Using a USB Hard Drive to Create a Removable WHS Backup System
If you’re like most people, you have probably got a few documents on one or more of your computers and / or laptops around the house that are most likely be very important. Making scanned copies of important paper documents is also a good idea, ensuring that you keep the scanned documents in one central location where they can be found easily and backed up.
One of the great benefits of having a Windows Home Server at home is the client backups that can be configured to back up each PC or Laptop to the Home Server automatically. While this is an essential practice to keep your machines easily recoverable if there is a hardware failure or if you need to rebuild the system for any reason, here are some steps that you could take to keep your data even more secure…
If you use your WHS to store your data on a “home” directory (a folder that only you have access to, giving you privacy) you not only get the benefits of being able to access that data from any computer in the house (or even the world with WHS Remote Access configured), you also can easily save those files when doing an actual Server backup as opposed to a client (PC / Laptop) backup. The goal here is to keep your data safe; even if it is located in a central location like Windows Home Server, you still need to ensure that your WHS Backup System includes the ability to back up to some kind of remote location either online or via removable media.
While there is more than one great online WHS Backup Service that is built specifically for backing up your Windows Home Server online, most, if not all come with a monthly charge. So if you are looking to save your money for that upcoming Android tablet you have your eye on, the cheapest method to back up your WHS and be able to store that data outside of your home is to add USB hard Drive to act as a removable WHS backup drive.
Plug the USB Hard Drive into your Windows Home Server. The drive will appear in your Windows Home Server Console as shown:
Right click on the USB Drive and click Add:
When the “Add a Hard Drive” wizard starts, read up on the process and click Next>
On this next window, you will be given the chance to choose to add the drive to your Server Storage or to “Use this hard drive to back up files that are stored on your home server”. For the purposes of this example, you will want to go with the latter:
After clicking next, you are given a chance to either keep the contents that are on the drive or to wipe it clean (format it). The choice is yours, but if this is your first time using the drive with your WHS and you plan to keep on using the drive as your “remote backup”, then go ahead and format the drive by clicking Next>
Pick a name for your backup drive and be sure to follow the advice given in the Tip: Be sure to label that drive!
After clicking Next> one more time, you are ready to finish off the wizard by clicking Finish. If you chose to Format your drive, it will do so at this time.
Voila! You are Finished!
Now that you are ready to back up your server, you might as well get to it! (Trust me, you just never know when things could go south)
Click on the Computers & Backup tab on your Windows Home Server Console, right click on your WHS and select Backup Now.
In the window that appears, select the folders that you would like to back up. Remember, this is probably something you want to use for documents, pictures, etc. as its purpose is to give you the ability to take your most precious documents and files out of the home or put in a fire safe. You most likely will have way too much data to back up all of your movies and data to this particular USB Drive, but again that will be a judgment call for you.
After you have selected the folders you want backed up to your USB Hard Drive, go ahead and click Backup Now.
Obviously the amount of time the backup takes will be determined by how much data you need backed up. Sit back and let it do its thing and then take that drive and store it away from home if at all possible and at the very least, in a fire safe. To be able to remove the drive, you have to go through a couple of steps:
Clicking back onto the Server Storage tab on your Windows Home Server Console, you’ll still see the USB drive listed under Server Backup Hard Drives:
Right-click the USB Drive and click Remove. You will be greeted with a pop up window asking you if you just want to “Temporarily remove it from my home server” or if you are going to permanently “Stop using it for server backups”. In this case, we will be selecting the default Temporary removal.
After a few moments, you’ll see the drive shift back up to the “”Non Storage Hard Drives” where it can be unplugged from the server.
A really important thing to realize about backing up files directly from the server as opposed to depending on just your client backups is the fact that the data is able to be accessed from any PC you plug the USB drive into. The client backups require that you restore the entire image to the PC before you can access your data. This will make life much easier if you have a serious system crash or worse!
Using the WHS Server Backup to a USB Hard Drive gives quick and reliable access to your data if you suffer some kind of catastrophe at home. This not only ensures that you didn’t lose irreplaceable documents or pictures permanently, but also will let you get at that data quickly. Having gone through a fire in which I literally lost everything, it would have been great to have had a Windows Home Server backing up my most prized pictures, sadly it was just a year or two before the birth of WHS.
Heed my advice, backup your stuff!