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Best device for backing up ~8 GB ?

Posted on 2005-04-19
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I'm building a PC to be used exclusively as a small fileserver for an office of 3 (perhaps ultimately 4) people who use standard Office 2003 apps Word, Excel and Outlook in their daily work.  The office already has a 100mbps wired network, and I'm going to run just Windows XP Pro on the new machine, sharing folders with different permissions to give public and private storage on the fileserver for documents so they can be backed up centrally.

There is currently about 4.5 - 5.0 GB of data spread between the 3 workstation machines, which will all be taken off the workstations' local drives and stored on the server.  (No-one works out of the office, so we can assume the network will always be there)

What would be the best backup technology to use for 5 GB, perhaps with room to grow by up to double to 8-10 GB?

Budget is relatively tight, we have about GBP 600 (USD 1000 - 1100) for hardware.  Ideally the backup would be unattended, run overnight (so speed isn't a massive concern) automatically, onto removable storage which can be taken offsite at the end of each day - perhaps in rotation, and must be easy for non-technical people to manage.

On my own PC I have a Travan NS-20 backup drive, it's not enormous but it's big enough, it's faily slow but can do the job overnight.  I have 10 cartridges and do full backups each night, rotating the cartridges so I have 5 daily backups which are overwritten every 6th day, and 5 weekly backups which are overwritten every 6th week.

The NS-20 drive is pretty old now, and I don't see it in suppliers' catalogues or websites these days.  Has the technology been replaced with something else?  Other tape systems are very expensive.

Dual Layer DVD is a possibility, as is Iomega's Rev drive - but I'm not sure if there's anything better, or if those two are likely to do the job fairly automatically and very easily.
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Question by:danieloneill
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 13821605
For a backup of that size, I'd suggest 2 or 3 external USB/Firewire hard drives.  Rotate them off site and setup a script to backup to them (or use the Windows Backup utility to backup to a file on the external drive).  

Note: You would NOT backup EVERYTHING every night.  That's simply wasteful.  You would backup EVERYTHING perhaps once every week or, depending on how much data is added/changed, perhaps as little as once a month.  Then do a differential backup (ONLY changed data) every night.  3 or 4 250GB drives could easily handle you for a year or longer, assuming you don't need to keep the old backups indefinitely.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 13821611
I usually recommend a Combo DriveDock from www.wiebetech.com, problem is I don't think they ship internationally.  The great thing about this device (maybe you can find one on ebay) is that you use standard internal ATA hard drives to connect to it, no encloser - it's just like an enclosure without the enclosure.
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nobus earned 400 total points
ID: 13821923
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by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 800 total points
ID: 13821974
I recently had a debate on Rev drives.  In my opinion, you get better pricing, overall compatibility, and recovery options using a disk (hard disk) based solution rather than a Rev drive.  Even if you don't use the Firewire/USB Combo DriveDock

For reference, see:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Q_21370919.html#13669006
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Q_21385150.html#13759614
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by:nobus
ID: 13822031
i saw those; and i only give the advice because we are using them without problems and are satisfied.
They are easy, transportable and fast; but not the cheapest in the world, i know.
But i think there is no "best" solution", everybody has to pick his best one for himself.
You can only choose if you have different options, so i think that my suggestion adds a valid option to his choices :

tape
disc
Rev

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by:rindi
rindi earned 600 total points
ID: 13822361
I'd also second nobus' suggestion and the Rev. Drive.
In my opinion using harddisks as backup media is not the ideal way to use a harddisk. Generaly a disk is meant to run more or less continuously, in the same environment. Always removing them and moving them offsite, isn't too good. You also wear the electrical contacts more than usual that way. Although disks have become resistant against jolts, that still does not do them any good.
A tape or also the Rev Media (a kind of harddisk without the head mechanics etc.) is much less prone to damage by jolting or bad handling than a normal a harddisk. The rev is also a smaller cartridge than a normal disk is, this makes them easier to fit into small bank safes offsite.

I believe Iomega will probably also supply some dedicated backup software with the Rev. (I'm guessing at this, is that the case, nobus?). Such backup software often is easier to use and install than the minimalistic builtin backup software you get with XP...

Tapes themselves on the other hand are often a bit difficult to handle for people not used to them, and the cheap versions (Travan, Dat) often are used much longer than their normal life span would be, and the users probably don't know that the tape hase gone bad. With a Rev I don't think there is a problem with the lifespan of the media.
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by:nobus
ID: 13822388
Here's what they say on that page that i gave the link for :

Includes Backup and Disaster Recovery Software
For PCs, Iomega Automatic Backup Pro provides 'set-it and forget-it' file level backup and system disaster recovery. Included options for file compression and 256-bit data encryption, optimize space usage and secure data. For Mac® users, Dantz® Retrospect® provides a system or file level backup and recovery solution.

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by:nobus
ID: 13822409
without wanting to questioning the validity of leew's suggestion, i would like to add that in my opinion, taking harddisks back home (with the backup) each day is not what disks were intended for, while rev drives are made for backup purposes.
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by:David Wall
ID: 13822832
I have no experience of using harddrives or dvd's as restoration media.

I have used tape drives and you can get ait and dat drives for around £300 pounds, plus the cost of a scsi card. tapes are about £5 for dat £30 ish for AIT.

I always prefer wherever possible to take a full backup it is always easier to rebuild a system from one tape , rather than trying to use a master then adding incremetal backups.

The main thing you do need to do is test your backups regurlaly and document the procedure for restoration in case of a major failure.

Though with the low cost of DVD drives you could try using a dvd and still have some budget left to try something else.
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by:danieloneill
ID: 13824352
THanks for the thoughts so far.  I too have a Rev drive on my own (one user) system, but I don't really use it as a "backup" as in copy everything and take offsite, but I use it for Iomega's superb software which takes copies of modified files and stores n copies of the file over its different revisions.

I'll read up some more on the practicalities of Rev (unless anyone else has direct experience) because from what little I've experimented with on my own system, it appears that I can't just change cartridges without telling the software which cartridge to expect next (ie Cart 1, Cart 2, Cart 3... take out Cart 2, replace with Cart 3, let it run the backup at 4am only for it to see at 9.30am that it's been asking for Cart 2 back all night).

I'm really pleased Rev's taken off, I bought mine the week they came out, thinking the idea was great - but I've never seen anyone else use one except by my suggestion :)

I don't like the idea of incremental backups because in an emergency when data needs recovering, I don't want to be fishing round for multiple cartridges.  If there are 5 full backups rather than 1 full and 4 partial backups, I've more confidence in a resoration being quick and easy.

Portable hard drives are nice, they'd certainly be bigger than a Rev (though when even uncompressed a Rev is 8x bigger than required, the extra a HDD brings isn't a selling point) and possibly a bit quicker, I think I'm leaning towards the Rev for the software it comes with too.  I'll report back and serve up some points tomorrow :)  Thanks all
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by:rindi
rindi earned 600 total points
ID: 13824555
Also for the amount of data you would be backing up a full backup is no problem.

What you have mentioned about the the cartridge name is the normal way backups should work. It makes sure you don't overwrite data which should be kept. -> Son. Father, Granfather scheme. The grandpa tape is monthly and kept forever, the pa tape is weekly and kept 5 weeks, and the kiddy tape is daily and kept usually for 2 or three weeks, depending on your rotation scheme. Of course you will not necessarily have to hold on to that scheme, and you can probably tell the software either how long you want to keep cartridges, or that you want them overwritten whenever you want to.
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by:nobus
ID: 13824577
And i use Backup Express for backups, they have the possibility to backup in zip format, which you can read on any PC
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by:kode99
ID: 13825569
Something you may want to consider is a remote backup solution.  In my area I could get a package to store that amount of data for around $30-40 monthly from the phone company - no hardware costs but you do need a high speed internet link.  There are a lot of companies out there so shop around.  As long as your data is encrypted the risks are low. I would go with an established outfit that is targeted toward business.

This approach is fairly painless and it takes away the hardware cost/maintenance as well as the concern of taking data offsite manually.  Although I would probably still run a onsite backup of some sort.  

If you have 5-10 GB of data uncompressed and it is word docs and such you may find that it compresses down quite a bit.  Possibly enough that something like a DVD may be enough to do regular backups.

If the data can be compressed it could also save a fair dollar on a remote backup plan.

Of course your server should have at least RAID1 drive array and good power protection.  Since you are not going with a server OS you can also get some good backup software for cheap compared to the server versions.  

Something like Acronis True Image
  http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/
It is simple to use and will make full images/incremental etc. on the fly.

Anyway,  if you do choose to use a external hard drive I would recommend going with a 2.5" unit for laptops.   They are more robust and a lot smaller and lighter for transport.  The capacities are not as high as 3.5" units but you do not have a lot of data to deal with.  Also they also run cool compared to 3.5 units.  I find a lot of the external cases do not provide enough cooling and are hard on drives.  

Here is a inexpensive case,
  http://www.startech.com/ststore/itemdetail.cfm?ProductID=IDECASE25U2
There are more stylish units now but when I bought this the prices were nuts.  Mine has been running for a few years now with a 40GB drive.  Even dropped it on the ceramic tile floor in my office a couple times with no problems - not that I recommend trying this ;).

These guys also carry a lot of drive cartridge systems and external units.  I really like the SATA external stuff over USB/firewire, much faster but again for the quantity of data this is not such an issue.
  http://www.addonics.com/
What is nice about the units is that most can be used externally or in the bay.  They also have a 2.5" cartridge unit.

In another year or so you could probably just use compact flash cards.

Anyway hope this gives you some ideas.
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by:rindi
ID: 13825732
I myself don't advise you to use dvd media for data backups. I've had quite a few cases where the media could not be read from again, they just aren't as reliable as tapes, rev or HD.
As for online backup services, what happens when you want to restore some particular data? How long does it take for the backup provider to find and mount the correct media? Also what happens when the company goes broke? Is it assured that you get your data back? I wouldn't trust such a service, or at least not for important backups, I believe that has to be done in house.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 13826418
I think I've made my arguments against Rev drives - if you read through the comments of the previous questions I posted.

Hard drives have no problem with being turned on and off.  People turn their computers on and off all the time.
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by:ZaheerMaster
ZaheerMaster earned 200 total points
ID: 13828772
Daniel,
I would suggest a Dual-Layer DVD Writer as your backup solution. I have implemented 3 of these systems so far, with great success.

Here is why:
1) Cost of drive: Rev is about $250 USD vs. $50 for a high quality DL DVD writer

2) Cost of media: $50 per Rev disk, vs. $1 for 4.7GB DVD, or $5 for an 8GB DL DVD.

3) Ease of use/training: More people have experience with "burning a CD" than running a tape or HD backup application.

4) DVDs are durable, universal, and easy to take off-site. A disaster that destroys the office (like a fire) wont cripple the business because you can take that DVD backup to any computer that has a DVD drive and read the data. It is very easy to throw a DVD in your briefcase at the end of the day, and not worry about damaging it. Would you throw a Rev disk in your briefcase without worrying about tossing it around?

5) Consider the size of your data set: 3.5-5GB. Why purchase a 35/90GB cartridge to back up 1/10th of that data? It is overkill. A DL DVD drive will give you plenty of room to grow, in this case even double your data size before you have to use more than one disc.

6) Read CNET.com's excellent article on proprietary storage solutions: http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3000_7-6160861.html
Rafe says, "Iomega's proprietary storage solutions are dangerous. Each new technology (Bernoulli, Jaz, Zip, Rev) has some good combination of speed, capacity, and low cost going for it--along with one huge downside: your next computer is unlikely to support the format. These proprietary formats work acceptably for day-to-day backup, but they are absolute death for archival storage or for transferring files for that matter, since very few computers have compatible drives installed."
I personally have had to throw out over $5000 worth of Jaz and Zip media over the last few years because they are obsolete and I have no way of reading them. However, I still have the very first CD I burned from around 1994, and I can still read it on my new computer.

7) I use Nero's Backup program (included with their Ultra Suite - www.ahead.de) with great success. It is very easy to use and at $50, certainly affordable. It has all the essential features like scheduled backups, etc, but not the overwhelming options of something like Veritas' BackupExec. Also, if you don't need the compression (ie, your data set is less than 4.7 or 8.5 GB, you can simply use Nero to burn an uncompressed data CD. Very handy for archiving.

Basically, the one drawback to the DVD solution is its "limited" size - 8.5 GB. With compression, that could easily be 10GB or more. For a smaller company, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

--Zaheer
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by:danieloneill
ID: 13847220
Thank you everyone for your input.  I'm going with a blended mixture of DVD and Rev discs.

I appreciate the points made about investment in Rev cartridges probably being wasted (I've few uses for all of the Zip discs I used to use now), but there's so much room for growth of data that their capacity will far outlive the machine it'll be connected to, and quite possibly the business too - who knows.

It's as much a practical decision as a technical one - they are regular people in the office, and backing up is going to be a bind for them.  Carrying a Rev disc home in their pocket or briefcase is more convenient than an external hard drive.  I've not moved my own Rev discs around a lot, but there's always one in my Rev drive taking backups of document revisions, accessed dozens of times a day for a year or more without a blip - so I 'trust' it.

I'm going to draw up a rotation table using 4 Rev cartridges to keep nightly backups, with monthly archives going onto DVD (on checking, the actual data to be backed up is just under 4 GB less all the duplicates).  All that leaves for now is to divvy up the points which will be almost as difficult again :)  Thank you to all who participated, you gave me lots to think about and research.
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by:rindi
ID: 13847716
Thanx too.
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by:ZaheerMaster
ID: 13847969
Good luck with the backup rotation!
--Zaheer
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