Backups

Contents:


Introduction

Many of you (our users) have been around computers for years, and are very computer-savvy.  Forgive us if some of the contents of this page fall into the "sucking eggs" category for you.  But hopefully, some of you who read this page will thank us for labouring the point and spelling things out so clearly, when the day of reckoning for your backups comes upon you:

One doesn't need to be around computers for very long to appreciate the need for good and regular backup disciplines.  This is especially true of any vital data associated with the administration and/or finances of a business.  The golden rule of computing in general is to backup what you can't afford to lose !!!  The golden rule of backups themselves is to test from time to time that they actually work (usually by deleting and restoring a special test file in one of the directories being backed up).  Backup of computer data provides a very cost effective safety factor, that you just don't get with purely manual records and paper based filing systems.

Backup media is extremely cheap compared with the cost of re-entering data (if you even have adequate manual records to do so) and potential business disruption.  How much is all your data worth to you?  For most of us, "backup what you cannot afford to lose" means we should be backing up key data every 24 hours, and making even more comprehensive backups at least weekly.  It is often a good idea to make two or more different types of backup, to different backup media (e.g. backup to NAS drives, removable hard drives, DVD or Blue-Ray media (or CDs), to hard disk drives on one or more workstation computers on the network, and into the Cloud using tools like DropBox).  Data compression tools (like 7-Zip) can be very useful for significantly compressing whole directory structures of MS Office and other files, and for data files like ours, so that they fit comfortably on target media.  (7-Zip typically gives a seven-fold compression of Adminsoft data files.)

Disciplined Backup Schemes

Like all other risk management, your Backup Plan should cover all realistic possibilities for Murphy's Law.  Backing up to just the same disk (or tape) all the time, doesn't do this.  If there is a fault on the disk you are using, you may be unaware of this until an emergency occurs and you have to restore from it.  What can you do then?  It is also possible to have a spurious failure on your hard disk that damages only part of your data.  You might not discover such a problem until you go to run a report that spans the damaged data or create an affected invoice at the end of the month.  In such a case, our Help-Desk would be able to rebuild your data for you, but only if you could provide a backup just before the damage was done, and an up-to-date backup that contained all the data entry done since that earlier backup was made.  Suffice to say that you should make plenty of backups, on plenty of separate disks, that span a good length of time!  (For the rest of this discussion, interpret "disks" as removable hard-disks, DVDs, Blue-Ray, CDs, USB memory sticks (or even tapes) that you use for your backup.)

Ideally you should have about fifteen (15) backup disks (or sets of disks) in active rotation.  A good scheme is to have five separate disks (or sets of disks, once a backup takes more than one), one for each day of the week, that preferably are kept in a fire-proof safe on your premises.  The Monday backup should go on the Monday disk, etc.  In addition you should make an extra "Off-site" backup, at least once a week and take it to some safe place (such as the office manager's and/or one of the Director's private home) that is well away from the business premises.  (If it is not convenient to make an extra backup, then just take your Monday or Friday backup off-site each week.)  This will cover you against a burglary, virus / trojan attack, fire, or other disaster at your business premises.  You can rotate your off-site backups too.  A good scheme for off-site backups is to have two rotating pools of disks: a slower moving one that has the backups at the end of each month, and a faster moving one that has all other weekly backup disks.

Be aware that re-writeable optical storage media has a limit as to how many times you can reliably re-write to it.  However, various articles on the net suggest that it is something of the order of 1,000 times (which should be more than sufficient for most backup schemes.  Consult the manufacturer's specifications or ask your supplier how often DVDs or Blue-Ray media can be recycled, and ensure that you err significantly on the conservative side.  You are only fooling yourself if you exceed these limits to save the relatively small replacement cost (compared to the value of the data that would be lost if their were physical errors on a crucial disk/tape from which you needed to restore files).  

Generic Backup Mechanisms

Obviously Adminsoft data and programs can be backed up together with data files from other applications, as part of a larger backup.  If you have a regular overnight backup, it is much better to include Adminsoft data in this too, rather than have to remember to make separate backups using the facility we have provided.  It is a good idea to include a dummy file somewhere in the Adminsoft / GECL directory structure, that you can periodically delete and restore from backup, to ensure that this is really working properly for you.

Adminsoft's Backup Facility

Adminsoft provides a basic but effective backup facility to help ensure that the data associated with it's software (which is usually pretty vital to your operation) is backed up easily.  This is very useful for smaller users, who don't have a big overnight server backup to other media such as a removable hard drive.  But even on sites with such a backup, we recommend that you use our facility in addition to your regular backup (for extra safety).  Also, if you ever need to restore data (which is why we do this exercise in the first place), it is much easier to do so from one of our backups rather than your main server backup.

Our backup can be launched whenever you wish, utilising a special shortcut on your Windows desktop.   However, we recommend that you set this up as a scheduled overnight task that runs at an appropriate time e.g. at 4.00am say (i.e. after the main backup has had plenty of time to run).  You can do this using Windows Scheduler on a workstation that is always left running overnight (which has the advantage that you can also copy the backup files to that computer's local hard disk).  If you do not leave any workstations running overnight, and have a Microsoft based server platform, then you can run our backup on the server overnight.  We apologise that we have not as yet produced a backup routine for Linux servers, but you should be able to adapt our Microsoft batch file fairly easily for running on your Linux server (or just write a much simpler one from scratch) - or just run ours on a Windows based workstation that is left on overnight.  If you don't know how to set up Windows scheduler, it is very simple and quick task.  We can provide assistance with this (using our remote support facility) if you need it.

Our facility only backs up the data - the software can be re-installed fairly easily if it is lost or somehow corrupted.  (You are fully entitled to backup the Adminsoft program files as part of your main system backup, or as an extra to a DVD, say - we only leave them out of our facility to keep the resulting backup files as small as possible.)  The initial installation of Adminsoft software will create an "Adminsoft Backup" shortcut on your desktop.  (This is why it is best to install the software for the first time from your primary administrator's computer, as the shortcut is not created for any subsequent "Workstation" installs.  It is a trivial task to create a shortcut on another workstation if you need it.  If you have specified a non-standard directory structure for the Adminsoft programs and data during installation, then you may need to edit the Working Directory and Command Line of your shortcut appropriately.)

Our backup facility will systematically rename previous backup files (preserving 7 generations), and then use 7-Zip to compress all the data and configuration files in the Adminsoft (or GECL) directory structure into a new backup file (GEBackup.zip) in the "\Adminsoft\Backup" (or "\GECL\Backup") folder.  If you have added a target to the command line, it will offer to copy the new backup file to the specified folder in your local hard drive or "removable media".  You can change the target for the backup media by adding a parameter to the "Command line" of the shortcut (or Windows Scheduler Task).  This can specify a hard disk drive and directory on your local workstation (or elsewhere on the network), or a local drive letter of a CD-RW, memory stick, or USB hard drive.  If you have set up DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Cubby, or an equivalent Cloud storage facility, it is a good idea to copy the backup into a folder in that program's local directory, to give you immediate off-site backup into 'the Cloud'.  You can also push an additional copy of the backup files to another location on your network.  If you want to do extra things like this, it is worth getting us to help you with it, because it is miles more efficient to rename the previous backup files in the DropBox (or whatever) folder, rather than overwrite them all with newly renamed copies.

Examples of parameters that might be added are:

  • F:\Adminsoft\GEBackupWin7.bat  C:\Backups\Adminsoft       (Backup to a special folder on your local hard drive)

  • F:\Adminsoft\GEBackupWin7.bat  C:\DropBox\Adminsoft       (Backup to a special Adminsoft backup folder in your local DropBox)

  • F:\Adminsoft\GEBackupWin7.bat  D:                     (Backup to a DVD-RW or CD-RW using a DVD-Writer installed as Drive D:)

  • F:\Adminsoft\GEBackupWin7.bat  M:                     (Backup to a memory stick or USB hard disk configured as Drive M:)

Note that the GEBackupWin7.bat file will work with Windows 7, 8 and 10.  (We have retained the "Win7" suffix so as not to unnecessarily mess up backup shortcuts at existing sites.)

 Our backup facility utilises one of the following data compression tools, and tests to see if they are installed:

  • 7-Zip from the OpenSource Foundation - see www.7-zip.org  If you don't already have one of the following ZIP utilities, then we recommend that you run with 7-Zip:
    • Our server install (and subsequent updates) create install programs for 7-Zip in the "Adminsoft\Install\Tools\7-Zip" folder.  When installing a 64bit computer to run our software, it is better to manually run the 64 bit install program provided (7z920-x64.msi) first.  Our workstation install will attempt to install this for you.  However, there is an issue with doing this on 64 bit computers, in that Microsoft (in their wisdom) prevent MSI files from being launched from within another (install) program - so (after this fails) our workstation install then falls back to installing the 32 bit version (which will work on a 64 bit machine).
    • You are fully entitled to download and use 7-Zip free of charge.  However, the guys in this Open Source project do a fabulous job, and it is good to make a small donation to help the cause if you are benefitting from it.  7-Zip is the easiest Zip utility to use with our software, and what we recommend.  It works "straight out of the box" - with no need to download and install additional "Command Line" program files, or to tweak our batch file.
  • WinZip Command Line (a free add-on to WinZip Pro ($US49) - see www.winzip.com/wzcline.cgi 
  • Our backup routines support several variants of PKZip if you are already using this - see www.pkware.com   However, you may need to tweak the batch file to make it work with more recent versions.  (We did the PKZip support several years back - when the current version was 4.5)  Please phone our Help-Desk if you are already using PKZip and want to incorporate it into our backup routine.   (Although it is probably simplest just to use 7-Zip.)
  • If none of the above are found (on the workstation or server that is running it), our backup routine will use LHA (a 16 bit public domain compression tool which is included with the Adminsoft software installation).   This is very ancient technology now, and will not work on a 64 bit machine.  While it still works on 32 bit computers, we recommend that you use 7-Zip (or purchase another command line compression tool). 

Our install program should place several "Windows batch" files in the root "\Adminsoft" folder (GEBackupWin7.bat, GEBackup.bat, and GEBackupXP.bat).  The default "Adminsoft Backup" shortcut targets the first one.  You can edit it if necessary.  However, to reduce the risk of your edited version being over-written during a subsequent upgrade to the software, we recommend creating a copy with an appropriate file name, editing this as required, and pointing your shortcut to it instead.    (GEBackup.bat is just a second copy of GEBackupWin7.bat, while GEBackupXP uses the old XP convention for the "CHOICE" command.  You really should not be using XP machines now that Microsoft no longer supports this operating system.)

Spare Parachutes

If you have a workstation with a big hard disk that is under-utilised (which tends to be always the case these days), it can be quite good to use this as a "spare parachute", just in case you have a problem with your main server (or primary backup), and need to get hold of some information or a Word Document urgently while the server is still being rebuilt.  Especially if your primary backing up is to tape, an extra backup to a hard disk can often be more efficient for recovering a file that you have just messed up.  It is fairly easy to write a simple batch or script file that is scheduled to run at a suitable time overnight (such that it won't clash with your main backup).  The "XCOPY" program is quite useful for this (using the /D and /Y switches).   Your shortcut command line batch file might contain a line such as "xcopy f:\Adminsoft\*.* c:\Backups\Adminsoft /D /Y".  We use RoboCopy these days for our own "spare parachutes", as it is more powerful than XCopy.  Obviously a reasonable level of computer literacy is required to set up things like this.  But it can be a very cost effective extra weapon up your sleeve, in your battle with Murphy's Law.

Restoring Data from Backup

There are a number of important things to consider when restoring Adminsoft data. We have put these on a separate web page, so that you can print them easily.

Click here for information on restoring Adminsoft data



If you need further assistance or have feedback you would like to give us, please contact our Help-Desk:

E-Mail now to:    Support@Adminsoft.com

Phone: (09) 262 2020  (within New Zealand)         From Australia:  1800 030 837 

(From other countries +64 9 262 2020)