back to article Where has all the bad storage gone?

Spare a thought for the humble storage columnist looking for targets to skewer. It's a tricky job if you want to sound off - everything is just so basically good these days, and with no stand-out dismal products, what is there to knock? It was different a few years ago. Ever tried backing up your PC to Travan tape? I made that …


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  1. Colin Millar

    Don't know about vista

    but xp has a backup facility that does all this.

    Here's an idea - if you like mac software - why don't you NOT use windows.

  2. Ian


    Dear storage journalist.

    I can help you with your woes.

    Just look for anything with a Maxtor hard drive in it whether it be a PC, a NAS box or a removable drive. This will give you plenty to pounce upon as Maxtor drives as still to this day the pinnacle of utter shiteness and super-high failure rates.

    Your job is not obsolete yet.



  3. Paul Bruneau

    Any better ideas?

    You came upon the better idea in your column...stop using Windows.

  4. Tom Smith Silver badge
    Gates Halo


    I think Windows Home Server does something like what you want:

    Although I'll admit that is a bit of a pain in the arse compared to Time Machine, but having a dedicated server backing up your other computers automagically is nice.

  5. Peter Kay


    Either use an online backup provider if you *really* trust them, or use tape. OK, so tape isn't that cheap if you want to backup a terabyte of hard drive but frankly - how often do you need to do that - most data is static. With the right hardware tape is cheap, efficient and a lot more shock proof than removable drives. It won't last forever, but neither will hard drives.

    Leaving all your data in one place as per time machine, is not entirely sensible.

    From a consumer point of view, an online backup makes a tremendous amount of sense, but I can understand people being too stingy or lazy to buy into it.

    There was also nothing wrong with Travan - it worked. Like any other technology you have to design your backup strategy though - which usually means overnight.

  6. Dr. Ellen
    Thumb Up

    Windows Backup

    I got a Buffalo 500-gig external drive. It came with Memeo Autobackup software. It works, lets you save as many copies/versions of a file as you designate (great for writers!), and does it without your intervention. Saved my data several times so far. Works just fine on Windows XP.

  7. Martin Gregorie

    Just use rsync

    Rsync is the obvious choice if you don't mind writing a script to specify exactly what you want to back up: you need only do this once. Then simply start the script before heading for the pub. Or let your scheduler take care of running it.

    Rsync is free, available for Windows as well as *nixen and fast. My weekly full system backup takes about 12 minutes, though the initial backup will take some time. Its fast because it only does the minimum work needed to keep your backup disk synchronised with your system disk.

    It can either back up to a locally attached disk (USB, etc) or across a network: since the backup is a duplicate of the system disk, drag'n drop handles individual file recovery. Of course you can use rsync itself to recover a whole disk.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Nothing can beat using VCRSAV & VCRRES on an AMOS32 system. My hair didn't even have the time to go grey, since I'd torn it out by then.

  9. Mark
    Thumb Up


    Jungledisk will get it all done albeit remotely - after all, why have the backup in the same place as the machine itself? If you want very safe and don't need that fast access it's a very good candidate.

  10. Albert Stienstra

    Vista does have

    Windows Vista Ultimate has a backup and restore utility, both for entire computer disc images and for files. Media to be decided by the user; external USB drive works fine. No sex though; who needs that with a computer? It does strike me that everyone on this blog has something to say about Windows but nobody appears to know it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shadow Copy

    You can shadow copy onto another drive. Its under the drive settings in "My Computer".

  12. Cris Wilson

    RAID 1

    RAID 1 , what more do you need?

  13. myxiplx

    Apple + virtualbox

    If you want an easy backup solution for Windows, use Apple's Time Machine :D

    Buy yourself a Mac, get your backups working, then install VirtualBox and setup shared folders. Store all your windows files in your shared folder and it'll all be backed up automatically by Time Machine. If you want to be really thorough, redirect your Desktop and My Documents folders so they're stored in that shared folder. I haven't actually tested this with VirtualBox, but the theory is sound.

    Best solution all round really. A better OS, more secure web browsing, but you still have windows available when you need it.

  14. Jo-mo
    Thumb Up

    Windows does have several backup options

    Vista has a backup and restore center, which can be found in control panel. Windows 7 has expanded this further and made it better, outlined in the link below:

    AFAIK, you can back up to optical media, hard disks, and network folders, and schedule it however often you want. You can also back up your system image in the process, so it isn't just your user files/data.

    There's also Windows Home Server, which offers a whole host of options too.

    I'm not sure if any of the windows options have the capability of storing files from different dates, but otherwise, it does exactly the same job as Time Machine.

  15. Steve

    VHS backup

    I had one of these 4 my old Amiga 1200 Think Power Computing was selling that at the time for 60quid which was good for teh time :-)

    It did tis job but god it was boring



    CrashPlan ( offers automatic online backup. It's free for personal use, and you can backup to a drive on another computer (Mac or PC) and that could either be on your local network or attached to a friend's computer over the Net. If you need to do a restore you can even take your friend's drive and plug it in to your computer to speed things up (saves waiting for Internet speed download of your entire drive). They also offer an inexpensive central storage subscription (cheaper than BT, with greater capacities). If you are paranoid you can back up to multiple destinations. The installation is a doddle and you can easily check/uncheck folders to backup, and control bandwidth/server usage.

  17. Craig

    Windows Home Server

    Yes, it's a server rather than a software solution, but I really like it. It backs up my desktop, laptop, media center PC automatically, and restoring the whole OS is very easy if things go wrong. Restoring a file is a little slow, but nicely done once it's up to full speed.

    The added benefits of a server is it can also sit there serving up all my media, with access via the web as well locally.

  18. Tom Paine


    Cisco Netslug box (NSLU2) with Bacula on the client ->fast, incremental backups over the network, via an ssh tunnel. Doesn't help you if your house burns down of course, but covers a broken disk and some burglaries where the ne'er-do-well in the stripey jumper nicks your PC (or Mac) but fails to notice the discrete box in the attic or cupboard under the stairs where your photos, etc., are backed up.

  19. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Another vote for rsync

    Been using it for years.

  20. Tom


    it's free, it's highly configurable and it works. Coupled with an external drive it's even convenient enough for a lazy git like me.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Two cheap external drives and

    robocopy for the win!

  22. Tim Bergel

    NAS boxes will repay attention

    Why not try getting an NAS box to work reliably with lots of reads and writes going on form all sorts of software - ie real situations. It should be easy but there certainly appear to be enough problems to keep you busy for a while.

  23. Martin
    Thumb Down

    Microsft's new backup

    Want a bad product? Check out the "backup" solution that ships with Windows Server 2008(and I think Vista, I haven't dared brave that quagmire for long enough to check). Gone is the simple yet flexible NT backup, replaced by what can only be considered a cruel joke. Want to backup, say, just your OS on a schedule? You have to dedicate an entire drive for it, even if you only need 20gigs or so, and you don't get to choose what to backup. Just entire drives. That drive then disappears to the operating system. Recovery? Who knows how well that will work.

    For some stupid reason you CAN backup just what you want, and not dedicate a drive for it, but YOU CAN"T SCHEDULE IT! SO you either get to schedule an invisible backup taking an entire extra drive, or you can pick what and where you want it, but you have to redo it manually every time. Even MS admitted in a posting on a blog somewhere that this was a have cocked rushed beta of a backup program.

    And don't even get me started on their new disk defragmenter . . .You want shoddy products? Just go hang with Redmond for a while. Didn't their "home server have massive data corruption problems to?

    Now off to upgrade firmware on a bunch of Seagate drives. No bad storage anymore???. . .look around.

  24. Ian Ferguson
    Jobs Halo

    Perfect solution

    I run Windows under Parallels in MacOSX on my iMac - possibly the perfect solution, if you must use Windows. Not only is the whole virtual machine backed up automatically with Time Machine - but I can save copies of the Windows image should I want to try something and maybe roll back. I'm guessing it would also work with Linux, or even previous versions of MacOS, if you're particularly methodical about programming for backward compatibility.

    Time Machine is simply glorious - my MacBook died an ignomious death on the weekend as it was rattling around my motorbike's top box - which it has done many times before, but I must have gone over a few too many sleeping policemen this time, as the hard drive is buggered and the LCD disconnected. However - I know for a fact that it last connected to Time Machine on Friday - and when I plug the repaired laptop back in, it will restore perfectly.

    I am now smugness personified.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    To the idiot who said RAID1

    One day you'll find out the difference between RAID and backups.

    (Unsubtle Hint: with a RAID setup, what happens if you or a piece of software (such as MS WIndows Home Server [1]) accidentally corrupts or deletes a file you wanted to keep? You've still got a copy on your BACKUP, right? Oh, you thought RAID and backups were the same thing? Pillock. Mind you, there's a lot of it about.


  26. bluesxman

    RE: RAID 1

    On its own, RAID is not a backup strategy -- it's an improved availability and/or performance strategy.

    Your straightforward RAID1 volume is only good right up until the moment a file gets corrupted by the operating system or an application. Your mirror will be a perfect copy of the corrupted data. Handy.

  27. Paul Bruneau

    AMOS32 !??!!?

    OMG I thought I was the only one who had ever worked on this beast!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Forget Windows. OpenSolaris (or Mac) with ZFS, a bunch of cheap disks, and the Time Slider.

  29. Tom Cooke

    Even better Mac Backup

    (yes, I remember Travan, still have the tapes in the loft!)

    I use SuperDuper for Mac, brilliant program - OK, so my iBook hard drive is only 40 GB or some Jurassic size, but it holds all my e-stuff since about 1980 (I don't use an iPod, or take many digital pics). So I bought an 80GB external USB drive and a 32GB Flash stick, and do a full backup to each once using SuperDuper (maybe 8 hours a pop), then a daily incremental alternately to each, takes maybe 30 minutes with auto-shutdown at the end so it's click the button and go to bed.

    House sets on fire, I grab the USB stick and I'm good.

  30. Ian North

    RE: RAID 1

    Cris Wilson, RAID1 is not a replacement for a backup, merely a complement to it. It won't protect you against file or operating system corruption, it won't protect you if your computer gets destroyed or stolen. Solely relying on RAID 1 for disaster protection is an exercise in foolishness.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @RAID 1

    What more do you need?

    Some way of retrieving your data when the mirrored drives become corrupted.

    A way of accessing data that has been deleted several weeks ago.

    A backup that is not in the same computer, room or building that just had a fire, flood or accident involving lots of coffee, beer, urine, blood.

    Raid is for reliability through redundancy (24-7 access even in the event of disk failure) it is NOT for backup.

  32. Richard Conto

    Backup, Archive, Recovery

    I've got Time Machine serving two Macs, a MacBookPro (over wireless) and a PowerMac G5 (wired). The disk is attached to an Airport Extreme.

    The MacBookPro never gives me problems, but I'm not backing up a lot. The PowerMac is another matter. The "sparse bundle" disk image gets corrupted every few months and I then have to spend 18 hours re-initializing it with a fresh backup (currently, 250G.) Both backups are to the same disk on the Airport Extreme.

    I'm only backing up User space. I see Time Machine as an archive/recovery mechanism, not a disaster backup/recovery.

    Has anyone successfully used Time Machine to recover an entire system? I'd like to know if anyone has set up Time Machine and then managed to recover what they needed after Time Machine had been running for several months.

  33. Chris

    Time Machine on a MS system?

    An intriguing concept. Maybe MS will have enough sense to have it check the backup media is still THERE before it does its 'backup'.

    (Comment is a result of a Leper Mac failing to realise that the external drive it was 'backing up' to had actually FAILED some two weeks previously! Now that's what I call user friendly backup...)

  34. Greg Kerr
    Paris Hilton

    RAID, online

    @ Cris Wilson

    RAID 1 isn't really backup, it's more redundancy for continued operation in the event of a disk failure. It doesn't protect against file corruption, virus damage, accidental deletion and catastrophes like office fires, raptor attacks, black helicopters deploying EMP weapons, Paris Hilton messing with your RAID settings, magnetic hamster infestations, localised yoghurt tsunamis etc

    @ Chris Mellor.

    I back up onto an external hdd regularly but I also back up online (not using the C word!). I use Carbonite, have to say I am quite impressed. $49 per machine per yr for UNLIMITED online backup that's automatic. Appears in My Computer in Windows and all files targeted for backup are marked with a status dot in Windows Explorer so you can see what is backed up.

  35. Francis Fish

    Flyback anybody?

    Haven't tried to get this working on Windows. Suspect if you installed cygwin and python, or possibly even just the GNU tools and the Windows version of python it will work. It just works for me on my Linux machine...

    Poor man's Time Machine but then ...

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Where has all the bad storage gone?

    Buy a 1GB Seagate HDD and find out ;-)

  37. Steven Knox
    IT Angle


    Title: Where has all the bad storage gone?

    Page 1: a review of bad BACKUP tools from the past

    Page 2: drooling over Time Machine, Apple's BACKUP tool.

    Is it too much to ask that an article with STORAGE as the subject of the title actually be about STORAGE?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Time Machine / Tiger

    Hmmm.... me thinks you had/have Leopard. not Tiger. No Time Machine in Tiger...

    Paris, because I live there.

  39. Ian Ferguson

    Re: Backup, Archive, Recovery

    Yes, I've used Time Machine to recover an entire system, several times.

    Even better - a few weeks ago I bought an iMac, and wanted to move everything from my MacBook to it - documents, music, identity, applications, everything. On the initial setup, I just selected 'move from a Time Machine backup' rather than move from another computer - and half an hour later, my iMac was an exact mirror of my MacBook. Wonderous stuff.

    I've just realised the original article misses something important - ZIP disks! How could you forget such things? When I was at university, it was the enforced standard of data transfer. My God, they were bloody awful things. Remember the click of death? There were all kinds of reasons why a disk would suddenly stop working, inevitably the one with your PhD thesis backup.

    The only saving grace of ZIP disks was the eject mechanism - carefully angled, the drive could fire the disk across the desk...

  40. Captain Thyratron

    RAID controller failure?

    In the context of RAID, it seems as though everybody assumes that the only parts of a RAID array which can fail are the disks; yet, twice I've heard of incidents wherein the RAID controller card itself failed and simply hosed all the disks.

    In particular, the machine which stores user account information at the computer center from which I'm posting this was host to such a calamity in the fall of 2007. Were it not for incremental tape backups, everything of which users hadn't made their own copies would have been lost.

    Even if there were no software problems or accidental deletion, RAID still does not amount to a backup. RAID serves only to increase uptime for servers by protecting them from disk failures. To depend on it for anything more is unwise.

  41. Rob Daglish


    I haven't tried to schedule it, but synctoy isn't bad for a freebie. That or 2BrightSparks SyncBack, or AllWay Sync.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RAID won't save your neck

    Had a RAID 5 system in place I used to work. 'twas RAID, who needs backups, eh? We didn't!

    Drive failed and because no-one there knew anything about it, very nearly lost the lot - all the company data, which (as we were a data collection company in essence) meant losing all our clients' data.

    Big clients - biiiiiig clients! You know them all! Expensive data! - totally fucking !!!expensive!!!

    Phoned 2 of my ex-workmates who came in immediately (though thoroughly pissed), and worked until 5AM to get it back up, and they succeeded just in time.

    My boss whined "but it's RAID! how could this happen?".

    IT manager got sacked, in stages. Kind of death by a thousand demotions.

    I could understand how our company could be so crap, I don't understand how our clients could review our IT infrastructure and sign it off as OK.

    There endeth the lesson.

  43. Another Anonymous Coward

    External hard disk any good?

    Works for me, no problems - seagate freeagent drive that comes with a bit of easy backup software that automatically backs up any folders I select at any time.

    I have it spend a few minutes every night backing up the stuff I've been working on that day, and have a seperate weekly backup of the entire hard disk.

    There is always the risk that both the external and internal drives will fail at the same time, but that's incredibly unlikely. Pretty easy, and most external drives come with some sort of backup widget that does the job.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @ AC 20:29

    Ah... I recognize the scenario you describe.

    Is it publicly funded by any chance? Run by experts that have not a clue?

  45. Kanhef

    re RAID

    As many others have mentioned, mirroring your data is not an effective backup strategy. On the other hand, backing up *to* a RAID1 is good if you're concerned about a backup drive failing. Or use a RAID0-like setup, where snapshots are written to alternating drives, to minimize the damage from data corruption.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @@ AC 20:29

    > Is it publicly funded by any chance?

    Nope, private company as were all their supposedly hi-tec corporate-goliath clients.

    > Run by experts that have not a clue?

    I... Just don't know how to answer that. I guess the answer's no and yes respectively. Like most companies they were very IT-ignorant, and indifferent to that ignorance.

    Should mention, that almost-wipeout taught them to make offsite backups - and nothing else. Nothing.

  47. Ronny Cook


    ShadowProtect from StorageCraft can snapshot your disk image every 15 minutes and you can roll back to any snapshot (mounting the backup as a drive letter or under an existing directory).

    Very nice to use, although I've only used the server flavours.

    Its main problem is that it always backs up the entirety of any disk, so if you have a lot of applications installed it can be fairly inefficient.

    I don't work for StorageCraft or any of their resellers, have just used their product.


  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another vote for rsync

    I have no idea what this article is going on about, it has been cheaper to buy another disk and use rsync for ages.

    All this time machine, cloud backup stuff, windows, mac stuff just goes right over my head, I feel a right luddite, and out of the loop :)

  49. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Almost funny

    Except that, as noted, this article is not about storage, but about backup tools.

    What I find hilarious is that the author had trouble creating CD backups. Come on, Nero was good enough and all you needed was to create your disk image and burn it. Not that hard.

    But of course, I understand that it is much less sexy than the Call Of Jobs' Software, so you had to find an excuse to use it, and you end up accusing CD burning. Fair enough. And I do agree that a single-core Windows platform had best be left alone when burning an optical disk. Fortunately, multi-core has since come to the market.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to backup, I don't care about sexy, I want efficient. And creating/burning a DVD image is efficient enough for me.

  50. Chris Mellor

    Vista's backup is pretty good

    Sent to me:-

    You mentioned in this article that Vista doesn't have a real backup. However, Vista Ultimate (and I think the enterprise version) definitely has an outstanding backup ability.

    The backup in Vista goes to any location you want: HDD, network share, or DVD. I'll ignore DVD due to the limited size.

    The backup uses a single-instance-store of any given sector. Thus, the first backup takes a bit of time, but the remaining backups are quite fast. Also, the restore process actually works. You can restore your machine from a standard Vista installation DVD.

    Please update your article, and try it out. It's already saved my bacon a few times.

    Caveat: Yes, I work at Microsoft. No, I did not work on the backup solution. Yes, I know there are shortcomings. But, at least give partial credit... :)

    = = = = = = =

    Happy to do so with this comment.


  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Top level recap: RAID for online continuity, tape backup for offline save your arse, and off-systems disk for nearline with perhaps a side order of deduplication if you want to be a bit flash (hint: armour plate your dedup index).

    Main thrust of the article: no bad storage? Maybe your test budget is a bit small... there's plenty out there.

    BTW, RAID5 is a disaster wating to happen* (RAID10 if you must), and fair point re:RAID controller** going tits-up: you don't get redundant RAID controllers... thats when you mandate clustered systems with independent disk controllers, or failover infrastructure e.g. VMware etc.

    * RAID5 does not EVER check parity on read: when you write the garbage sector back garbage

    parity will be calculated and your RAID5 integrity is lost

    ** SCSI reserves blocks for remapping when disk sectors get flaky; they don't report these

    back to the OS; when they're used up, it start writing garbage (now refer to the * section)

  52. Gaius


    Problem with rsync is: if a file becomes corrupt, you overwrite your good backup copy. Time Machine avoids this; you just go grab the version from one hour before the corruption occurred, or the last known good time.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul Bruneau

    Yes, there were once amos32 users. I quite liked it, actually. Except for vcrsav & vcrres, of course. And then there was dskpak, which always started yet another pass just when you thought (or hoped) the damn thing had finished. The rdbms (IMS) was pretty good, though.

  54. Nigel

    @Gaius - re rsync

    Rsync does not by default overwrite. It writes new, then deletes (unlinks) old.

    Pedantry, one might think. But not so. In fact, Linux offers the means to roll your own time machine. The key to this is cp -al to create a hardlink farm duplicating the current state of your backup, then rsync to update the hardlink farm. Files that have changed will be updated, but the original will still be accessible through the original link, and won't get deleted until its link count reaches zero.

    See for a good explanation.

    As to why no Windows time machine? I'd guess that NTFS is not a linux-like FS with inodes and hardlinks, which therefore can't easily support this sort of magic. Not that I'd regard "backup" to the same hard disk, or even the same system, as what I'm backing up from, as secure. The backup disk needs to be far enough away that it won't be stolen by the same thief, nor destroyed by the same flood or fire.

  55. VoiceOfRaisin

    I'd bet my lunch...

    ...that Apple uses the techniques described here:

    I've used a variation of this on Linux for years, but it should be OK on Windows (there is a section in the FAQ about some cygwin rsync issues, but there are workarounds). This has saved my bacon several times, as I have suffered from more than my fair share of hard-drive failures (actually the reason I read this misleadingly titled article).

    How it works is fully described if you follow the link, but in summary, each backup stores a complete snapshot of the filesystem, but unchanged files are simply linked. If you're canny, you can have daily backups, with hourly snapshots since the last daily, and 5-minute backups since the last hourly. You therefore need never lose more than 5 minute's work.

    For typical usage patterns, where most of a disk is unchanged, a backup drive about twice the size of the live drive can store backups going back several years, even if snapshots are taken every 5 minutes. All snapshots can be accessed just like a live filesystem. Comparing two versions of a file is simplicity itself, and file recovery is just a simple file copy.

    Of course, there's no slick GUI, but once it's up and running, there's no need for any UI at all - it just works, and because the backups are live filesystems, you can access files in the snapshots using whatever software you want.

  56. Alan Brown

    Replication is not backup either!

    Ditto on the comments about raid, but simply using rsync or other techniques to copy your files to a remote drive isn't a backup strategy either.

    What happens when the file you just copied turns out to be corrupt? You need an older version.

    How many older versions do you need? In one case where a telco killed their system, they had to go back 14 MONTHS to find data images for a phone exchange that weren't corrupted, then wind in all the incremental changes over a 4 week period. Meantime 90,000 people had dodgy phone service (I was one of them)

    Home backups are a pain in the a***, primarily because of media fragility and where to keep it safely (backing up 1Tb+ onto DVDs is a no-go, big tapes are pricey and hard drives are touchy)

    For $orkplace I use Bacula, but I'm backing up several tens of Terabytes with it and have all the right gear (tape robot, fibre, giant data safe, blah blah etc ) to go with it.

    Bacula's fairly simple to setup for home use. It doesn't have a whizzy gui and you need a propellor beanie to set it up, BUT it works really well.

    The online services seem like a good idea, modulo the question of "can you trust them?" - encypting your data BEFORE it goes upstream might solve that though - but you still have the issue of blowing your data cap every time you make a full backup. :(

    Mine's the one with the tinfoil beanie in the shoulder pocket.

  57. Anonymous Coward

    Tar cvf ... ...

    mine's the one with the unix manual in the pocket.

    Err... pockets.

  58. Paul Bruneau

    @Bert Ragnarok, AMOS user

    I programmed AMOS from 1995 until about 1999. We had the VCR tapes lying around from the past, but I didn't have to use them. We had a DAT drive by the time I got there :)

  59. BlueGreen

    @Replication is not backup either!

    re. corrupt backups discovered rather too late, I had a similar experience about ten years ago. Fortunately it was a prototype systems and we only had to go back six days, so it was a very cheap lesson: always (where size permits) do a consistency check of your DB before backup.

    I've pushed that policy on management wherever I've worked since.

    It does leave a question though; never mind disks failing, most people make the unwarranted assumption that what's written to a disk is what you told it to write, and I don't believe it. Disks are probabilistic devices (like any physical device) so you can't assume that. A consistency check as mentioned above will catch many of those write failures but not all, and consistency means only consistency - it doesn't mean the data is what you gave it. To be fair, it usually does and when it doesn't it will be most likely be single bit flips in the major bulk of the data such as a phone number, not the relatively tiny and very much more fragile DB metadata which would be caught by a consistency check.

    Short of more complex error detection & correction everywhere from the mobo to the disk platter (which I'd gladly pay for, in money and performance), I don't know how to compensate for this. I don't think RAID does; it seems only there to compensate for disk crashes, not bit/sector/whatever errors.

    Any thoughts?

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't believe nobody has linked to this yet


    This counts as another vote for rsync.

  61. F Seiler

    re: Synctoy? By Rob Daglish

    I used SyncToy scheduled with the normal windows scheduler at work to copy the work on my local disk to a share on a server which had some kind of "go back to time X mode" (not sure what, but not windows based). Yes the SyncToy is nice, but it has its limitations too (apart from it alone not being a real back up, but when copying to ZFS or similar it can be part of one).

    My work folders were not particularly lage, maybe 20GB max, but contained a lot of files (source code, test file sets).

    The bloody thing spent usually some 20minutes figuring out what it had to copy over, thereby pushing the CPU really hard, more or less regardless of how much changed. Usually it then did the actual "sync" in considerably less time than it before spent on figuring out what to do.

    I suspect that the destiation was on a remote machine (LAN) didn't help, but still i think there must be better algorithms out there than what SyncToy uses to "analyze". Anyway, MS presented it a simple tool to sync "one or multiple folders", but i can't rember they ever said it was designed to sync a whole jungle of folders and text files over LAN :)

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Why Time Machine works

    Time Machine takes away the constant battle of effort trying to decide what needs backing up and how to back it up - it turns your disk from being a hard-drive with files and directories into more like the idea non-techies have of what that disk is, a place that stores everything you do and allows you to go back to old versions simply if you need to. That it also helps when the hardware is upgraded, lost or broken is even better.

    I'm sure all the readers are aware that the weakest link in any backup strategy is the fleshy button-prodder. Apple have looked at the problem in terms of people who are used to the browser recording every site they've visited and the word-processor remembering every change they made to a document (more or less, depending on things like whether the program was quit out of or not) (anybody remember the apocryphal "some users" tale of the man with one huge word doc of every document he'd ever written?) but somehow when things are written to disk (or "memory" depending on the level of understanding) they can get corrupted, lost etc.

    I like Apple's design strategy for these things - I've always used various unixes (including inevitably now some godawful linux) at work, when I go home I want to use a computer that's taken care of all the things I have to worry about in the office. I don't want another job at home, I want a computer that has tried to save me from worrying about them. Adding backups and transfers to the list of these things that have been thought out and essentially just work is as good to me as when the iPod worked out that spinning a wheel was a great way to browse through my albums along with the breakthrough that software I used to play mp3s on the computer would also be the software that would copy them to the iPod.

    Backing up isn't hard when it's a job or a hobby ... but when you just want it to work while living in blissful ignorance (I can't make the car engine metaphor here because it's overused and truthfully I do have more understanding of how they work than is helpful in most situations, but normally this is where that cliche creeps in) it's easier to ignore it and hope for the best than try to weigh up the options, formulate a plan (do I need to backup weekly, daily, monthly ?!) and remember how to get stuff back from backup, how to search and find the version / file I want to restore and many other things that Time Machine has essentially solved.

    To backup, plug in backup disk. To backup continually leave disk attached to computer. To restore (while backup disk attached - or capsule is switched on, for the wireless version), find/search document then hit Time Machine button to go back in time to before you broke it. Would you rather explain this to your parents or how to use rsync ? (Assuming you could get them over the shock of saying "arse-ing" so very many times.)


  63. Mike

    Backups today are a joke

    Honestly, backups anymore are a joke. You don't like Vista's shadow copy? How can you honestly make it easier than opening the entire drive or folder up in the exact same format as the drive itself. Oh wait, it isn't pretty and doesn't have rainbow flags on it? I'm sorry.

    1996: Tape backups. Ugh. Slow, and you couldn't use your computer for several hours. Set it overnight and leave it running, assuming you could actually sleep through the racket.

    1998: The glory of CD burning came to computers. Sure it was 2x and took 36 minutes to burn a single disc, and if you so much as surfed the Internet it would break, but it was faster than tape backup and didn't require software for other computers to read the files.

    2000 or so: Buffering technology which prevented coastering of CDs, and fast enough computers to handle the load. Also DMA Mode for optical drives. Drives that were fast and could burn a whole CD in 3 or 4 minutes.

    2002: Jumpdrives which let you quickly copy data and take it to another computer. No software required.

    2004: DVD burners start becoming affordable and mainstream. Now instead of 700 megabytes, you can burn 4.7 gigabytes for about the same price.

    2009: DVD burners and jumpdrives are the primary backup media. For truly large things, external hard drives are available.

  64. Goran Garevski

    Where has all the usability gone?

    Home data protection should be all about usability (assuming it works). I can understand that El Reg readers are a bunch of techies, but after years of (perl)scripting during your life – you get sick of building a new plane each time you want to fly (especially because you are the only pilot). While Time Machine addresses pretty much the backup usability aspect, I would expect that in the future there will be the ultimate file recovery interface – an advanced content based search.

    Implementing similar solution for Windows does not introduce major technical challenges. The scary parts are the patents. What is the situation here?

  65. Lottie
    Thumb Down


    I was assuming this was going to be an article about what disks to avoid/ the history of how they have become more reliable. We got a bitch about tape storage and then an advert for Apple.


  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another one

    I was looking for this one, but nobody has picked it up: How about Lazy Mirror?

    it's here:

    Maybe there is something horribly wrong with it - (like, gee, RAID5's lack parity on read).

    If Lazy Mirror is offensive to the cognoscenti, I will stop using it (as soon as I have shut down all my RAID5 arrays).

    Why I don't use Time Machine: I hate single button mice and don't need a lecture on the efficiency of using control keys. Sure, I remember ^K^K^B and ^C/^V but why do I have to use them?

    Single button mice are just one example of the Orwellian Mac universe. There are plenty of others. Remember the PowerPC chip? RISC good/CISC bad? Oops. Forget I said that. Repeat after me: CISC good/RISC bad. PC vs mac ads? A company that needs to promote bigoty against users of competing products is just plain evil.

    And in the end it's just an effing tool.

    Get a life. It just works better than arguing about computers.

    No, I'm not arguing about computers with you. Or am i? Is black white?


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