NAS, Media Servers, Backing up my network, and Norton Ghost 15

By | Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Leave a Comment
How to make Norton Ghost 15 do a remote backup on Win7 x64, plus thoughts on Network Attached Storage and backing up machines.

Note: This is a very special-interest blog... just passing along some things I learned. This will probably not be interesting for most readers.

A while back I bought a NAS (network attached storage) machine on sale to see how I liked it. It came with Microsoft Home Server installed as the operating system. I liked it, but the NAS itself was quite slow - in particular it had a rather lame network card, which is stupid for a NAS device. I also have a full-blown PC on my network which I was using to serve media. I had imagined moving the media to the NAS and retiring the PC, but the NAS wasn't up to the job. So, I retired the NAS instead and kept the PC server.

There was one thing that I had really liked about Microsoft Home Server on the NAS: it was very easy to set it up to backup all of the machines on my network to the NAS every night. It did this using a "pull" methodology (ie - the NAS grabbed data off of the target machines), rather than "push" (where the machines to be backed up run software that puts data on the NAS's disks.) I liked the pull methodology quite a lot - it offloaded the task to the NAS, centralized administration of the backups, and made it easy to schedule the backups so that they happened sequentially, thereby not overloading the NAS.

I wanted to make that happen with my server machine. I couldn't find any way to get the backup features of Microsoft Home Server onto Windows 7 using any Microsoft product - Why? God knows. I happened to have a copy of Norton Ghost 15 that I got for free in a combo deal with something else I had bought, so I figured I'd try that out. Well, it was a complete and total pain in the ass and took hours and hours including a 1/2 hour completely useless online chat session with Norton tech support, and another 1/2 hour session on the phone with Norton with a support agent who knew about half of the answers I needed.

The following is a writeup of how to get this to work. However, after getting it set up I quickly concluded that Norton Ghost 15 just doesn't cut it. It does not provide the granularity of backup that I want. As far as I can tell, it only allows backing up of a machine's system files, or entire disk(s). You cannot choose specific sub-directories. So, after all that work I almost immediately abandoned Ghost. I am now running scheduled tasks on each of the target machines to push data to shares on my server. That works just fine, though I do miss the centralized administration. Oh well.

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Note: all my machines are running Win7 Ultimate 64bit with Windows Firewall. These steps may or may not work on other versions of Ghost or other versions of Windows.

For convenience I will refer to the machine that is performing the backups as the "server," and the "remote" machines that are being backed up as "clients."

1) You need to have agent running on any client machine. Ghost cannot perform a remote deployment of Agent to a Win7 machine. So, you must install Ghost on each client machine. The owners manual says:
You must purchase a separate license for each computer you want to manage.You can deploy the agent without a license for a 60-day evaluation. After thattime, you must purchase and install the license to continue managing the remotecomputer.
However, apparently you cant buy licenses for just the Agent, you will need a full license for Ghost for each machine - server and clients. Also, the "60" days is incorrect. It is 30 days.

2) There are three services that must be running for this to work. "Norton Ghost", "Symantec SymSnap VSS Provider", and "SymSnap Service". Launch the services panel by clicking the start button and entering "services.msc" Find each of these services and set them to "Automatic" and start them. I have no idea why Norton install doesn't do this itself. Also, on my machines I set the Norton Ghost service to run as myself instead of the default Local Service. I don't know if this is necessary or not, but haven't had the time to go back and try undoing that to see if Ghost stops working. Also, I did these steps on both the server and client machines - it is possible that it is only required on the server machine. Again, no time to research further.

3) If you are running a firewall, you must allow Norton Ghost and its services through the firewall. I am using the default Windows Firewall. On the forums there are threads that talk about opening various TCP and UDP ports (notably 135, 136, 1345, 1346, 1347). I found this didnt work (as well as being a pain in the ass to do all the steps required to open these ports for each of the services.) What worked for me in this configuration is:
  • Launch Control Panel/Windows Firewall.
  • Click "Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall"
  • Find Norton Ghost in the list and turn on the check mark. If it isn't in the list, click "Allow another program", find your NG15 install, which is normally C:\Program Files (x86)\Norton Ghost, go to the Console subdirectory, and add VProConsole_.exe. (note the "_" in the name.)
  • You will then also need to allow the following programs through as well:
    • Console\VProConsole.exe
    • Agent\VProSvc.exe
You should reboot the clients and servers, just to be safe. Now, finally, on the server machine you should be able to see the client machine and do a remote backup. Whew.

Why Symantec hasn't documented any of this, and why Ghost install doesn't take care of it, is beyond me. My apologies for not refining this further, but I killed too many hours making this work already - just wanted to quickly write this up for anyone else facing this scenario. I wouldn't be surprised if at least a couple of the above steps can be removed. If anyone has time to refine this, please add to this thread.
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