The H-Factor

My Photo

August 2023

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

« Viewing AutoCAD Drawings Without AutoCAD | Main | IE Lucky Number 7? »

October 23, 2006



Art, I believe in saving our work, even our archive files that are packed in zip files and backed up.

Everyone works off a shared network drive on the server, very little is saved to a local machine (even the 10 min autosave has its own directory on the server as stated in your post).

The server has mirrored hard drives in case one goes down.

I have 2 external hard drives that came with a little backup program $80 each, swap out nightly and one takes a ride home with me (most) nights.

When a job is completed everything is purged and all related files are moved to a zip file for the project, which is then deleted after adding it to a zip file for that years jobs.

I am working on of site backup to a machine at home, little problem with Verizon on that one so far.


Great topic. We automatically backup all data files from the server to a tape daily; however this only includes files on the server and does not include any files located on our workstation PCs.

Our IT guy says “Store all programs on the PCs and all data on the server.” He also says “Backup all data and do not backup programs.”

Now these two pillars of backup wisdom are difficult to apply in the CAD world. Both AutoCAD and Hydratec integrate data with their programs so closely; it is complicated to backup the data portion effectively. And email also has unique backup challenges.

Our current setup requires that we manually back up any data stored on PCs. As you can imagine, this does not happen very often. If my hard drive died today, I would loose my preliminary projects, CAD customizations, and all email since my last manual backup. That’s a considerable risk. Now that I think about it, daily backups don’t even seem like enough.

They say that people don't get "backup religion" until they've had a major loss. I really should start looking at automatic backup options for our workstation PCs sooner.

Or perhaps I can wait until my hard drive’s deathbed to make the conversion.


I also agree that this is a great topic for discussion. There are two types of people: those who have had a hard drive failure and those that will.

We store all of our drawings on a central file server and work from there. The individual workstations are backed up daily (using the backup routine from Windows) and include most of the configuration and data files that would be needed to get that computer back into shape quickly. Those backups are sent to a central location of the file server. Some people even go as far as setting their projects as "available offline" through Windows so that at the end of the day, the files syncronize between the server and the computer.

The file server itself is backed up twice daily to two different machines in the network (ie. four times daily in total). The server is also backed up to external hard drives, which are brought offsite, twice a week. This backup will include our archive, our current files as well as the daily workstation backups as mentioned before.

I have written my own backup scripts (using VBS and to do most of the server backups so that everything is automated and scheduled via the Windows Scheduler. The most interaction I have with the system is plugging in the external hard drives twice a week.

I have multiple layers of redundancy built into my system and it - unfortunately - was tested recently. Fortunetly, when the File server crashed, we were back up and running in a temporary configuration with one user reportedly having lost about 30 minutes of work max. We had to upgrade our server anyway so we used that occasion to get the new machine going and had it up and running the next day - all with minimal downtime.

Derek Devernoe @ WAFS

I work for the IT Department of Wayne Automatic, and felt I should share our experience on this front.

Recently Clark Guy hired a consulting firm to do a 'Business Continuance' test on our IT team. We pretended that we lost the top floor of our corporate office, which included all our Ocoee servers, my office, etc. I had to go home and get tapes and the restore data to our (at that time not so robust) co-located servers. We were able to move phone service and faxing (thanks to Co-lo 2 server our VOIP setup) no problem, restore data, access drawings, process payroll, and accounts payable, schedule jobs, basically do most job functions. The test was mostly successful, but it came with some lessons. Noted on the report was that our designers saved the drawings to their local machine, and only periodically, manually backed up the files. This was identified as a potential problem, so I had to come up with a solution.

That is why I recently created and implemented an automatic backup procedure for all CAD workstations here at Wayne Automatic.

Our standard engineering platform is a laptop, and therefore we like to have the designers take the laptops home with them, on to job sites, etc. to be able to work on their drawings. Because of that, we store the files locally and work from there. The Microsoft implementation of 'Offline files' is very slow, limited, and buggy (people generally hate it) especially when working from home. You see with offline files, the default storage location is on the network (server) if detected. We have our engineers connect thru VPN into our system, so loading and saving drawings over a 1.5/128K DSL connection is excruciatingly slow, let alone dialup access.

Procedurally speaking, when a job comes in, it is saved to a fully hardware redundant server (which of course is backed up to tape and synced to our offsite collocation), then the engineer copies them to their local hard drive to do the work. When done they copy them manually to the server and delete off their hard drive. But you cannot count on them to always do this, and there is definitely potential for data loss. Thus the need to develop our own custom solution.

How it works:

Basically there is a group policy with the Win2K3 AD Organizational unit of 'Engineers' set to run logon and logoff scripts. When the cad laptop logs on our LAN it will back up the entire contents of the drawings folder (or other local folder structure, the app is customizable) to the designers folder on a server location I call cadsync. The cadsync contents are view only for all so drawings can be shared if people are out of the office and access is needed to what they were working on. Only the original designer can modify the files syncing with their machine, this is to prevent multiple version issues if someone else messed with the files. For them to do so, they will have to copy to their machine, which of course will sync with their folder. Depending on the designer, PC, number of jobs they are working on, etc. this process takes from 5-30 seconds when they log on or off - not enough to really slow them down - to them it is seamless. We supplement this logon and logoff script with 'AT' or 'Scheduled Tasks' commands to run the sync at 1AM in case they never sign off or on.

Every day it syncs, a log file is stored on the server with a listing of all their drawings on the machine at time of sync. When the complete a job, manually copy to the job folder on the server and delete the files off their laptop, the server will delete the files 14 days after they are deleted from the laptop. (This is to protect against the 'oops' human error factor) This is done by a script that runs on the server and compares the current file list to the 14 (+) day old list. It then deletes what is no longer on the laptop - last known to be there 14 days ago.

Keep in mind cadsync is simply a temporary storing location, mimicking the drawings directory of a designers PC. This is not where the final files go, it is all temporary JUST for backing up the data automatically. The Cadsync share is on a Hardware RAID-5 array on the server, so we can lose a single disk before we lose that, and we monitor for disk failures remotely.

We then back up this temporary location to tape every night, and we also 'synchronize' these drawings to a Co-Located server in a hardened data center every night. This makes it almost impossible to lose a file.

Also this co-location setup has an exact replica of all of our servers file shares that is updated nightly, so it ties into our business continuance plan. If we lost a facility I can set up a temporary staging area with laptops in the datacenter (or VPN from home) and give users access to their files from yesterday almost instantly.

I am currently also working towards backing up our branch servers using Acronis True Image (not the data file shares, just the OS, and Exchange server), then restoring them to a VMWare based virtual network server, so if a server goes offline, I restore the most current backup, and the server can be online in our collocation fully functional and ready to go - albeit with yesterdays data. I hope to get this rolling soon, I have tested it, it works, just space, time, and connection speeds for the branches are some hurdles to cross. Perhaps this will be online next year.

We also keep a 'spare' laptop so in case a machine dies, we can 'loan' it out until we fix the original PC. Of course we end up having to allocate this when a new person is hired with no notice, so we TRY and keep this, but don't always have a spare available.

Also depending on the designer we also have the AutoCAD auto save function set for 5-10 minutes, and we also use the crappy Microsoft 'offline files' for their 'My Documents' folder, so other files are saved on the double backed up server as well. Their e-mail is Outlook 2003 running in cached mode, so the e-mail is stored on the server with a copy on the local machine - so that cannot be lost.

So that is what we do here for now. Like anything we could change direction next week, but this should stay for quite some time to come.


Derek Devernoe @ WAFS

I should add that we take tapes offsite every day, alternating between east and west of orlando, and we get offsite tapes shipped to us from the branches monthly, and we keep tapes in fire retardent media safes in the house. We also leave tapes at the hardened colocated datacenter every week.

Some designers also manually back up thier drawings to DVD or CD, and sometimes USB flash drives while they are working on jobs.

The other concern is encrypting the data on these laptops, because they could be stolen. We are currently researching the best way to do this for the masses. Anyone have any experience to share with doing that?

The comments to this entry are closed.