Backup Issues

Posted on 2003-11-30
Last Modified: 2010-04-27
I need to improve the current backup situation in my office.  It is a very small company with less than 10 employees, so there is essentially no I.T. budget.

Current setup:

Important files are all stored on one hard drive on one computer.  These files are over 30 GB worth of data, but only about 12-15 GB of it needs to be backed up.  The files that are backed up versus those that aren't are NOT separated logically in the directory structure.  We back up weekly.  Our current backup procedure involves using Roxio to make DVD projects.  It usually takes 3-4 DVDs to do a whole backup.

My major problem with this setup is that Roxio projects do not allow you to specifiy "everything in this directory at the time of the burn."  So I can't just save a setup of what directories to burn and what to skip.  I have to recreate the DVD projects every time I do a backup.  This means the entire process takes a person like 3-4 hours.  Basically it is half of a day every week of wasted time.


How can I solve this problem?  Is there a program out there that can save a list of directories and span those files across several DVDs without a human having to attend the process?

I think I can use the Backup program that comes with Windows XP to save all of the directories (and can I save this setup?) to one big backup file.  Is there then a way I can back up this file across several DVDs automatically?


Question by:newstandard
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Expert Comment

ID: 9847616
Your backup is having a bigger capicity than a DVD can store.
You can set the backup separately using few pcs of DVD's.
Or u can invest on a backup tape system that can save up to 20GB per backup tape.

Author Comment

ID: 9847633
I don't really have the option of doing what you suggest, asurada.  Like I said: $0 info tech budget.  Therefore I have to use multiple DVDs.

Using more than one PC to do the backup doesn't help my major problem, which is having to configure the backups every time.  I need a way to store which directories to back up and which not to, and then use that information to do the backup more or less automatically every week.
LVL 18

Accepted Solution

chicagoan earned 100 total points
ID: 9847660
> Is there a program out there that can save a list of directories and span those files across several DVDs without a
 >human having to attend the process?


and Orlogix

Do what you're looking for.

>I think I can use the Backup program that comes with Windows XP to save all of the directories
>(and can I save this setup?) to one big backup file.
You can save and schedule jobs to backup to a file, splitting the backup file to DVD's is problematic, there are file splitters but you's have to reconstruct the entire file to restore one word document.

> Is there then a way I can back up this file across several DVDs automatically?
not as far as I know.

You're still in for a fair amount of work here, swapping disks, etc

I'm sure you know this but a DLT 7000 and ten tapes will set you back <$1000, you could backup every day with 5 minutes effort. If you add up your time (including restores) I think you could make a case for an ROI...

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Assisted Solution

Howie_Ly earned 100 total points
ID: 9847840
Indeed a DLT is a excellent solution.  Also when looking for backup software ensure that you have an INCREMENTAL backup option rather than complete backup.

On a site such as your company i'd be doing full backups each week and incrementals every night.  Each fortnight or month take the tapes/media off site (of store in a fireproof location if this is possible).

Even with good backup software ensure you check that your backups have gone through, sometimes just a visual verification (e.g. dir listing) is all that's needed each night, but once in a while do a restore to ensure that it doing what it's suppose to do.

Good backup regimes need not be expensive just smart ;-)

Author Comment

ID: 9847878
Thanks for those software suggestions, Chicago.  Those both look like decent solutions.

What backup software do you use that has both incremental and complete options, Howie?

Author Comment

ID: 9847880
What company makes these DLTs?  Where can I buy one?
LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 9847926
Quantum manufactures DLT drives, they are resold by all major integrators.
In your situation, you could do a full backup every night. This reduces the time it would take to do a bare-metal recovery and would function as a sort of version control system (as a byproduct).
You want to get the tapes off-site as soon as you can and alway have some tapes off-site, even it it's in a fireproof file tote at the comptroller's house. You have a trash fire, the fire dept comes in swinging axes and spraying water and you lost two weeks work.
Windows backup can do incremental backups but they're typically used when time or media capacity doesn't permit a full backup.
Quantum's site has some good information on standard tape rotation schedules.


Expert Comment

ID: 9847957
newstandard, we're using seagate's backup software they manufacture our backup tape drive.  Actually we have two backups, one for regular files one for database files.

The databases here are about 4.5 gb so we do a full-backup each night.  Each hour we run an incremental backup (changes since the last full backup), then during the night after the full backup again and the incremental backups are reset to zero.  This way we only lose one hour of work if disaster strikes.

We can only guess at how often you need to backup but in the end you'll have to decide on how many significant changes you're likely to have in say an hour or two, then work on the right timing balance.


Assisted Solution

hangman earned 50 total points
ID: 9848330
DLT drives are very expensive, and are really only suitable for storing large amounts of data. Since you have only a small amount of data to backup may I suggest installing a second hard drive. Hard drives are not only much cheaper, they are much faster. I've used tape backups before, and they suck. I've set up a hard disk based backup system where I work, which automatically backs up all the hard drives in the company during the night, over the netwok with no user intervention required at all. Also, when you actually need to recover a file, it only takes a few seconds to access it, instead of a few minutes by tape. Also, its now possible to use serial hard drives which are hot swappable, so you can backup to a hard drive and then take it off-site.

Expert Comment

ID: 9848356
Yes could go the serial ata hard drive road.  But can I strongly suggest that you buy at least two of them and use software (hardware if available) mirroring on the drives.  Two hard drives (about 40gigs each) is peanuts when you consider how valuable your data is.


Assisted Solution

Lotek26 earned 100 total points
ID: 9848739
A human would have to be present to insert span discs unless you found an auto-loading DVD drive. Windows Backup (ntbackup.exe) doesn't support writing to DVD even if the drive is added to the RSM media pool. It will work with some mainstream tape drives, not all. It would be much more reliable to invest in more expensive tape software, in that case.

We used 6-10GB tape until last year and were looking at ~20GB HP Surestore DLT or Seagate DDS3 tape drives. This would be the logical answer for you if you want unattended backups. Drives were $300-700 new, $100 lower on eBay. Good software was ~$200 and up. DLT tapes were expensive, but DDS was very inexpensive. We tried both and were not happy with the performance due to driver and hardware compatibility issues under Win2K. Data would be backing up very fast as expected then the port or drive interface the tape unit was on would "time out" and the backup would fail 25% of the time, often corrupting the tape in the process. Unacceptable. We understood that more expensive software would likely solve that issue, but we were discouraged.

We decided to give DVD a try EVEN though the storage capacity was lower than what we were already using. We weren't disappointed. We invested in a $275 Sony DRU 4X drive, a package each of Memorex DVD+R and DVD+RW discs and $79 BackupMyPC software. If you have nearly zero extra budget then new software for your current DVD configuration is your only option.

BackupMyPC interface ran just like the Veritas, Seagate, HP backup software we'd been used to using in years past. Very user friendly. You want "backup" software (unlike Roxio or other burning software) because you can do full backups as well as "incremental" backups (when a file changes in Windows an 'archive' attribute is set the backup software can recognize, backing up only files that have changed since the last backup). True backup software lets you select individual files or entire folders, will span multiple discs, and lets you save in backup "sets" (projects) so you don't have to recreate the routine every time.

We do "full" backups twice/week on 4X DVD+R media; daily "incremental" backups on 4X DVD+RW media. The full backup discs are stored permanently. Since they are rewritable, the incrementals are rotated so that it would never take more than 2 daily and 1 full to restore all our critical data and we would never have to re-enter more than the current days' data should the system crash. Backups now take less than an hour instead of several hours. If your data volume is higher or more critical you'd want to make incremental backups more than once/day.

We and others questioned the reliability of DVD. Purists still support DLT or DDS DAT tape. We haven't yet had an actual system crash, but we have tested the process by simulating a crash and restoring our data. We have yet to have a restore failure. We have had one bad burn, found during the "verify/compare" segment of the backup process. By this time next year 4.8X and 8X DVD media should be readily available for newer drives which will support those speeds.
LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 9849306
The only drawback I see to DVD is the lack of capacity creating the need for human intervention.

I think the slam on tape is anecdotal and unjustified. While DDS is more fragile and has less capacity than DLT, both have been in service for nearly twenty years, and the marketplace isn't forgiving of buggy technology. Plus you'll have a hard time hitting 9 MB/s on your DVD writer.

Backup to disk is fast and disk is cheap but it doesn't overcome the versioning problems or address getting backups off-site. Removeable disks are fine but much more expensive and fragile compared to tape for that purpose.


Expert Comment

ID: 9849622
I've also had a play with BackupMyPC, it's as you say user-friendly.  But i'm not a fan on windows task scheduler based backup systems, still if you have no other option then I say this is the one for you.  Would be nicer if it has an 'true' incremental logging feature though.

Author Comment

ID: 9849650
Thanks to everyone for their help!  I think I'm going to have to stay with the DVDs for now, and use BackupMyPC to improve the process of backing up.  If it does have incremental backup capabilities than we can start to think about doing backups every hour onto a DVD RW.

As for everyone suggesting a tape drive, I understand that the data is important and that tape is a much better solution than what we are currently doing.  And I will of course recommend to the Powers That Be that we get a tape drive, but I doubt they'll agree with me. :-)

Expert Comment

ID: 9851461
instead of using dvds u could buy 2 identical hard drives and buy a RAID host with +1 mirror which will mirror the first hard drive onto the second

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