Disaster Recovery

Set up regular automated backups with Windows Home Server


Takeaway:

Microsoft Windows Home Server (WHS), currently in Community Technology Preview, is designed as a way to integrate server based computing into the home environment. Once you get WHS configured scheduled, regular backups can be run for all of your home PCs, at times you choose.

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Microsoft has released the Community Technology Preview of Windows Home Server. This new product offering is designed as a way to integrate server based computing into the home environment. As the home computer has moved from a convenient appliance to something we depend on daily, the need for a reliable way to store the information we depend on has grown. Whether it be digital photos, music, or just your documents, you want that data to be secure and accessible. Windows Home Server addresses these needs by providing a central storage location, with features that make it easy to recover files or even your whole computer in the event of a failure.

Setup

The first step to automating your backups with Windows Home Server is of course to get Windows Home Server installed on a PC in your house. The hardware requirements are fairly light, and nearly any old PC you have should be sufficient. The next thing you must do is to install the Windows Home Server Connector on any PC you wish to backup (Figure A).

 Figure A

This will automatically detect your Home Server. The only information you will need to enter is the Administrator password (Figure B), which you set up when you initially installed Home Server.

Figure B

Next you will need to go into your Windows Home Server console (which should now be available on your local PC). On the Computers and Backups tab of the console, you will now see the computer (or computers) you have installed the connector on (Figure C). They will also show as Not Backed Up. This status will change as your backups begin being performed.

Figure C

You will first need to select the PC you wish to define your backup for, and then choose Configure Backup from the top menu. The main issue you will have in here is to specify the folders that will NOT be backed up. By default Windows Home Server will backup all folders on the computer (save the pagefile, hibernation file, and some temp files). You will probably want to add some folders to this (Figure D). While there is no hard and fast list of what not to backup, some common examples of things to exclude would be folders in which games are installed, your downloads folder, and any folders with data you don't care if you lose.

 Figure D

After selecting the folders to exclude you will get a summary of your total backup size (Figure E).

Figure E

After this you will need to configure the timing and schedule of your backups, along with how long you wish to save your backups for. You get to this menu by clicking the gear logo near the top right of the Windows Home Console and going to the Computers and Backups tab (Figure F).

Figure F

The first thing you will need to do is to set the time period in which your backups will run. This period will need to be a time when your PCs will be on, and when there will be minimal activity. If you do not normally leave your computers on overnight, you will want to change this time to a period in which your computer will be on. If you computer is not on during this period the backup will not occur, and your data will not be protected.

You will also need to set your retention policy on your backups. Simply put this is how long the backups you make will be available to you. The more storage you have in your home server, the longer you can keep your backups. Simply set the amount of time you want your monthly, weekly, and daily backups to be stored on the server. The Home Server will then automatically delete the older backups as the newer ones become available.

After this is completed you can then perform a manual backup of your computer, or you can wait for the scheduled backup to occur. If you wish to perform a manual backup, then you will simply right click the machine in the Computers & Backups tab of the Home Server Console, and select backup now. You will get a small window on your desktop showing you the progress of your backup.

When the backup is completed you will be able to select View Backups to see a list of completed backups (Figure G). From this screen you will be able to not only restore your files, but also to set a specific backup to locked mode (in which it will not be deleted based on the retention policies you already have set up), or to delete a backup if needed. As you complete more backups, they will be added to this screen, and you will be able to select from which backup to restore your files, and to manually manage your backups if you so desire.

Figure G

Remove complexity

As you can see if you are using Windows Home Server, it is very easy to create a backup regimen for your entire selection of home PCs. Windows Home Server removes almost all of the complexity from either manually performing or scheduling backups. This is a great step forward for home users who know they need protection, but don't have the time, or the technical expertise to perform these operations on their own.

11 comments
okee123
okee123

I printed this article out and it printed 10 pages of stuff that had nothing to do with the article. Please give us a printer friendly window that wont waste our ink and paper. THANKS!!!

Greeboid
Greeboid

It'll probably sell well. I expect its sleek appearance and soon-to-be familiar Vista-like interface will appeal. This may be the way homes are going, but surely there's a better, existing, Linux solution out there already? Mind you, whatever Linux afficionados say, Linux is still, well, a bit techie (geeky) for the average non-technical person. Talikng of Vista and going off topic... Vista and Office 2007... what a sucky combo.

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The article states "The first step to automating your backups with Windows Hoe Server..." I won't even go there.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The "printer-friendly" version is not so friendly right now. I'll look into it. Thanks for the heads up.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I've been using Windows Vista and Office 2007 for a few months now. It takes some getting used to, but I have not had any major problems and have no glaring complaints.

Charles Simon
Charles Simon

I have set up my home network as a domain and not a workgroup. Will this work in that environment.

Greeboid
Greeboid

I know its the way of the world but I just don't know why Microsoft have made the GUI so different. Of course, I'll get Vista and Office 2003... I have to, I will need to support them. Microsoft seem to be getting their act together with releases that are actually pretty near fully developed, which is nice... but ever heard the expression: "If it aint broke don't fix it"? I feel I have to virtually start learning Office again! To that end I've dumped 2003 at home now and I've got Open Office... less of a learning curve than Office 2007. Also, the system overheads are way lower. I'm sure there'll be a major plus in 2007 being so XML based though.

Super_MCSE
Super_MCSE

It will work, but with the WHS acting as a stand-alone server. You will need to synchronize user accounts (user name and passwords) to keep things simple. It works - the hassle could be if you have the password expire set to a relatively low number on the domain.

Lei Fan
Lei Fan

Sounds like a good news for home users and home networks