Backing Up Workstation Data

When I talk about a Workstation, this can be a fixed Workstation or a Laptop (mobile).  The data stored on a Workstation is – from an individual user’s point of view – often the most important data.  In a Windows environment this typically consists of documents and data stored in the user’s profile area. 

If such a user uses email (and who doesn’t), chances are that all his contacts, etc. are also stored on this workstation.  The loss of that information can be crippling. Especially MS-Outlook users are at risk since it is not always clear how to backup Outlook data.  But there is more, such as web browser bookmarks (favorites), etc.

Mirroring

This is often employed as a backup technique.  At least one commercial company (carbonite) offers an off-site mirroring solution for individual Windows workstations. 

A mirror is basically a refection of the data as it exists on the workstation when the image is taken.  Any history is lost however.  Since the scheduling of he mirror u snot always controlled by the user, this does not protect against accidental deletion of files and folders or corruption due to user mistakes or virus / malware action.

So, this is of limited value to an end user as it really only protects against total data loss due to a system crash or loss of a computer (i.e. laptop gets stolen). 

Snapshots

Think of this as a mirror with history. Now we ARE protected against accidental data deletion and / or corruption as long as the data in it’s good state is in the history buffer.  It is not unreasonable to have daily snaps available for the last two weeks and weekly snaps for an entire year.

This provides all benefits of a mirror, plus it also protects against accidental – or intentional – data loss and corruption.

Application data such as Outlook, Thunderbird or other mail clients can be included as well as the state of browser bookmarks. 

The User Decides

Since we are primarily interested in data, we should automatically include the standard Windows data areas.  Furthermore, the most common email clients, i.e. Outlook, Outlook Express and Thunderbird store their data in well known areas, and these can be included automatically.  The same goes for Firefox and MSIE bookmarks. 

In addition to this, the user should be able to include / exclude based upon folders and file wild cards.  As a common practice I always keep my install files in the C:\installs directory.  This is definitely a directory Ii would want backed-up. 

To summarize: based upon the OS, a certain number of folders should automatically be included.  The same goes for files (e.g. mail files from Outlook).  The user can then decide to exclude (for their dominion) folders or files, and to specify additional ones.  Note that the user has to have access to these folders in order to include them.

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