File backup

Backups are an important part of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.

Even though most of us know that we need to do regular backups, the fact is that many, if not most of us, don't do it. Backup is the responsibility of the holder of the data and regardless of the method, not backing up computer files is an invitation for disaster. Whether a corrupted file, a malicious virus, lightning, or human error, most computer users will experience loss of some or all of their data.

There are many options available for backup, from CD-R disks, External Hard Disks, Tapes, local or remote, or fully automated systems.

You only really need to back up your data files. Applications and OS's can be reinstalled. Created data files cannot. Ideally your data files should be in folders separate from their applications, as this simplifies the task of identifying which files need to be backed up and reduces the risk of missing a file. Recent versions of OS's help a bit by providing a "My Documents" style of directory for storing personal files. Please be aware large datasets are not something that the SCU can generally provide backup for due to their often overwhelming size.

Backup options

  • External drive with OS backup software
    OSX and Win7&8 have built in software for running scheduled backups to an external drive. This is a very convenient and easy to use arrangement. Unfortunately in a fire or theft situation often your external drive may also be lost.
  • Manual backups
    Manually backing files up to a network location or external media on a regular basis requires extreme amounts of discipline and are often neglected.
  • File server
    The Physics file server can be used to store your files in a secure backed up environment. The space however is quite limited and hence is not suited to store large sets of files.
  • Cloud storage
    Microsoft skydrive, dropbox, etc can be used to store your files in a way that is physically separate to your computer, unfortunately in the case of accidentally overwriting or deleting an important file the cloud copy will also be lost. You can find more information about cloud storage options available to ANU staff and students on our storage information page.
  • Physics network backup system
    We provide a backup solution within the school to automatically backup data across the network from your machine. Incremental backups are held for an extended perid to enable recovery of older versions of files. Very large sets of data are not suited to this system as space is limited.
  • Combined solution
    Often a combination of the above options will be the best solution for you needs.

Physics network backup system

What technology?

We are using BackupPC to run our backup solution. BackupPC is an open source product that performs incremental on disk backups across the network.

The SCU manages a backup system that is available to the School community that may be an option for you. Some advantages of our system are listed below but please be aware that large datasets are not something that the SCU can generally provide backup for due to resources.

Access to this is done by request only and is not an automatic function. If you feel you require further backup than you are currently providing yourself then please contact the SCU to discuss further and investigate the use of our centralised backup service.

Whilst the SCU backup service will be provided to the best of ability and resources, and has many advantages over individuals backing up their own data, it does not guarantee the service, data safety, correctness, or completeness of backup. Please also note that is not an Archival service and your questions relating to this should be directed to SCU staff.

Users of our service should inform the SCU immediately when a file is lost or damaged or a system fails. Delay in doing this may hinder or even prevent adequate backups from being retrieved.


Some of the advantages of our backup system:

  • Reliability: All data is backed up to a high reliability (raid 5) redundant disk array
  • Security: Backed up data is stored remotely from the backed up computer in a secure location, and is unlikely to suffer from the same environmental issues
  • Automation: The Process is fully automated and will email you if there has been a problem backing up your machine
  • High speed: A nightly incremental backup can finish in as little as 2 minutes
  • Any Time: The backup system can easily backup laptops and machines that are turned off at night whenever they appear on the network
  • Multiple Versions: Incremental backups are kept, enabling easy recovery of older versions of files

File Types

Applications and OS's are not backed up. These are able to be reinstalled from their original media. Only user data should be stored.

Generally music and video files will be automatically excluded from the backup process. CD/DVD images in the format .iso will also be excluded from being backed up.

Windows machines may fail to backup locked (open) files. Please make sure you close your applications (Email programs in particular) down over night to avoid this problem.

Illegal files

Files such as (but not limited to) pirated media should not be stored on ANU machines. Backing up computers containing these sorts of files could constitute illegal file sharing. As such, we may cease backups for any machine found to contain such files.

Get added to our backup system

To get help us understand your backup requirements please download and complete an Physics backup request form before visiting the School Computer Unit to discuss your requirements.

An SCU staff member will help you with configuring your machine to be backed up.

The information provided above is for members of the Research School of Physics and Engineering. Other areas please contact your local IT department for support.

Updated:  4 September 2019/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPE/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster