Backup and Restore In Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003

Microsoft has provided basic utilities to backup and restore data with their operating systems since DOS. The current Windows Backup Utility is a limited version of Veritas' Backup Exec (now owned by Symantec) and is included with Microsoft Windows NT,XP, 2000 and 2003. The Windows Backup utility can be found under Start / Program Files / Accessories / System Tools. It is a reliable utility that provides basic functionality, supporting most tape drives and also allowing backup to local networked disk devices. It also includes some advanced functionality for server administrators, such as the ability to backup Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange mail server.

Partly because of it's limited functionality, the Windows Backup Utility is extremely simple to use. Start the utility, and a wizard will guide you through selecting the files that you want to backup and a destination for your backup data. It automatically detects your tape devices and also gives you the choice to overwrite or append to the backup media. The Windows Backup Utility also provides a simple user interface that can be used to schedule your backups. The scheduling is actually handled by the scheduler that is built-in to the operating system.

While Windows Backup is a functional backup program, it lacks some very important functionality. Windows Backup provides almost no media management. It is totally up to you to keep track of which files are on which media. There is no catalog of files or backups that you can search to find versions of a lost file that you might want to restore. This is a serious limitation, therefore precluding the use of the Windows Backup as the software backup program for a comprehensive backup and recovery plan. The lack of media management is by design. The built-in utility is intended to provide the essentials of a basic backup and restore utility, and it is not intended to be a comprehensive solution. IT Professionals invariably opt for a more functional utility, such as the full Veritas Backup Exec product. Computer Associates' BrightStor Arcserve products are also a leading competitor. Both require substantial licensing, setup, configuration, and ongoing monitoring and support.

There are a variety of less complex and less costly solutions for home users, students, and small businesses. In addition to the numerous third-party utility programs, online backup solutions, such as Rhinoback, offer advanced features without the costs and complexity. Most online backup services automatically track which files are backed up, when, and where they are stored. The complexity of the solution is handled by the professionals at the service provider and the end users usually only have to perform an simple install of a small agent program. Rhinoback will automatically select the My Documents folder and also schedule your backups to run every night as part of the default installation options. In addition to the reduced complexity afforded by online backup services, there is little or no up-front cost associated with software purchase, tape hardware or media.

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