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My computer file backup system

Doug Kerr

Active member
This is to describe the computer file backup system now in place at World Headquarters here in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The computer systems

We have two major computers here, whose network names are Mountainbear (my workstation) and Desertbear (Carla's workstation). Both are Dell Optiplex 755 machines.

Each machine has a single operating hard drive, currently 1 TB in Mountainbear (soon to be upgraded to 2 TB) and 250 GB in Desertbear (recently upgraded from 160 GB). All drives spoken of here are made by Western Digital.

In each machine, the operating drive has two equal-sized partitions, identified as C: and D:

Partition C: contains the Windows operating system, all applications (including configuration files), the Windows Registry, and a directory ("Incoming") that holds the distribution/installation files for all applications acquired electronically (which today is almost all of them).

Partition D: contains all our "data", which includes all the photo image files (both as directly uploaded from the camera and those that have been processed under various "projects"), all files for articles, reports, and other documents, files for technical drawings, and a large directory called "Info" that contains such things as the manuals for all our equipment and much other reference material.

Both machines are powered through UPSs.

The backup systems

Two independent system are in place for providing protection against loss of data through failure of the operating hard drive or other catastrophes.

Backup system X

This backup system has two objectives:

• Provide for rapid restoration of service in the case of the failure of the operating hard drive in either machine.

• Provide backup for the data files.

Backup system X essentially maintains a duplicate of the hard drive in each machine on an identical drive mounted in an external Orico hard drive dock connected to the machine via an eSATA port.

These backup drives are not (at present) operated in a continuous mirror mode.

Initially and then about once a week, these drives are cloned from the operating drive in the respective machine so they become an exact copy of the operating drive at that time.

This is done using the utility application Acronis True Image WD edition (that means is it provided by Western Digital, free, and will only work on a machine that has at least one Western Digital drive connected somehow).

Each night, automatically, with regard to the D: partition, all new and changed files on the operating drive are copied to the X backup drive. With regard to the C: partition, all new or changed files in the Incoming directory are copied to the X backup drive.

This is done with the backup program Syncovery, which is installed on both machines (I acquired a "several machine" license).

Other files on the C: drive are not updated in that way onto the X backup drive as there are some difficulties that arise when doing so.

If, on either machine, the operating hard drive should fail or show indications of incipient failure, the X backup drive can be quickly installed in the operating drive bay in the computer (the machines have a "side door" that comes off when a latch slide is operated).

There are actually two backup X hard drives for each machine. The one not in the local dock is in a secure off-site location.

The two are swapped about every month. Before the swap the local X backup drive is cloned from the operating hard drive so it is an exact copy at the time. After the other X backup drive returns fro the offsite location, it is cloned from the operating drive do it now becomes an exact copy.

Backup system Y

Backup system Y serves to keep copies of all data files from both machines on a single 2 TB hard drive held in an Orico dock on Mountainbear. It is connected to the machine over a USB 3.0 connection (there are not two eSATA ports on these machines).

Every night, automatically, all new or changed files on the D: partitions of both machines are copied to the Y backup drive. Also copied are all new and changed files in the Incoming directories in the C: partitions of both machines. They are in two root-level directories, one for each machine.

The files from Desertbear are acquired over our wireless LAN.

This process is conducted with Syncovery, running on Mountainbear.

The backup mode here includes "versioning". Up to three "versions" of the file with any given name are maintained on the backup Y drive (the earlier versions having a "version key" insinuated into their filenames on the backup drive). This allows recovery from a situation in which a document file, for example, is inadvertently corrupted (perhaps a big section was inadvertently deleted and this was not noticed for a while).

As for the X backup drives, there are two two backup Y hard drives. The one not in the local dock is in a secure off-site location.

The two backup Y drives are swapped, approximately monthly, when the backup X drives are swapped (that means I take three drives to the secure location and bring back three - I have a little canvas bag in which I carry them).


I would like to recognize the excellent technical support given in connection with this project by both Orico, the manufacturer of the hard drive docks used in this system, located in China, and by Tobias Giesen of Super Flexible Software (!), in Germany, the developer and publisher of the Syncovery backup application.

An example

I started this project by acquiring one Orico dock, for the backup X system on Mountainbear. It worked fine, except for a small anomaly - when the system started, and if there was a drive in the Orico dock, I got a warning message, "Unable to reset port", after a noticeable delay in the startup sequence.

But the drive seemed to work well, so I put off dealing with that curiosity.

I immediately ordered a second Orico dock, to establish backup X system on Desertbear. When it arrived I noticed that it seemed to be of a slightly different design. One hint was that the eSATA connector was the other way up (suggesting that the circuit board was different).

With this dock connected to Desertbear, there was no such delay and warning message on startup.

To find out whether that anmaly was machine-dependent or dock-dependent. I swapped the two docks, and now on Desertbear (the host now for "dock 1"), I had the anomaly (but not on Mountainbear).

I had purchased these docks through Amazon, and I used the Amazon vendor contact facility (the seller was Orico itself) to contact Orico and report the anomaly.

I quickly received a response from "Sophie" of their technical support unit. After some correspondence to pass on various details, she said that there had been a design change by their actual manufacturer, and this apparently cured this anomaly. She arranged for me to receive very promptly a replacement dock of the "newer" design. That was in fact free of the anomaly.

Best regards,