Online Backup Best Practices – Fourth in a Series of Five


Rob Cosgrove, CEO Remote Backup Systems

This five part series by Rob Cosgrove helps Managed Service Providers and Online Backup consultants design correct backup protocol for their customers.

This fourth article discusses backup schedules and shows how to estimate backup times. Other articles in the series cover setting backup strategies, optimizing backup time by identifying data that needs to be backed up online, selecting backup types, and explains how to define backup sets.

Scheduling Backups and Estimating Backup Time

There are three basic schedules.

On Demand – End users can force a backup whenever they like.

After Hours – Backups happen automatically during a pre-set window of time after business hours. This is by far the most popular schedule.

Continuous – Backups happen throughout the day, either as files are modified, or at very frequent intervals, like every fifteen minutes. This is sometimes called CDP – Continuous Data Protection. It often interferes with the usability of the computer, and is not recommended for Servers at the current state of technology. Mercury supports CDP for Workstations and Laptops.

Select a schedule that meets the customer’s Recovery Point Objective (RPO) for each backup set. For example, if a customer can afford to re-enter a day’s worth of work, his RPO is 24 hours, and a single daily After Hours backup is sufficient.

If his RPO is 4 hours, then you should schedule a backup every four hours during business hours for this backup set. (Select the Windows Task Scheduler checkbox.)

Rob’s Free Online Backup Estimator

It is often difficult to estimate the size of a first full backup and subsequent incremental backups. As a Service Provider, you want to know how much storage space a potential customer is going to use, and the customer may want an estimate of his charges before he commits to a subscription.

Here’s a tool you can use to estimate backup sizes on Windows and Mac workstations. Once again, it’s a world first, brought to you by the company who invented the industry, Remote Backup Systems.

You can download this program and run it on your clients’ computers. It will scan the drives and estimate the size of the first full backup and subsequent daily backups. It requires Internet access because it also calculates the backup time by measuring the customer’s upstream bandwidth. To do this it creates and sends a 10KB file containing random numbers.

The Estimator does not collect or send personal information.

The Estimator knows the average compression ratios of most common file types and uses these for calculating the length of time for backup sessions. It displays native file sizes. I recommend that you charge customers by native file size rather than by compressed file sizes.

It also assumes my Best Practices suggestions for Includes and Excludes, and uses my recommended Global Exclusion List, a 4GB file size limit, and includes only files on internal hard drives. You can change some of these defaults.

The estimator can take twenty minutes to run depending on the size of the files. At the end it will recommend Service Providers who are part of the Remote Backup Systems Referral Network.

Read the final article in this series here.

Rob Cosgrove is the President of Remote Backup Systems, founder of the Online Backup Industry, and a vocal advocate for maintaining the highest standards in Online Backup software. His latest book, the Online Backup Guide for Service Providers: How to Start and Operate an Online Backup Service, is available online now, on, and at bookstores.

Remote Backup Systems provides brandable, scalable software and solutions to MSPs and VARs enabling them to offer Online Backup Services.

About The Author

Steve Roberts /

Steve Roberts is VP of Engineering at Remote Backup Systems (, developers of the RBackup Online Backup software platform, providing software powering more than 9,500 Service Providers in 65 countries since 1987.