I have a Windows VPS hosted at some web host, I have remote desktop administrator access and I can install whatever software I need on that VPS.

This is a basic low cost VPS, so the system resources (especially memory) are extremely limited, the main difference between backing up a dedicated server and a VPS is the VPS's limited resources.

My requirements are:

  1. Backup the VPS content (I don't want to backup the entire virtual hard drive, I want to be able to access my files without installing the same VM software).
  2. Backup files, IIS configuration and SQL Server databases.
  3. Extremely light weight, use (almost) no memory when inactive, able to limit memory usage when backing up.
  4. Backup to a remote location (Amazon S3 is best because it's cheap).
  5. Fast and bandwidth efficient (uses compression, incremental backup, etc.)
  6. Optionally able to backup up mail server (I use SmarterMail), I can live without this because I have a relatively simple e-mail setup and I keep all my messages on my desktop in Outlook.
  7. Backing up files in use is not an issue for me because most files (except SQL Server and mail data listed above) will never be locked on this specific server.

I have a limited budget, obviously I would love a free solution ,but this is a business machine and good backup is worth some money.

  • Not quite an answer, but did you consider a VPS solution that included integrated back-up? Many hosts will or can include this as part of the set-up. If it's important to you, then might be worth looking into.
    – Dan Diplo
    Jul 25, 2010 at 17:50
  • @Dan - yes I did consider this but: 1. I don't trust to do my backups (see codinghorror.com/blog/2009/12/… ), 2. their backup will be on the same datacenter (if not the same physical machine) as the VPS, making it vulnerable to datacenter-wide problems (fire for example) and 3. I want to be able to restore my backups on a machine in another hosting company if needed.
    – Nir
    Jul 26, 2010 at 5:48

6 Answers 6


What about DropBox or something similar? Set the home directory to be your deployed site and write a script (see this KB article for pointers on how to schedule the task) to scrape the rest of your content into a web invisible sub directory periodically. That should cover each point you listed, and also give you the option of using it for deployment since it is bidirectional. The Basic account is free, 2GB, and can be expand as your site/storage needs do. I haven't used it this directly, but I have been using it to transfer files around for some time.

  1. Drop Box is File based and accessable via the web
  2. Anything you can export to the filesystem as a file can be backed up. It won't have a mechanism for atuomatically doing it, but a quick PowerShell script on a schedule should do the trick.
  3. I believe (but don't know for sure) that DropBox will be pretty light on the system. It does a check to see if new files have been put on the server and triggers its local activity by changes to local files. No changes, no local activity.
  4. Dropbox is external.
  5. Dropbox does differential updates.
  6. Emails are files.
  7. Unsure about how Dropbox handles locked files. I believe on Windows it does something with ShadowCopy, but that is pure conjecture on my part (that's how I would have done it).

Also, take a look over at SO for Good Secure Backups Developers at Home for some other interesting solutions.


I wrote a Powershell script to automate compressing and encrypting data on our production servers before uploading it to Amazon S3. It is designed to upload everything from a temporary folder, which in my case contained MS SQL backup files created by another script. The scripts currently use maximum compression, so if you are concerned about memory usage you might want to dial that down a bit, but my guess is that with a bit of tweaking you could get it to do most of what you want. Our vendors wanted $500 a month for offsite backups, where as this solution costs about $5 a month.


mozy.com is a good, inexpensive backup service but you would have to handle pulling down what you needed from the VPS yourself, I believe.


I also would say, you should use a backup disk. Almost every provider do this service for a low price. The "pro" is, the backups are fast. The "contra" is, you don't have full control over your backups (almost, not by every provider).

An other, very nice and "cheap" solution is Acronis[1]. It's a clicky-clicky program, which can send you complete logs of the backup and it supports almost every storage.

[1] http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/


Due to speed limitations, I would treat off-site backup as a secondary backup approach. Amazon's S3 is definitely a good, cost-effective off-site solution, but depending on what you're needing to restore, it can take many hours to get Gigs of content back over to your server to get your sites back up.

For your primary backup, I'd make sure you are writing backups to a separate physical drive on the same server or another server in the same data center.

In my experience, the majority of cases where you need your backups are due to human error (i.e. accidently deleting something you need), hard drive corruption, viruses, or hard drive failure. In these cases, being able to get at the data fast is key.


Might give Jungle Disk a look, just heard about it today.


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