30 December 2012

How to Backup Multiple Systems to a Single Online Backup Service Account

You might have wondered how to backup multiple computers in your home with a single online backup service. The answer is yes, you can do this and here is how. You can setup one system that will act as a repository for your other computers backups. You will be using the Windows 7 Backup and Restore feature to backup to the other system.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure you have enough HDD space on your system that will be backed up to. For most people, a 1 TB HDD should be more than enough for 2-3 systems. Second, you will want to create the network share. To do this for most people, connect all of your home PCs using the HomeGroup. Of course, if you are a tech savvy or and IT professional, you will know of a more efficient way to network them. Next, create a folder on the HDD that you want to back up. Right click on the folder you just created, click Share With-->HomeGroup (Read/Write). This will now allow the other systems to see the folder you just created and shared out, but it does not have administrative privileges, so it will not be possible yet to backup to it. We need to give it additional privileges  Here is how. Right-click on the folder and click properties-->Sharing-->Advanced Sharing. Make sure Share this folder is checked. Now click on Add and type a share name. It cannot be the same as the folder name. For instance, I named my folder backup and named the share backups. Click on Permissions. If security within your home network is not a concern, then just select Everyone and give them full control over the folder. Click Apply and OK. Click OK again. Click Apply and OK.Click Close. The other systems on your home network can now see and write to that folder with administrative privileges that are necessary for the Backup and Restore function to write to it across the network. Finally, if the master system does not require a username/password to login, in other words, it just boots up to the desktop, you will need to set a password up. This is because the slave systems will require a username/password to access the master system's shared folder. There is no getting around this.

It is now time to go to the systems that you want to back to your master system. In Windows 7, go to Control Panel-->All Control Panel Items-->Backup and Restore. Click on the Set up Backup. Click Save on a network and then click Browse. You will see master system in the list. Click on it to expand the list. You will see both the HomeGroup share and the advanced share. You will want to select the advanced share. This is the share that you created with everyone having administrative privileges to the folder. Enter the username and password for the master system and then click OK. Select the backup destination you just created and click Next. It is now your choice as to whether you want windows to choose what files to backup or if you want to manually select the files to backup. Once you are through this part and are satisfied with the backup settings, click Save Settings and Run Backup.

The final step with this is to make sure the online backup service is backing up the backup files from the slave systems. You may need to manually go in and select the backup files for backup to the online service. It is also possible that the online backup service may not allow for these types of files to be backed up. I hope this helps.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you contact your ISP if your backups are going to be above 250 gigabytes. That is the usual threshold most ISPs today allow for users to use over a 1 month period. It can differ per ISP, so make sure you know what your ISP allots for your monthly usage. If you exceed that, some will charge you for a certain amount of data and that can become very expensive, very fast. Some will cap your download rate and some will threaten to close your account, so it is best to let them know if you are doing an initial backup and/or a restore. 

NOTE: This will only work on a Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, or a Windows 7 Enterprise system, as they are the only versions that allow for the Save on a network. There is a way around this though. If your system has enough HDD space, you can back it up to itself and then setup a batch file that will robocopy the backup over to the master system's shared backup directory and then delete the backup from the slave system. I have it setup this way on one of my systems here at the house.

NOTE: Depending on the online backup service, there may be caps as to how much you can backup online. I know a couple of them allow for unlimited, but one that I recently was using put caps on as of last year.

NOTE: The Microsoft Windows 7 Backup service does not purge and/or overwrite old backups, therefor it can easily fill up a terabyte hard drive within 2-3 backup periods. There are two options here. One, manually clean it out by the steps below or two, create a script and set it up to run weekly that will purge the old backups. Microsoft is aware on this, yet they have done nothing to fix it. Of course there is also the final option to select a completely different backup software.

  1. Open the Control Panel (All Items View). 
  2. Click on the Backup and Restore icon.
  3. Under Backup, click on the Manage Space link.
  4. To Select a Backup Location -
    1. Under Backup location, click on the Browse link.
    2. Navigate to the backup location and select it.
    3. Continue to step 5.
  5. Under User file backup, click on the View backups button.
  6. Select the Backup Period that you want to delete, and click on the Delete button.


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