Keeping laptop backups in sync: Part 1

A significant amount of American companies' intellectual property exists on laptops and desktops that aren't being properly backed up -- if they're being backed up at all. Two myths are allowing this condition to exist. First, IT decision-makers don't realize how much data resides on unprotected laptops and desktops.

Second, they perceive that backing up desktops and laptops isn't easy to do -- or even impossible. This series attempts to debunk both of these myths. It will also include two methods that an individual user can use to easily and automatically create a backup for their machine. I'll also discuss one method for Linux and one for Windows users.

When discussing the possibility of backing up desktops or laptops, a common response from IT management may be: "We don't back up the C: drive on desktops or laptops. Users should save anything important onto the H: drive. We back up that server."

There are many flaws with this methodology -- the biggest is human nature. If your desktop runs Windows, it takes extra effort to save files to a network drive. While some Microsoft applications can save files elsewhere, many applications default to the "My Documents" directory. Users must perform an extra step to save the files in the appropriate location. Some applications -- such as Outlook - always want to save files in a particular location, resulting in many important files being saved locally.

Network drives can be slower than a local drive, causing users

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to save the working copy of their documents locally. Their intention is to copy the file to the network drive once they are done, but this is often forgotten. Again, many important files -- especially current versions of those files -- are saved locally on the users' desktop.

Linux and Unix users don't have this problem -- Unix has a home directory that can reside anywhere. This is the default location for new files. Even so, some files -- especially large files -- don't perform well when stored on an NFS server. NFS file systems aren't available if users aren't connected to the corporate LAN. For these reasons, some Unix users store some of their files locally.

View Part 2: Keeping laptop backups in sync -- Incremental backups

This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.

About the author

W. Curtis Preston is the president of The Storage Group. He is the author of Unix Backup and Recovery and Using SANs and NAS.

This was first published in February 2003

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