EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest post by TWIP fan Ben Leal. Ben is a Microsoft employee, however he’s not part of any of the product groups mentioned in this post. Ben is a tech enthusiast, gadget freak, and photo lover fully on a PC platform.

Back up

On TWIP you talk a lot about the need to have multiple copies of files and a redundant file back up system. Microsoft produces a product called Windows Home Server targeted at the consumer market for the growing digital collection of content homes are generating. You can buy these machines prebuilt or can build one to your specific tastes and needs. The processing resources are pretty modest and people could easily convert an existing older system and run it comfortably.


Key points
It’s actually a version of Windows 2003 Server and as such is very stable and well tested

Automatically backups all systems in the home that are added to the server – a machine crashes and you can restore it with the home server.

Intelligent back up – rather than storing duplicate copies it notes where multiple files are used and keeps one copy (reduces storage consumption)

Add and remove hard drives dynamically – need more space, add a drive and it becomes part of the overall storage capacity. The system distributes files to ensure a failure in a drive doesn’t compromise data.

Can be headless – once it’s set up, you can stick it on a closet and administer it remotely

Share files – acts as a file server as well and media server so you can stream content to other pcs or even your 360. My family loves being able to watch a slide show in the living room on the big screen vs hudling around my desk. And you can share files over the internet through personal websites served up by WHS

Extensible – people write addins so you can do more. I was using one that would automatically upload my photos to flickr. I’d do my processing in Lightroom, add all the metadata/tags, export to my subfolder in my “To upload” folder and the addin would create a new set in flickr and copy up the photos.

File movement

Live Mesh – this is a technical preview (not sure of the difference between that and a beta but it’s actively improved) (runs on 64bit)

Installs a client on all machines you want to share files with.

Add a folder to the “mesh” and designate which pc’s you want to share with.

Automatically syncs the files in the folder across all the machines when they are online

Enable easy remote access to any machine in your mesh.

5gb of online storage so you can keep some files accessible on the net from any machine with a browser. Well IE for sure.

It does have an individual file size limit of 10gbs but no limit on the size of folders to sync. Ie you can have a folder with 100gb of files and it will sync across the machines

Folder Share – beta, I’ve been using it for about a year and it’s very stable. (runs on 64bit)

Installs a client to your machine.

Allows you to map folders between machines (live mesh generates a new folder on the machines) and keep them in sync automatically

Access your files through a browser anywhere.

Very similar to live mesh but I think it’s much easier to use.

SyncToy 2.0 – local app for syncing folders locally – targeted at photographers. (runs on 64bit)

Create shared folder pairs and designate how they sync – can be identical, subscription, echo

Can be set to run at scheduled times.

Works great! Have been using this for a long time now.

LightRoom 2.0 Export Addins (runs on 64bit)

Recently discovered the addins for Lightroom and use the ones for Flickr, Zenfolio and FaceBook.

So what does my workflow look like with all of this?

At my desk at home

I import my photos from my card via Lightroom 2.0 to my local pictures folder.

I do my post processing, tagging etc

Export to the site of choice.

Synctoy runs that night an makes two copies. One folder pair puts a copy of my pictures and lightroom catalog on an external harddrive, the other puts a copy on my photos folder on my WHS machine via mapped drive. I now have three copies of my photos and my edits

On the road – I’m lucky enough to get to travel to some cool places and frequently build in an extra day to go sightseeing/shooting.

Import my photos from my card to my “Pictures” folder on my laptop

Establish an internet connection

Live Mesh/FolderShare begin copying my files to my WHS machine and my home PC.

Next morning I have three copies stored

Synctoy runs on my home machine, compares the folders that I am syncing with and makes updates as needed.

WHS runs nightly and backs up my entire home pc.

Additional comments

If I was pro, I’d set up another WHS machine remotely and use foldershare or livemesh to keep the machines in sync

FolderShare and LiveMesh do a lot of the same so one or the other likely will do you just fine.

The above can seem kludgey but once set up, you don’t have to think about it.

Microsoft Professional Photography is a destination to learn more about tech of interest to photographers, some of which you have covered: HD Photo and Photosynth. Autocollage is another one to check out!.

Join the conversation! 32 Comments

  1. Does it in any way work with Mac ?

  2. Does it in any way work with Mac ?

  3. Just reading that gave me a headache.

    Thank God for Macs.

  4. Just reading that gave me a headache.

    Thank God for Macs.

  5. WHS is awesome. Stupid simple backups that you don’t have to think about, remote access to your files from anywhere.

    My workflow is very similar. Import with Lightroom on my main desktop, SyncToy transfers to my WHS every night. WHS keeps a copy of every image on separate hard drives automatically so I have redundant backups of everything. WHS is also smart enough to not back up anything twice – if you have multiple copies of a file on multiple machines it will only back up one, saving space (but it will still be redundant).

    I can use the JungleDisk add-in to keep my images backed up in the cloud through Amazon’s S3 storage service. For someone with a huge library they need to keep offsite would probably make better economic sense to have a separate WHS somewhere.

    Given the choice between Live Mesh and FolderShare I’d go with Mesh. I use it to keep files on my work machine and home computer sync’ed and it works great. You can set Mesh up to either copy the files to the cloud (using your 5 GB of available space) or just transfer directly from machine to machine.

    The kicker about backup is that you can’t have to think about. WHS delivers that.

  6. WHS is awesome. Stupid simple backups that you don’t have to think about, remote access to your files from anywhere.

    My workflow is very similar. Import with Lightroom on my main desktop, SyncToy transfers to my WHS every night. WHS keeps a copy of every image on separate hard drives automatically so I have redundant backups of everything. WHS is also smart enough to not back up anything twice – if you have multiple copies of a file on multiple machines it will only back up one, saving space (but it will still be redundant).

    I can use the JungleDisk add-in to keep my images backed up in the cloud through Amazon’s S3 storage service. For someone with a huge library they need to keep offsite would probably make better economic sense to have a separate WHS somewhere.

    Given the choice between Live Mesh and FolderShare I’d go with Mesh. I use it to keep files on my work machine and home computer sync’ed and it works great. You can set Mesh up to either copy the files to the cloud (using your 5 GB of available space) or just transfer directly from machine to machine.

    The kicker about backup is that you can’t have to think about. WHS delivers that.

  7. Can this work with macs if you have a mixture of both macs and windows machines in your house?

  8. Can this work with macs if you have a mixture of both macs and windows machines in your house?

  9. I’ve been using the freeware version of SyncBack to achieve the same results, I personally found it a tad easier to use than SyncToy.

  10. I’ve been using the freeware version of SyncBack to achieve the same results, I personally found it a tad easier to use than SyncToy.

  11. I did a little checking and found these posts regarding WHS and Mac OS. The comments posted in the first link indicate people are using the two together.

    http://mswhs.com/2007/10/26/mac-leopard-and-whs-do-not-play-nicely/

    http://mswhs.com/2008/04/18/let-your-mac-talk-to-whs/

  12. I did a little checking and found these posts regarding WHS and Mac OS. The comments posted in the first link indicate people are using the two together.

    http://mswhs.com/2007/10/26/mac-leopard-and-whs-do-not-play-nicely/

    http://mswhs.com/2008/04/18/let-your-mac-talk-to-whs/

  13. Although I’m a mac user it’s good to see the windows stuff getting a look in here!

    For anyone on a Mac looking to create similar seamless backups I use a great little app called Chronosync. It works on both local and networked drives and is very simple to setup. This allows me to sync my pictures folder to both an attached Drobo and a networked hard drive attached to my router.

    I live in Ireland and DSL speeds are still pretty primitive compared to the US, so syncing large files over the internet is painful.

  14. Although I’m a mac user it’s good to see the windows stuff getting a look in here!

    For anyone on a Mac looking to create similar seamless backups I use a great little app called Chronosync. It works on both local and networked drives and is very simple to setup. This allows me to sync my pictures folder to both an attached Drobo and a networked hard drive attached to my router.

    I live in Ireland and DSL speeds are still pretty primitive compared to the US, so syncing large files over the internet is painful.

  15. Actually, would like to remove the second link in my last comment – i didn’t realize it was hack and i don’t want to appear to be advocating it.

  16. Actually, would like to remove the second link in my last comment – i didn’t realize it was hack and i don’t want to appear to be advocating it.

  17. I am a sys admin and very rarely recommend Microsoft products to fellow photographers, however WHS is awesome. Been using it for a couple months now and it just works. Adding storage to the server is very similar to the Drobo, except its not true hot swappable like the Drobo, but you can add any size of drive and remove a drive to upgrade to a larger one. There is still no replacement for the Drobos simplicity though. Love mine.

    I have also been using sync toy for years and it is a very handy little app. Basically it is just a GUI front end to Microsofts xcopy command. So if you are already using scheduled batch files to run xcopy jobs, sync toy wont really gain you anything.

    Another great app I have used for backups and redundancy is Second Copy. Benefits of this app include compression and versioning

  18. I am a sys admin and very rarely recommend Microsoft products to fellow photographers, however WHS is awesome. Been using it for a couple months now and it just works. Adding storage to the server is very similar to the Drobo, except its not true hot swappable like the Drobo, but you can add any size of drive and remove a drive to upgrade to a larger one. There is still no replacement for the Drobos simplicity though. Love mine.

    I have also been using sync toy for years and it is a very handy little app. Basically it is just a GUI front end to Microsofts xcopy command. So if you are already using scheduled batch files to run xcopy jobs, sync toy wont really gain you anything.

    Another great app I have used for backups and redundancy is Second Copy. Benefits of this app include compression and versioning

  19. You can access WHS via a Mac but you don’t get the system monitoring and automatic backup that Windows users get. You can use whatever syncing or backup tools you want and just pick the WHS share. I don’t think Time Machine works with it unless you perform some kind of hack. When I was beta testing WHS I had an iTunes server on it so it would stream my music too.

    WHS is definitely something that photographers should look at. Just remember that you would need something else to have off-site backups.

  20. You can access WHS via a Mac but you don’t get the system monitoring and automatic backup that Windows users get. You can use whatever syncing or backup tools you want and just pick the WHS share. I don’t think Time Machine works with it unless you perform some kind of hack. When I was beta testing WHS I had an iTunes server on it so it would stream my music too.

    WHS is definitely something that photographers should look at. Just remember that you would need something else to have off-site backups.

  21. If you’re technical you could go the free route for a nas/drobo copy and install FreeNAS I have this and it runs great and can be communicated with in numerous ways. It allows raid with different size discs, it allows mediasharing via upnp/dlna and it can be setup with online backup to Amazon very cheaply (jungledisk) and being a form of linux it runs on minimal old hardware.

    Total cost for me was $0 as I had all the old hardware laying around.

    I do sync the folder to my media center as well so my photos are in 3 locations in house and one remote.

    ps I didn’t want to mention it before as I know Drobo sponsor the show and I didn’t want it to disappear :)

  22. If you’re technical you could go the free route for a nas/drobo copy and install FreeNAS I have this and it runs great and can be communicated with in numerous ways. It allows raid with different size discs, it allows mediasharing via upnp/dlna and it can be setup with online backup to Amazon very cheaply (jungledisk) and being a form of linux it runs on minimal old hardware.

    Total cost for me was $0 as I had all the old hardware laying around.

    I do sync the folder to my media center as well so my photos are in 3 locations in house and one remote.

    ps I didn’t want to mention it before as I know Drobo sponsor the show and I didn’t want it to disappear :)

  23. @Jon T

    Given there are a verity of topics covered in this post, most of which would be identical on a Mac I am not sure your comment makes any sense. From the perspective of backup. If you really want the easy over the network backup you have to buy the time capsule from apple and you are highly limited in the amount of storage.

    On windows I can buy a home server for about $500 and add redundant, failsafe storege as I see fit. As far as setup goes, I simply plug it into my network and turn it on. go to my network on my computer and double click on the little server icon and it launches a web page for me to install the connector, it automatically sets up backup and I am done. And since I am not beholden to the almighty steve for functionality I have a platform that lets me add things like backup th S3 or my own website etc to my server.

    The easy experience that you believe you get from apple, you get the same thing from a pc, just the difference is you have some choice about where and how you get that experience and you can go beyond it if you wish.

  24. @Jon T

    Given there are a verity of topics covered in this post, most of which would be identical on a Mac I am not sure your comment makes any sense. From the perspective of backup. If you really want the easy over the network backup you have to buy the time capsule from apple and you are highly limited in the amount of storage.

    On windows I can buy a home server for about $500 and add redundant, failsafe storege as I see fit. As far as setup goes, I simply plug it into my network and turn it on. go to my network on my computer and double click on the little server icon and it launches a web page for me to install the connector, it automatically sets up backup and I am done. And since I am not beholden to the almighty steve for functionality I have a platform that lets me add things like backup th S3 or my own website etc to my server.

    The easy experience that you believe you get from apple, you get the same thing from a pc, just the difference is you have some choice about where and how you get that experience and you can go beyond it if you wish.

  25. I won’t be approving any further comments that even come close to a Mac v. PC flame war. Don’t mention the other guy in your post from now on if you want it approved on this thread.

  26. I won’t be approving any further comments that even come close to a Mac v. PC flame war. Don’t mention the other guy in your post from now on if you want it approved on this thread.

  27. I administer both Macs and Windows PCs. Here’s my solution for both:

    Macs- a drive that is 2x-4x larger than the primary drive is either connected internally or externally to Mac and acts as a Time Machine backup, which gives me instant access to files going back months. A second drive (an external) is connected once a week to perform a cloning operation vis Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper, so that in case primary drive goes down, I can easily boot from external and perform a differential update.

    Windows- secondary internal/external drive that is 2x-4x larger than primary drive has one partition for a clone of the primary drive(via Acronis True Image); second partition holds user directories. A second external drive(same size as primary) gets a clone of primary drive once a week.

    All external clones get placed into a waterproof, crushproof casing, then placed within a fireproof safe once the cloning has completed.

    The Windows solution Ben illustrated in the post today is a good one;however, in cases of fire, flood, hurricane, etc. he would lose everything that was inside of the house, including the multiple backups, because his backup solution is not portable nor fire/wind/waterproof. This can be resolved via offsite backup, also.

    Most of the TWIP panel have DROBOs, and could (in an emergency) grab it and go. Also, I think someone mentioned syncing up DROBOs across networks for offsite storage…??

  28. I administer both Macs and Windows PCs. Here’s my solution for both:

    Macs- a drive that is 2x-4x larger than the primary drive is either connected internally or externally to Mac and acts as a Time Machine backup, which gives me instant access to files going back months. A second drive (an external) is connected once a week to perform a cloning operation vis Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper, so that in case primary drive goes down, I can easily boot from external and perform a differential update.

    Windows- secondary internal/external drive that is 2x-4x larger than primary drive has one partition for a clone of the primary drive(via Acronis True Image); second partition holds user directories. A second external drive(same size as primary) gets a clone of primary drive once a week.

    All external clones get placed into a waterproof, crushproof casing, then placed within a fireproof safe once the cloning has completed.

    The Windows solution Ben illustrated in the post today is a good one;however, in cases of fire, flood, hurricane, etc. he would lose everything that was inside of the house, including the multiple backups, because his backup solution is not portable nor fire/wind/waterproof. This can be resolved via offsite backup, also.

    Most of the TWIP panel have DROBOs, and could (in an emergency) grab it and go. Also, I think someone mentioned syncing up DROBOs across networks for offsite storage…??

  29. I think a better solution for Windows users would be to download the free Microsoft utility SyncToy and purchase a Drobo. SyncToy can be setup to run automatically to synchronize the backup of critical data to the Drobo. I do this very setup on my Windows systems. For all my Macs, I use ChronoSync with the Drobo. For me, nothing beats a Drobo.

  30. I think a better solution for Windows users would be to download the free Microsoft utility SyncToy and purchase a Drobo. SyncToy can be setup to run automatically to synchronize the backup of critical data to the Drobo. I do this very setup on my Windows systems. For all my Macs, I use ChronoSync with the Drobo. For me, nothing beats a Drobo.

  31. I use Foldershare to sync between my Windows file server and my Macbook (running Leopard).

    So the answer is yes, there is Mac support in these.

    From what I understand Live Mesh will be mac compatible, but is early stages at the moment. Listen to some of the recent Windows Weekly podcasts to hear more about it at twit.tv

  32. I use Foldershare to sync between my Windows file server and my Macbook (running Leopard).

    So the answer is yes, there is Mac support in these.

    From what I understand Live Mesh will be mac compatible, but is early stages at the moment. Listen to some of the recent Windows Weekly podcasts to hear more about it at twit.tv

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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