File copying - Robocopy, Super Flexible File Copier etc

The whole world of data backup and disaster recovery gets more and more complex - and as file sizes get larger, much slower too!

One of the common tasks any Sysadmin needs to do is to replicate the files on a data server to some backup system, either on or off site - or both! - so that in the event of something really bad happening, users can carry on working with as little down time as possible.

The simplest way of archiving this is to replicate - ideally in real time - the data files from a main data server to a backup one, or to a NAS.

Numerous commercial tools exist for this task - some very clever, some very expensive - and a few - very few - both! But there are also free or low cost tools which do very much the same thing and are well worth investigating.

One of the oldest is the command line (CLI) 'DOS' tool XCOPY. Not much use today, but still worth knowing the syntax for quick and dirty jobs.

Much better is its younger sibling, ROBOCOPY - Robust File Copy for Windows - which was available free from Microsoft in the various resource kits for XP and Windows 2003 and is now shipped as part of Vista, Windows 7 and Window 2008.

Unlike XCOPY ROBOCOPY is a directory not file copier, although files can be excluded or included through the CLI. It is robust by design and works well over slower WAN links.

The only problem with this tool is the rather complex CLI set of flags and so various designers have developed add-on GUIs to help in this area. Microsoft have also release an unsupported tool called Richcopy which takes the concept of ROBOCOPY and adds not only a GUI but also a scheduler and various other bells and whistles.

Finally, after the free offerings we move on to the paid ones. The best of these is Super Flexible File Copier, developed by Tobias Giesen in Germany. It runs as an NT service, has all the features one could possibly want and costs around $50 / Euro50. It can be downloaded as an evaluation version fro its home site here.