The place for nonprofits, charities, and libraries

Backup, backup, backup. Share strategies, tools, and practices.

Backup, backup, backup. Share strategies, tools, and practices.

  • This month, TechSoup will be running four articles to help organizations choose the best backup solutions and best practices for their needs. We'll cover the policies and tips on developing standards in your office to the different local, remote, and hosted options out in the marketplace so you can review for your needs.

    We'll post the links as they become live in this thread, but we wanted to invite you to share your tips on how to create good backup systems at your nonprofit.

    With natural disasters always looming and littler disasters (like that co-worker who tends to lose stuff) happening every day, backing up is super important to keeping your organization running smoothly no matter what.

    What are your favorite backup tools? Do you use on-site backup and change out tapes every day? Do you rely on a hosted service like iBackup or Mozy? What stuff do you back up? Do you include people's mobile devices or your website? How do you decide?

    Discuss strategies, tools, tips and tricks here so everyone can get their backup systems in tip-top shape  -- hopefully before they ever need them. Check back here for more coming soon!

    Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at
    @bajeckabean on Twitter

  • Backup technology has turned on its head in recent years, and this is a good thing. Whereas in the recent past, backup to tape was standard practice and taking those tapes home at night was standard practice, it isn't anymore. We have so many more options now. Tape had a lot of issues. We had to keep after the backup to make sure it was still working. We had to replace tapes regularly. Even with careful maintenance the best the tape industry had to offer was a 30% failure rate. Having 30% of backups be unreadable just isn't acceptable anymore.

    Through new technology, we now have much better options. 

    • We have image based backup. Not only does this backup your entire PC or Server but it let's us restore it in a fraction of the time, than a restore from tape. Further, we can restore that backup to any computer and it will be identical to the orginal one. This allows you to kill two birds with one stone and utilize your backup in business continuity situations.
    • Everyone backs up to disk now. The better systems have drive cartridges like your tapes where you push them and pull them out just like the old tapes, except disks have a much lower failure rate and longer lifespan.
    • We have automated off-site storage. It is no longer a requirement that someone be responsible for your entire company and be subject to the liability of holding all of your organizations confidential information in their purse. Instead automated off-site storage makes a local copy of your data while sending a remote copy to a secure location (encrypted) over the Internet. And it doesn't have to be expensive. 

    The bad news is that in 10 years of owning my consulting business, I have yet to meet with a new client and find their backup system working. What ever you choose, please make sure that backup is the highest priority item for the person maintaining your computer system.

    Amy Babinchak - Harbor Computer Services 


  • You failed to list idrive as an offsite backup option. I used Mozy for a while but needed to back up mapped drives and Mozy doesn't handle that. idrive does and is as simple and reliable as Mozy. See

    I'm finding that backing up staff email is taking the largest chunk of backup space and time. Steps need to be taken to educate staff in how to purge obsolete and bloated emails.

  • MozyPro does let you backup mapped drives.  MozyHome does not.  I didn't know about idrive, nice - thanks :)  Has anyone tried LogMeIn Backup?  I'm going to be using this for my office - we have 2 locations and its "unlimited" space as long as I buy the hard drives to put there.  Just paying a flat fee per machine.  Seems cheap.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting

  • We use Carbonite.  Similar to Mozy.  Run it from my server.  Works well. Never had a problem


    We are testing Carbonite Pro.  The only problem is that we had a drive die this weekend... it will take two weeks to download the full drive backup over our Internet connection and Carbonite does not have the ability to ship a backup set to us on a drive.   We also have tape backups and a backup to USB drive, but neither had a really complete backup.    We were trying to setup Microsoft DPM, but it is complicated and I don't really understand it.  Dell has stopped selling it or supporting it.  So, now we are back trying to research another software solution to backup virtual machines... cheaply!





  • DPM is a going application and has not been removed from the Microsoft stack. Maybe the branding change steered you wrong. It's now called simply (tongue in cheek) Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager. The current version is 2010. It is a very different kind of backup application an is designe around the data rather than the app or volume. In my opinion it works best in redendant or clustered environments.

    On to Carbonite...I had the same problem during our trail. Backup does nothing for you. Restore is what is important and Carbonite fails hard on the restore side of things. In fairness, this is a problem that haunts all cloud data storage applications. Our testing chose Symform as the best. It is not a backup application, rather it simply manages your data sent off-site. You can use any backup application with it. Data is stored in a cooperative storage cloud in RAID-96 redundancy. This means that the data is uniquely in 32 locations simultaneously; it is also encrypted using AES 256. They have developed a very unique paradyme that takes much of the cost out of cloud storage and perfected an algorhythym to improve restore times by as much as 10 times.

    We have chosen this as our cloud backup storage application of choice and joined the partner program. If you'd like to give it a try, we can do a 30 day trial. After the trial, it's $50 a month per server and $8 per workstation or laptop that you'd like to backup.


  • cshuey - take a look at Veeam FastSCP.  Its free and lets you backup an entire VM.  However, you should only need to backup your entire VMs maybe a few times a year.  The important pieces are the data.  So you would backup your VMs once a quarter or whenever you make changes to the underlying OS or operational software.  Then backup the data nightly (hourly, whatever schedule you need) with some sort of synchronization tool.  I like rsync, better implemented in Linux/UNIX/BSD (Mac included) than Windows, but it can be done in Windows too.

    Veeam is good for manual backups anyhow.  You have to suspend or shutdown the virtual machines first, then use the software to back them up.

    Personally, I use CentOS as a host operating system and VMware Server 2.0.2 as a virtualization platform.  This allows me to script things like a virtual machine shut down, a virtual disk defragmentation, a backup of the entire virtual machine, then a startup of the virtual machine again.  Also, I can use rsync to connect to Windows shares on my virtual machines and synchronize data to a USB drive.  Cheap in terms of cost, a little bit of time to set up.

    As I've discussed in the past, you could take the output results of these scripts and instead of having them go to the screen, have them go to a log file.  You can set up a Splunk system to review up to 500MB of logs every day (that's the free version) and maybe set it up to monitor how your backups are running and to send you information when something is wrong.

    Chris Shipley
    Nutmeg Consulting

  • Hi...

    Where are the links to the 4 articles?...When I look thru the thread I can't seem to find them...Also, when I go to the "Backup, Backup, Backup" webinar site, there is just a heading but no links...

    We are in the process of reviewing our (sketchy) backup Policies...







  • Hi Mike,

    See this blog post for all of our articles, webinars, and blog posts on backup. And if you have any questions, feel free to post them here.

    Happy reading,

    Elliot Harmon
    Staff Writer, TechSoup

  • I have a very small organization.  Still, a lot of the data on our 4 computers is important and we've been trying to keep it backed up.  My internet connection is very slow; it's via a cell phone connection because I'm so rural we don't have a land line.  It seems like remote backup over the net would not be practical for me.

    This year my dedicated external backup hard drive hiccuped and I lost all my data.  Fortunately my computer was still alive.  We have a website run by Drupal.  I saw on their forum someone said about backing up data, "if it doesn't exist in 3 places, it doesn't exist."  I've seen that their are several services for recovering corrupt MS Backup files.  So, I think that this adage is a good one (akin to the 2 x 2 x 2 rule of thumb I read about on this site).

    So, I'm considering this local backup strategy: 

    • Initial full backup of data files to CD's with an incremental backup every 6 months.  I think I have at least 30 GB to do.  So I'm looking at starting with about 60 CD-Rs.
    • Initial full backup to external hard drive with weekly incremental backups.

    This will give me the data existing in 3 places.  I can keep the backups off-site. 

    Any comments or suggestions?


    Mirth and mangos,     Geoffrey,    Center for Vocational Building Technology,   Thailand

  • If you walked into the office in the morning and all the computer hard drives were destroyed, what would be the impact to the organization?  How long do you have to copy the data back to the new computers to get you back into production.  If your weekly incremental backup happens on Friday night, can you afford to loose a week's worth of new and changed data?

    If you do incremental backups, do plan on a full back up every few incremental backups.  If you have 30 incremental backups since your full backup and you have to do a full data recovery, you will have to run 31 restore jobs to get to your current data as each incremental backup has to be restored in sequence.

    Consider the types of data loss you are trying to protect.

    1.  Catastrophic failure of a hard drive, causing the loss of all software and user data on the PC.

    2.  A File gets accidentally deleted or written over or the file is lost.

    3.  An application program causes corruption to a set of data or entire file, this failure is not discovered for one or two full backup cycles.

    4.  A user gets malicious and purposely corrupts data in a file.

    5.  An environmental disaster keeps everyone from entering your office building for 3 weeks.

    6.  Three weeks ago this file was fine, but today it contains garbage.

    You may want to consider a full backup weekly with incremental backups daily.

    You may have a directory or two you really need to backup twice a day.

    You may want to move to a DVD drive or Blue Ray to reduce the number of disks in a full backup set (remember if you are trying to recover a 31 day cycle of incremental backups, one unreadable disk may prevent you from restoring to the current day.


  • Thanks Dave,

        I appreciate your listing some things to think about.  I'm concerned about  points 3 and 6; instances where it looks like the data is irrecoverable because the backup has been overwritten.  If I do incremental backups it keeps my backup time low and gives me a complete history of the state of the files since I began.  I think that doing a restore of 24 backups (6 months of weekly incremental backups)  would take relatively little time as each incremental backup has only a few files.  If the initial restore took 1 hours and the incrementals took 5 minutes each then that would be a total of 3 hours.

        I don't really want to keep overwriting a full back up every week (alternating between sets of backups).  Then I would lose my history.  If I do a new full backup every week on CD-Rs then I'll be taking up a lot of time and also a lot of Cd's and storage space. 

         About half of my storage is photographs.  Those files don't change, just increase in quantity.  Perhaps I could double archive some of them.

        Thanks for your thinking again. 

    Mirth and mangos,     Geoffrey,    Center for Vocational Building Technology,   Thailand

  • If you are a non-profit based out of Canada you may want to consider off-site backups by

    Cloud backups can automate the backup process and store a copy of your important files off-site, protected from an office disaster.

    Please contact me if you would like more information.


  • I work for Winslow Technology Group and we sell backup software through CommVault. CommVault is rated #1 by Gartner, a leading IT analyst-

    If you need a backup solution for 10TB of data I'd go with CommVault. If you are interested in looking into this I can give you more information- call me at my office number 857-241-3873. My name is Coby and I can help you store you're data.