Best Data Backup Solution

Hello all. First of all I apologize if this should have been posted somewhere else. Please move this if it is in the wrong area. And if TomsHardware isn't the best place for this kind of question, please help me out and point me to the best forum/site possible.

I am trying to figure out the best method to keep my important files backed up. The number one priority is that the backup process has to be as automated as possible. Otherwise, this will never actually happen on my wife's laptop 8 ).

Forgive me if I sound foolish, but I have lofty ideas of what would be ideal. We have 3 computers in my house: a Windows desktop, a Windows laptop, and a MAC laptop. Between the three, I want to keep music, pictures, video, and important documents somewhat synced and backed up. Ultimately I was thinking of getting two 2TB external hard drives, connecting them to the desktop, and having all of the computers access these drives (through the network) for backup purposes.

I am envisioning some sort of software that will once a day take files from the three computers and throw them on the two backup drives only if there isn't already a copy on the backup or if the file exists but it has been modified (then I'd want both files on the backup and I'd handle deleting outdated revisions). I'd really like the backup software to be able to place these files in subfolders based on the create or modify date. So all pictures from 2006 would end up in "./Pictures/2006" on the backup drive and etc. Is this reasonable or even possible?

The biggest pain will be the pictures I think. I hope to actually do some simple editing like tagging or renaming. I would plan to do this on the backup drives, but then any of the 3 computers that contained the original file would just reload the original file onto the backup on the next push, correct? I'm trying to figure out a system where I don't have duplicates. I understand that this may be inevitable though. I could simple manually move edited files to a different folder on the backup and simply accept the fact that there will be pre-edited duplicates (but if these pre-edited files exist on all 3 computers, I only want one copy to be pushed to the backup!).

Sorry that this is a bit scatter brained and long winded. Please let me know if you guys have any ideas. I'm open to suggestions as long as the process will be fairly automated. Thanks!!

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More about best data backup solution
  1. It sounds to me like you are looking for Norton's Ghost (Not free) or EaseUS ToDo Backup (Free)

    Ghost is a great program but you will take a performance hit.

    I would give ToDo Backup a try before throwing any money down on Ghost.
  2. Thank you for the suggestions.

    FireWire2: I don't think I want to have incremental backups.

    Dr_JRE: I wasn't able to check out Norton's Ghost, but I am looking for a backup system that doesn't overwrite a destination file if the source file has been modified. If I have a file backed up, and I change it on the source, I want the destination file to be archived and then the modified source file copied over. Do you know of any windows programs that do this? Carbon Copy Cloner does this for MACs.
  3. Take a look at the robocopy utility. It will replicate data from 1 folder to another, and do what you want. This is a dos based tool, but there is a gui utility you can get to help build the script. Once you set up the script, you set it to run as a scheduled task. It should run pretty fast if the data is already there, but it may take awhile the first time - depending on the data. You could easily set scripts to go both ways so that all computers have the same data.
  4. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I try to sync a folder from the source to the destination, and the source file has been modified...robocopy will simply copy over the old destination file (and that file is lost). I looked into robocopy, and that is how I thought it worked. In this example, I would want the newer modified source file to be copied over, but I'd also want the old destination file preserved on the destination folder somehow. Let me know if I'm wrong.
  5. crashplan can do a lot of what you are asking, and its free to use with a local backup destination. It works on Win/OSX, and is very easy to configure. If you decide you could also use it to backup to their servers, but there is a cost associated with that.
  6. WinDataReflector has an option to keep a copy of old files before replacing them to do that: open a sync task then click the pencil button just before the "process" button, this will open this task's settings, now check "move files to old folder before replacing them". also you should look at the "rules" tab and change them as you like. there are two types of tasks "back up" and "sync" back up doesn't compare files it just copies them while sync does the comparison and also shows the differences to you before actually syncing. Also it is completely free.

    Note the "File Replacing" group box:
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