Readers offer many alternative solutions

I can always tell when I've touched a nerve in readers when my inbox is inundated with responses to a column that just came out. Last week's column about using a second hard disk as an inexpensive backup device (http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=24693) was one of these columns. I received far too many responses for me to reply to individually, so I want to respond here to everyone who wrote.

First, I want to address those readers who responded with information about using existing tools in the OS or resource kits to copy users' local files. I received dozens of emails suggesting using either Robocopy in the "Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit" or the Xcopy command in a batch file.

Both solutions work, and I appreciate the folks who sent me complicated batch files and scripts to make use of these tools. The tools work well for competent system administrators and power users, but lack any configuration help for the average worker. Letting these workers modify what they wanted to back up was part of the solution I was looking for.

Some readers suggested using Windows 2000 Professional's Offline Files. The problem with this solution is that it doesn't work with Microsoft Outlook .pst files. Because the workers have .pst files that are hundreds of megabytes, I really wanted to see those files backed up. (My company uses Outlook as a mail client but doesn't use Microsoft Exchange Server.)

Many more readers sent in links to their favorite tools for accomplishing the same set of backup tasks. I haven't looked at any of the tools, but a dozen or more of your peers suggested each of the following tools:

Many readers also suggested complex hardware solutions, which usually involved one of Promise Technology's advanced IDE controllers to build RAID 5 arrays. Remember that a RAID 5 array requires at least three drives, which greatly increases the backup solution's cost and creates the hassle of trying to find room for three drives.

Finally, some readers mentioned simply adding additional storage to the existing network, letting workers use any number of different tools to back up their local machines to that storage, then letting the standard server-backup software back up the user data. The problem here is time. My company has only so many downtime hours; without expensive backup hardware, backing up that server would take a long time.

Thanks for all the responses. It's great when readers are so quick to provide solutions to problems for their peers.