The other day Larry mentioned that he was installing a third home server into one of his small business networks.  Why in the world would he want to install one home server, let alone three in a small business network?  In asking around on a small business managed services listserve, Larry is not alone.  Others are either doing this, or thinking about this.

But why in the world would they see value in backing up the desktops in a small business network?  We should be saving all the important documents on the server, right?

Because of the differences between how we in small business handle our desktops versus how people in big businesses do.

Small businesses:

Each desktop is unique.  The user’s icons are just so.  Move a user’s icon and they about kill you for moving their icons.  Each user may have unique programs that only they are licensed for.  A small business normally purchases a new computer one or two at a time.  So when something happens to that desktop it may take 2 to 3 hours to rebuild that image and get the desktop back to the way the person wants it so that they are the most efficient.  Rebuilding a machine is a non trivial issue, license keys have to be found, it may take hours to get everything back the way it was.

Big businesses:

Each desktop is a standard build.  Desktops are locked down, wallpapers are standardized.  If you need to repair a computer, an image is pushed down.  I’ve even seen a large firm push down new images to their workers once a quarter.  To rebuild a system, is a trival and is done in a normal course of operations.

Notice the difference? 

So along comes Home Server who’s only job in life is to take backups of each workstation and to compare via hash values the data that has been backed up and if it sees a match, it won’t back up that same data point making it a smaller backup.  So that’s the technical guts of the backup, but not the real impact that adding a Home Server to a network can do.

I once talked about backing up the desktops in a small network to a security guy and he made the point that one shouldn’t worry about losing the desktops as you needed to ensure that the key data files were on the server, better protected than they would be on the workstations.  But that’s missing what really is the impact in a small firm.  Getting that desktop back to where the icons are just so, the shortcuts are where they should be, applicationso are installed and with their proper licenses means you have a happy and efficient end user.

Backing up the desktops in a small firm, whether it’s being done by Home Server with it’s file technology or another imaging solution where they don’t have that technology, is ensuring that you can get those workers in the office, the ones that earn the revenue, back to working condition as soon as you can. 

Read Larry’s post —


4 Responses to Backing up the desktops in a small network

  1. indy says:

    We use BESR:

    Works fine. I can restore a machine in 10-20 minutes.

    The number of HDD failures we’ve seen have gone dramatically down in the past 3 years.

  2. jarob105 says:

    The thing you must think about if you have no backup is: “What if this all died right now? Where would I be?”

    BESR is a great product. I setup 20 stations and now sleep better at night. Although the engineers who I set it up for couldn’t care less.

  3. Joe Raby says:

    Use USMT instead. I use it with the /nocompress option so as to be able to prune unused shortcuts and empty folders from the store. It works great, and even works with those SMB images that you might be stockpiling. It backs up a lot of miscellaneous stuff like plugins for Office, app settings, desktop icon layouts, etc. I use this even for small businesses when necessary. It can be a pain doing lots of desktops this way, but some users can be control freaks too, so you gotta accomodate them sometimes. 😉

  4. Dean says:

    “First, the workstation had failed to backup properly to the WHS for the past week.”

    Yeah that’s one thing he didn’t think about. If the workstation OS is not working correctly to begin with then you are either backing up a corrupted image or you are not getting a backup at all.

    I would only do this if I started with a freshly reformatted and freshly loaded OS on EVERY workstation. Then have them backup to Home Server. The first time a backup fails you immeditaly restore from the previous day.