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Rich Lafferty's Journal

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mendel
I had something I was going to post about, but I can't remember what it is. If I do I'll let you know.

I remember part of it: I picked up DDR Extreme 2 and a mat for the PS2 this weekend. Whee! I've never played DDR before (but I knew what to expect, at least), but I think I'm picking it up pretty good. Seriously dorky music, though. I haven't got nyxie playing yet, but oh, I will.

Work got crazy all of a sudden this week. Originally there was a new service to be deployed for the beginning of February, and then things were going to be moved into mid-March, and now we're back at "right away". Gives me something to do, at least. As part of this I installed CentOS for the first time. I've been using Fedora until now for Linux servers, and while it's worked well, there's a companywide move toward CentOS as a standard Linux platform, so I'm going along with it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I suddenly found myself sitting in front of what appeared to be a Commodore 64 splash screen:

(click to see whole screen)
How'd someone let that out the door?

While I'm thinking of techy things: I need to back up a machine running XP at home to a fileserver running Linux. The really obvious way to do this, to me, is to use the Windows backup tool to schedule a nightly backup whose destination is a network drive shared from the Linux box. But no-one seems to do it that way; instead, they write shell scripts that mount the Windows drive on the Linux box, and then tar things up. Now it seems to me that a big tarball isn't going to do you much good should the pooch become screwed, but a Windows backup would include all of the system state stuff that would allow you to do a bare-metal restore. Am I missing something?

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"Am I missing something?"

Not exactly. 8^)

I find backing up Windows a bit of a nightmare. I have yet to see a really reliable backup regime that was reasonable for workstations[*]. I guess you could ghost an image every time you changed the base system, and then just tar up the Documents and Settings folder (assuming that's where the important data is being stored). But if you're using Outlook, you need to get its files, which are elsewhere. Oh, and if there's financial data from any of about half a dozen apps, you'll need to back that up too. Might as well just tar the whole file system, just to be safe.

It's not a really sane way to safeguard data on Wiindows, and it can cause as many problems as it solves, but I suppose for some people it's Good Enough.


[*] Or indeed for small servers. I spent a few very late nights working with a tech in London to try to recover a certain NGO's financial data following a failed restore operation.

Ok, but do you know why using the Windows Backup utility doesn't work? I know that a Ghost image sucks if you just need to restore a file, and that a tarball of the filesystem sucks if you need to do a bare-metal restore, but it seems to me that a Windows Backup backup of C: and the system state ought to be enough that restoring it over a brand-new install would bring you back to the state you were in when you took the backup.

Most often the problem is human error. Statistically, Windows boxes are administered - and operated - by people with less understanding of the system and poorer understanding of good administrative practices. Neither of these assertions apply to you. 8^)

Again, the failure is usually the backup regime, rather than the software used. I'm in an unfortunate situation where I can't be onsite directly administering the systems I support, so I don't even try to maintain configurations. I simply show people how to keep multiple copies of their files in safe locations, and assist with restoring them if and when disaster strikes. And I don't let my clients run Windows servers.

I expect your situation is much more manageable, especially if you're administering Windows servers. Hence the 'not exactly'. I should have said before that you're probably fine doing what your instinct tells you.

Not even Windows servers! Just a single Windows workstation at home that we use whenever something requires Windows.

Around the office, it's all enterprise backup suites which Just Work.

Well if that's the case, it might cost you less in terms of time and effort to simply dump your data in a safe place and accept that the machine might at some point go south. For personal machines I usually just make sure the data's safe, and treat OS/hardware failure as a chance to try something new. 8^)

Historically, I have never cared about a bare-metal backup/restore. When I backup, I tend to want to back up data and settings. The reasons (for me, at least) are twofold. First, the backups are smaller because only data is being backed up. Second (and more important), is that with Windows (and I've carried the process to OS X, even though I doubt the reasoning applies), you get the standard bitrot and have to reinstall the OS once or twice a year anyway--so why back up a possibly flawed OS image when you'll have to potentially reinstall a fresh one soon?

The major con to this is that you're not always sure of what and where the "data files" are because different apps and different people put their files in different places.

For the amount we use Windows, we don't really get that bitrot, but we do get a machine that sits unattended for a very long time, so the odds of catching an imminent failure are pretty low. The data files tend to get moved onto user shares on the fileserver or onto our Linux boxes pretty quickly.

That box got win2k installed on it in 2002 and is still running strong. I'm going to upgrade it to XP soon because I want terminal services and fast user switching, otherwise I'd leave it just as it is!

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