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Backup Tapes vs. portable hard drives??????

I understand some of the pros and cons of these two solutions- backup tape and portable hard drives - being used as the only means of backing up data.  I would like to hear others opinions on useing a portable hard drive for company backups.

      Small company- 18 users, 1 server, under 30g worth of data being backed up.  

8 Solutions
A backup drive is obviously faster than a tape, and access is much faster as well.  

Drawbacks are that it is more expensive per GB, harder to store, can't be easily shipped, and in general is more delicate than tape - you can't subject it to shocks.  It is also harder (due to cost and size) to rotate backups the way you can with tapes.
IMO I have had so many bad tapes that I want to be done with tapes altogether. It is the preferred method. But I have had really good luck with USB hard drives for backups. But I also do monthlys on DVD's just in case. some people might disagree but I just do not like tapes anymore too much data that could have been lost here had i not had a raid 5 fiber channel array.
I agree with Dynamic1, I use DDS4 20/40GB tapes for our server but also do weekly/monthly backups to DVD..

I agree that Hard drives are fragile as i killed 2 80GB USB Pocket drives in 3 months due to carrying them about..

IMHO i would use Tape Backup rotated as follows Mon Tues Wed Thurs FriWeek1 Mon Tues Wed Thurs Friweek2 Upto week 5 so you have 4 daily tapes and 5 weekly friday backups which always gives you scope to go back. i also save random compressed to DVD

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I prefer to stay away from the tape drives.  They have more features as far automating the backup, and the tapes themselves are cheaper then disks, so you can a back up for each day of the week.  But they are really pricey and tend to have a lot of mechanical issues.  

I say, just use you portable hard drive.  You can create a script that will copy whatever data you need backed up and then schedule the script to run once a day or once a week or whatever.  It's no big deal if your backup drive dies because the likelyhood that your main drive dies the same time your backup does is very slim.  That is, as long as you are regularly working with the thing.
Assuming you are using Windows, a usb2.0 or firewire drive is a great way to go. They are very reliable when powered off in a storage closet...and that should expose only the current daily unit to danger.  Do not have only one unit.

 A  40gb tape can easily cost >$30, and they do wear out and fail.  Some designs use an internal spool on the drive, and when they break you must disassemble the entire tape drive to remove the half spooled tape.  Others like DAT work pretty well if you like 8hr restores.  Come to think of it, just today I had a DAT jam in the nice new Dell accounting server and had to do a full power off to extract it  Our Dell primary server takes 1hr to do a network backup and about 7hrs to backup 35gb to tape.

The cost difference is easily made up by just having 3  a monthly, weekly and daily drives used for full  backups weekly and daily incrementals.   Under Windows, it is also easy to get a full disaster recovery capability with even the ability to boot the drive.  This is far preferable to having to reload Windows Server, apply all the same updates ( restores at different system update levels often fail) and then restore a tape (you can save a full day!).  Look for bootable disaster recovery when selecting the drive.

With Linux, it may actually be easier to have a full backup server and just use Dump (we use it via Webmin and cron jobs for simplicity) to save to a Raid  on the backup server and we then also use rsync to update the backup server. Here are some sample scripts    http://samba.anu.edu.au/rsync/examples.html

This lets us switch over to the backup server in just a few minutes instead of rebuilding and restoring from tape.  Since its Linux, there is no OS license cost...just a cheap server (or old pc) with big disks and a dvd writer for archiving.

saving multiple monthly backups( if they are large) can be where you need to buy more disks.

>Small company- 18 users, 1 server, under 30g worth of data being backed up>

A company that small I would just use a tape backup. A good tape backup solution implemented correctly can do backups quickly. We are currently backing up 30GB in about 3hrs.

Portable HDs: Fragile and expensive to replace when damaged. Because I know we don't have time to wait for a warranty item to be replaced.
I have just lost so much data with tapes that I have lost all confidence in them. I know people have been using them for 30 something years for backup but. They tend to overheat doing a restore therefore losing data. Just my experience. I feel safer with DVD and multiple backup HDDs. He could get a DVD burner 50 DVDs and 2 40GB hard drives for about $200. Not to bad a deal in my book.
If a HDD is preferd I would not use a portable one for the fact of it being fragile. I would use an offsite storage solution because of disaster recovery from a fire or act of god. DVD's are fine but they do have a size limitation that requires constant changing of disc (unless you have an autoloader).
I use a Maxtor One touch drive 250G.  Just hit the button before I leave for the day.  If necessary, I could put it in my bag to have the "off site" backup as well.  I think it is great, and quite fast as well.  The only problem is, the one touch software isn't licensed for Win 2000 Server.
Portable hard drives. Not even a competition. Just try to do the math at 200 gigs of tapes vs a 200 gig hard drive.
When I run Backups my favorite setup is this;
One 5 1/4'' removable hard drive bay (Metal, not plastic)
One USB 2.0 & FireWire 5 1/4'' external hard drive bay (USB 1.1 may work at redused speed)
One 200 Gig drive (Divided into 30 gig partitions for this scenario)

The External Bay gives you the ability to Hot swap. You can remove and replace drives if you don't get additional HDD cases (After you Unplug the USB or FireWire). And getting the Upsized Bay and using a 5 1/4 inch to a 3 1/2'' removable HDD bay as an adapter you keep a portable DVD burner as an option.
So far it cost about $30 for the Removable HDD (metal cause plastic insulates heat) and $60-70 for the External bay. Plus the cost of drives.
I have even once seen an IDE to USB adapter. Looked pretty cool. But I don't like handling Naked drives like that. Better for internal aplication but It will do both. (PS, still needed 4 pin power from the supply and the external bays are usually powered)

Or, even more fun would be some 40 gig Ipods. Then you can see the files without having to connect to a PC. But it gets pricey.
mdstoughAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all for posting your opinions- they where very helpful.
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