Best practice for use of the HFS Storage Protect backup service

Expand All

Only back up what you need to back up

The fewer files that you back up, the quicker your backup will be, and the less you will use the university resources involved in sending your data to the backup service and in keeping it stored there.  You are also more likely to notice any problems with your backups, such as files failing to be backed up, if you keep your backups to a manageable size.

The Storage Protect scheduled service backs up all drives, folders and files, unless they are excluded. There is a list of files and folders excluded by default, but it is your responsibility to exclude what you do not need to back up.

Please use exclude rules in the Storage Protect client to exclude anything that you do not need or want to back up. This will prevent such data being sent to the  backup servers accidentally.  

Only back up your work

The HFS Storage Protect backup service is intended for the backup of your university-related work.  So, while we understand that hard drives may contain a combination of both work and personal data, please try to exclude from backup your non-work files, using the instructions mentioned in the previous section.  This is particularly important in the case of copyrighted material such as music and movies, which can take up a substantial amount of hard drive space.

For all accounts emails are sent out if a scheduled backup fails to run correctly.  However these mails are only a guide, and the absence of a scheduled backup failure report does not guarantee that every single file has been backed up.  We therefore recommend that you verify that your backups are running as intended.

For how to check that your backups are running correctly, please see our page on how to check that backups ran successfully.

If you have received an email from us, please respond promptly:

  • Scheduled backup failure report

Depending on its contents, a scheduled backup failure report indicates that your backup either did not start (classed as missed), or did start but failed to complete (classed as severed or failed).

  • HFS backup cancellation report

The HFS backup cancellation report means that your backup session exceeded the session duration limit of 12 hours. This usually indicates a very large amount of data being sent to us, or your network connection being slow or having problems. 

  • HFS backup reminder

Backup reminders headed in this way mean that some part of your data has not been backed up recently and could therefore become a candidate for deletion.

Sometimes making large-scale changes to your computer is unavoidable.  Please bear in mind, though, that such changes may affect your Storage Protect backups.

The lists below cover the most common types.

Changes that cause Storage Protect to resend data

There are several sets of circumstances in which the Storage Protect client software can be inadvertently caused to resend data unnecessarily.  If you find that you have made changes of the sort listed below, then you are likely to cause a data resend.

  • Renaming your Windows machine

In Windows, the software stores data by UNC path.  On a PC called my-laptop, C: would be represented as \\my-laptop\c$ and D: as \\my-laptop\d$.  Renaming the machine changes that path, causing a complete resend of data under the new path, in this example \\my-renamed-laptop\c$ and \\my-renamed-laptop\d$.

Please avoid renaming your Windows machine unless absolutely necessary, and if you do have to then please e-mail us at

  • Changing drive names or drive letters

Similarly, changing a drive name will cause a resend of data from that drive.  All data on a Mac external drive renamed from /Volumes/my-external-drive to /Volumes/my-renamed-external-drive would be resent.

In Windows, varying the order in which you attach extra drives will assign different drive letters, so the backup client will resend the data as if it were a different drive.

  • Moving, renaming, or changing permissions on data

This will generally also cause the client to resend that data.  A folder called data, renamed to old-data, will be regarded as new, so Storage Protect will resend the entire contents of that folder, including all sub-folders.  Changes of permissions usually also occasion resends.  We therefore request that large-scale changes to your data be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Other changes

There are other changes that are system-wide which generally do not cause a resend of your data, but can have other unforeseen consequences:

  • Changing operating system (OS) by upgrading an existing machine

If you intend to upgrade an existing machine then please see Install the Storage Protect software to upgrade to the correct version for your new OS.

If your new OS is not listed, we recommend that you delay upgrading until a supported version of the backup client software is released.  Storage Protect nodes seen to be using an unsupported OS may be locked, with their contents preserved until the relevant client software version is available.  Please note that we do not support OS betas or release candidates.

If your new OS is listed, upgrade the backup client software immediately after you have upgraded your OS.  This is because new versions of the backup software do not support the older OS, with the results of such backups being unpredictable.  There is no need to uninstall the old version of the backup software before installing the new one.

  • Changing OS by moving to a new machine

If you are moving to a similar OS, for example replacing a machine running Windows 10 with one running Windows 11, then you may keep your existing Storage Protect nodename.

If you are changing platform, between Windows, Mac and Linux, then please register a new HFS Storage Protect node. This is because the backup software does not support cross-platform restores, so you cannot swap between Windows, Mac and Linux.  If you do, you may corrupt your account and so render your data inaccessible.

  • Moving your computer's location

DNS/IP address changes are not important, so moving your machine and backing up from a different location will not cause any problems or cause data to be resent.

The Storage Protect backup client works on each data partition/drive as a whole.  It composes a list of what is on your machine, compares that with what is stored on the backup server already, and backs up the difference.  If, therefore, you have many millions of files in one partition, the backup client on your local machine can become very slow as it tries to process the whole list at once.

Before you first back up, please first of all consider the arrangement of your data and split it into partitions, ideally of no more than 1TB and a few million files in each.

If data is lost from your machine and you then run a further backup, then the copies of those files on the HFS Storage Protect servers are scheduled for deletion and only kept for 90 days.  So, for example, if you lose data from a Windows drive C: and then back up C:, the backed up copies of your data are at risk.

We recommend that as soon as you discover you have lost data from an existing machine, you stop your backup scheduler.  For how to do this, please see our instructions for stop the Storage Protect scheduler service.  Alternatively, please email us at and ask for your data set to be renamed, so that you do not accidentally back up over it.

You can register as many Storage Protect nodes as you need in order to back up your data.  For most people this will mean one node per physical machine, though in the case of a multi-boot machine a node is needed for each operating system that you wish to back up.

If you manage a lab of machines all running just Windows then you may register each one.  Or, if you have a dual-boot machine running Windows and Linux and wish to back up both, then you should register two nodes.

  • Please do not attach more than one machine to a node.

This can happen accidentally if you install the backup software on a machine, then clone that machine and give it a new identity.  In such situations, especially on Mac and Linux, one machine can overwrite the other's backups. This puts your backups in danger.

  • Please do not register the same machine twice.

This is a waste of resources and, if you back up the same data to two Storage Protect nodes, it can cause data duplication on the backup servers.

  • Please email us at if you wish to transfer a Storage Protect nodename from one machine to another.

Do not deregister the node and then try to re-register it.  Nodes do not get deleted until at least 7 days after deregistration. Until it has been deleted you will not be able to register another node with the same nodename.

In order to manage resources Storage Protect nodes, including their data, are deleted if they have not backed up for over 90 days.  Similarly, any individual filespaces which are in an active account but which have not been backed up for 90 days or more will be deleted.

If you go away temporarily

We can keep your data for you while you are away, if you are leaving Oxford temporarily and cannot back up regularly, for example because you are on extended leave away and your machine is in Oxford.

Contact the us at to ask us to retain your backups, letting us know when you will be away until.  Please note that we can keep data from dormant accounts only for a reasonable period of time.

If you leave Oxford University

If you have finished using the HFS Storage Protect backup service, please uninstall the HFS Storage Protect software and deregister your HFS Storage Protect node, saving university resources.  Otherwise we retain unused accounts for 90 days before deletion.

Get support

If you cannot find the solution you need here then we have other ways to get IT support

Get IT support