the external USB drives, and there is always one drive that's kept in a secure location off site.

I tried doing cloud-based backups, but our upstream bandwidth is only about 2 megabits per second, so it would get swamped for days whenever someone dumped a bunch of video files onto the server. Getting more bandwidth isn't really feasible at this point.

I should have specified that I don't have a second license for Server 2012, so I can't install it on the other server.
posted by alex1965 at 10:20 AM on August 20, 2014

Best answer: @alex You can definitely robocopy files to any Windows machine, and probably to any machine running SMB. There are file sync utilities (maybe FreeFileSync?) that will allow you to avoid writing scripts.

You can also set Crashplan to only run at certain times and to avoid specific file types.
posted by cnc at 2:09 PM on August 20, 2014

You can use Crashplan to backup between two different computers for free. Very simple.
posted by ssg at 9:10 PM on August 20, 2014

Response by poster: FreeFileSync seems like the best application to test first, so that's what I will do. Thanks for the tips.
posted by alex1965 at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2014

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