A Non Profit representative writes:  “We haven’t backed up since 2009. Backups are done using DVDs and hence, if the volumes are huge, we will need several dvds to back up the materials.  Also if the drives run out of space, which they are at the verge, we will have to add more drives, which according to the current system, is cumbersome, due to the outdated technology that we have been forced to use. Yes, replacing the old system with a new one is impossible at the moment due to price (estimated to be more than 50-65,000.00) which we cannot afford now.  What are your recommendations?”

Well first, ditch the idea of using DVDs and get one or more High-Rely removable drives and a slimline enclosure.  The cost is minimal and you need a regular, easy to use backup!

For backing up to an external hard drive can we compress the data? Each drive is one tb and I guess we are almost full at 977mb of data (if that sounds right). Also, are there any other cheap options you recommend?

There is a tiny bit higher chance of data corruption over time using compression in backup because if a single bit flips (bit rot) it can ruin more data than if the data is left uncompressed.  The best way to deal with bit rot is to use two or more backup drives and start a strategy of doing a backup on a regular basis so if one fails the other is still useable.  If they decide to use compression I’d recommend making at least 2 backups to two separate 1TB drives (actually it’s a good recommendation no matter whether compression is on or not).

Windows has compression built in  so It is possible (depending on the operating system) to simply plug the USB drive in, Right Click the drive and select properties and turn compression on the entire USB drive on before the backup.  I’ve seen compression slow backup down slightly and on fast CPUs I’ve seen it speed the backup up too.  Depends on the environment.  We have not discussed what software they intend to use as “the backup software” nor what OS they are backing up.  DO NOT let them try to “drag and drop” 1TB of files from Windows Explorer.  This is a rookie mistake.  You can download robocopy or richcopy from Microsoft for free and these are much better choices for what you are trying to do but understand even these are not “backup programs” as much as they are “ file copy” programs.  However, they will allow you to “freshen” your backup later by just rerunning them and they will copy everything that has changed (incremental backup).  This is very very nice because you don’t have to recopy stuff over and over again.  Copy programs are fine to make copies of user files but if you want to be able to recover the server if it crashes someday you need a  real backup.  Windows has a native backup program that can be used if there is no budget for anything else.  You might buy an inexpensive program out of Australia called “Backup Assist” to make life easier.  It leverages the windows backup but is built for rookies and simplifies things

Depending again on the OS you are backing up, as professionals we would use a copy of StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect and let it do both the backup and the compression.  For Windows xp/vista/7/8 the workstation license is cheap – like $60.  But for servers it might be $800 so that might be prohibitive.

So Summary of my software recommendations

1)      Good:  Download and use Richcopy (or Robocopy but it’s harder to understand)    FREE   http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itproperf/thread/33971726-eeb7-4452-bebf-02ed6518743e/

2)      Better: Use Native Windows Backup                                                                              FREE

3)      Even Better: Buy Backup Assist and use Native windows backup                                 $240 for server license

4)      Best: Buy StorageCraft Shadowprotect                                                                                  $800 for server license

P.S.  You might want to run a Dedupe program like clonespy on the 977GB of data to identify things stored twice to see if some can be removed before backing it all up. http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-duplicate-file-detector.htm