Backing Up Multiple Computers
I have three computers in my house, and only one external hard drive. How can I create backups for all three computers, and still keep the data separate? I've thought about using an online backup service, but the amount of data I have would make it difficult. What do you recommend for a multiple computer backup solution?
How to Backup Several Computers
If you have more than one computer, you may wonder what the best strategy is for making backup copies. There are several ways to back up multiple machines. Each has its pros and cons.
You could add a backup storage device (such as an external hard drive) and backup software to each machine. If the backup software is configured to run automatically at a specified time, this could be an ideal solution. But it's rather expensive in terms of hardware and software.
Instead, you could store backup data from all of your computers on one large external storage device. A 1 Terabyte external hard drive could hold backup data for multiple computers. Each computer's backups would be stored in a subfolder on the drive. But how should you connect the external drive to all of those computers?
You could carry the drive from one machine to another, plugging it into a USB port on each machine. But that is rather tedious. If your computers are connected on a home network, there's no reason your backup storage device has to be moved.
Connect the backup storage device to one computer which is left on most of the time, or at least during the time period in which you wish to make backups. From the computer to which the backup device is attached, make the backup device a shared network resource. Then every computer on your network will be able to use the backup device.
Configuring Your Backups
Next, you must configure your backup software to create backups of each machine on the network and place the backup copies on the backup storage device. Windows 7 has the ability to back up multiple machines on a network to a shared device, and so do third-party backup programs such as Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost, and SyncBack Pro.
You'll probably want the ability to backup and restore the data for each computer separately, so make sure that your backup software doesn't combine the data from all your computers into one backup image. Create a folder on your backup drive for each computer, and point your backup software to the appropriate folder for each computer.
However, If you do want to backup and sync files across multiple computers, check out Dropbox. Just install the Dropbox "client" on all the computers that you want to sync. Any files you put in your Dropbox folder will automatically sync with all the computers where you've got Dropbox installed. You can even access your dropbox from the web. Dropbox is free, and gives you up to 2GB of storage.
Online remote backup services such as Mozy, Carbonite, and LiveDrive can be used just like a local networked drive to back up multiple computers. Carbonite does not charge a fee for each additional computer you wish to back up, but only for the total amount of data that you store on its servers. Mozy charges $4 per month extra for the ability to use up to 3 computers on your account. LiveDrive has different price tiers for one, up to three, or an unlimited number of computers, but offers unlimited storage space. You should review the pricing plans of these and other online backup services carefully to see which one makes the most financial sense for you.
Oh, and if you're using an online backup service, you probably don't want to backup your entire hard drive. See my related article Should I Backup ALL of My files? (http://askbobrankin.com/should_i_backup_all_of_my_files.html) to learn about backup strategies, and which files you definitely DO need to include in a backup.
Let's close by recapping some of the pros and cons. A separate, always-connected backup device for each computer you own is the fastest, most reliable, and most secure method. Making backups over a network is slower, and online backup is slowest. Network performance will be degraded while backups are in progress, so they should be scheduled to avoid conflicts with users. Online backups store your backup copies off-site, so they won't be lost in a local disaster.
What's YOUR strategy for backing up multiple computers? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 May 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Backing Up Multiple Computers (Posted: 27 May 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved