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Backup Basics Part 1: Demystifying Server and Workstation Backup Methods

Contents

  1. Backup Types
  2. Workstation Backups
  3. Next Up

Article Description

Understanding the options for backing up servers and workstations is important for any technician or system/server administrator. But for new IT staff, all the details about how backups work and how to configure them can be confusing. In this first article in a three-part series, Ryan Faas demystifies the various types of backups that can be performed on servers and workstations using most backup applications.

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Workstation Backups

Although backup types are appropriate to back up applications that run on servers as well as workstations, there is a distinction for workstation backups in many server/network environments. Typically and ideally, in a server/network environment, users rely only on a network home directory or share points for storage. This is a good approach because backing up the servers that host those share points and directories ensures that all user data is safe from potential data loss. In the real world, however, there are many situations in which users will store data on the hard drives of workstations (media professionals needing faster access to data than is available from a share point or users with mobile accounts, for example). In these situations, there can be a blurred line about whether it is your responsibility to ensure the backup of this data.

On the one hand, your users should take responsibility for any data not stored on a server. On the other, the powers that be may feel it's the responsibility of the IT department to make sure that users either have perfectly reliable computers (which we all know will never happen) or take provisions to secure files on the not-so-perfectly reliable computers. If you can set up a situation in which users are responsible for data on individual computers (either backing that data up themselves or for copying it to a server for backup), by all means do so. Whether you can or not, encourage users to copy data to their network home directory or a share point as much as possible.

If you are in a situation in which technicians or administrators have to take responsibility for workstation backups, however, it can be reassuring to know that there are client-server backup tools out there. Such products include a backup client that installs on a workstation, which can then perform backups of either the entire workstation of specific folders or hard drives. Being server-based, you can configure automated backup sets with these tools, which can greatly reduce the headache of workstation backups because the process is managed from a central backup server and doesn't rely on user or technician interaction at the workstation level.

There is also the option to use backup software that is installed on each workstation to back up to a share point hosted by a server. This is as valid as using a client/server backup tool, but it has two downsides. First, it requires configuration of the backups at each workstation rather than from a central tool. Second, depending on your choice of backup application, it can be significantly more expensive to license the application for each workstation you need to back up than to purchase client/server licenses.