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Nightly backup of a win 2k server to a winxp pro machine off premisis over the internet.

Posted on 2006-04-17
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I am currently using windows 2000 server in a law firm office. We have a nightly backup that runs there, but, due to the old state of the building, I would like to run a nightly incremental backup that would connect to a winxp pro machine at the owners home and place a copy of the backup there, in addition to the "on premis" backup. Once a month we would do a manual full system backup and manually move it to the winxp machine. I suppose this would involve either vpn or ssh? any ideas would be Extremely helpful. Also, the home winxp machine is on a cable modem with a Dynamic address. I think that it doesn't change too often, but I may need to start the ssh or vpn from the "dynamic" address, if this is a problem. Come on, give me your best, cause I need some help. thanks hikemarris ....Have tools, Will Travel...
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Question by:HIKEMARRIS
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Lee W, MVP earned 336 total points
ID: 16474967
From what you've described, I would have concerns about your ability to recover from a disaster, such as a fire or flood.  I would recommend you read over my "canned" backup response.  Especially if you're looking into doing incrementals with a monthly full and aren't taking backups off site regularly (weekly at worst).

First, there are three MAJOR types of backups:
1.  Full backups - They backup EVERY file on the system (in theory).  Disk Images, such as those created by Ghost, can be considered Full backups.
2.  Differential Backups - They backup everything that has changed since the last Full backup.  Expect that each night a differential is run and there hasn't been a full, the differential will grow larger and larger.
3.  Incremental - Backups up Everything that's changed since the LAST backup.  These backups are often fairly small and consistant in size (assuming your work habbits don't change much).

Fulls can take a LONG time to backup and aren't typically recommended or done on a daily basis.  Usually, fulls are done on a weekly, every-other-week, or monthly basis.  (NOTE: depending on your business/purpose, they may occur more or less frequently).

Differential backups, as noted, grow in size.  So eventually, they can get quite large.  This is why Fulls are often scheduled so as to prevent differentials from growing too large.  A monday-friday Differential followed by a weekend full is a common practice.  If the worst happened and you needed to restore things on Friday morning, you would need the last full backup and the last differential backup to restore all your data - effectively two restores.

Incrementals, while they use less backup space every night, would require EVERY backup job be restored since and including the last full backup.  So if Friday morning, you needed to restore your systems, you would need to restore the fUll from the weekend, then Monday's incremental, Tuesday's incremental, Wednesday's incremental, and Thursday's incremental.  Not terribly efficient for the restores.  In my experience, Incremental backups are not done very often, in part for this reason.

What software to use?  I'm not familiar with Linux, Unix, or Mac backup solutions, so this advice is largely windows-centric.  NTBackup, included with XP Pro, 2000, and 2003 is a suitable if not terribly fancy program.  It lacks some features you might otherwise like to have, but it will backup everything you NEED backed up for no additional cost.  If you have a large server environment, you'll most likely want to purchase third party software such as Veritas/Symantec Backup Exec or Brightstor ArcServe and their various agents for things like Exchange, SQL, and other OS platforms.

When people talk of backups, MOST people think of tape.  I'll get into my logic for not using tape MOST of the time a little later, but first, some important notes about tape:

Given costs of drives, media and various other issues with tape I discuss later, getting a tape drive with a native capacity of less than 300 GB just isn't a wise idea, in my opinion.  This will limit you to getting SDLT or LTO tape technologies.  LTO3 can hold 400 GB Native and the newest SDLT technology can handle 300 GB per tape.  ***EXCEPTION*** - If you need to keep your backups for lengthy periods of time, for example to comply with HIPAA or Sarb-Ox, then you can get a smaller tape drive for backup purposes.

Hardware or Software Compression?  Hardware is faster.  Most backup software will DISABLE software compression if hardware compression is available.

Do NOT base your capacity and tape requirements on the advertised compressed capacity of a tape.  Most people will find the supposed 800 GB LTO3 tape only holds 550-650 GB compressed.  Your milage WILL vary based on the type of date being backed up, but I've backed up a wide variety of data over the years and NEVER seen a tape come CLOSE to a 2:1 compression ratio as advertised.

In my opinion MOST businesses will find daily differential backups appropriate and weekly or twice monthly full backups.

When considering backup solutions you need to consider a variety of factors:

1.  How long must you save the backups?  (Some companies may be legally required to keep them for years while others may have no need to keep data that is more than 30 days old).
2.  How frequently does the data change AND how much data changes?
3.  How long can you wait to restore the data?  (Data on tape can take longer to restore than data on a hard disk.  In addition, if anything goes wrong with the tape drive, you may not be able to access that backup.  If it's on a hard disk, you can put the drive physically in just about any system and get access to the data.  Data on hard drives is RARELY permanently lost to the point a data recovery service couldn't recover it (and I've never had to go that far).
4.  How much money/revenue/income would your company potentially lose if you lost an hours worth of data?  A days worth?  A week?  A month?  Figure it out and be prepared to spend AT LEAST a day's worth of income on a backup solution.  And consider it insurance, because without the backup, if you go down, you'll lose at least that much.  
5.  How much you can budget for NOW to implement the backup solution.  (This should be factored in with 4).
6.  What you are backing up.  (Databases will compress and require less backup space than video files, pictures, or mp3s would.  Exchange and databases, such as SQL Server or Oracle  databases, might also require special consideration as normal backups usually won't work for them).
7.  Reliability of media. (Tape can wear down and tape heads can wear down over time.  A new tape used on an old tape head MIGHT not restore on a new tape head if you replace the tape drive because it fails or gets outdated).
8.  Cost per GB of stored data.

The REV Drive option:  Do the math.  Take the cost of a REV drive itself (the unit that reads the disks), then add in the cost of enough REV Disks to support your backup needs.  Now compare that to the cost for a hard disk - external - or an external hard disk adapter, such as a DriveDock from www.wiebetech.com.  In almost EVERY instance the REV drive and disks will cost more per GB stored.  And, if something ever happens to the REV drive itself, you can't just put the disks in another system - you have to have another REV drive.  Using external hard drives does not pose such a problem - you can just open up the external drive casing and plug them into ANY computer, internally, thus providing relatively quick access to the disk and to recover your data.

If you need to store each and every backup (or each and every full backup) long term, then you should consider using tape.  Long term, it's cheaper than any other method.  And even if there are problems with tape heads and reading the media, OFTEN BUT NOT ALWAYS, some expensive data recovery services can get you access to the data.  This should rarely happen though.  If not, if you can overwrite data 6 months old and older, than, provided you are not using LARGE (Terabytes or closing in on terabytes) of data, then I tend to recommend using a hard disk solution.  These, in my experience, tend to be more reliable, faster, and cheaper in cost per GB.

If your data isn't changing much and you only have a few megs per day, you may want to consider using a third party service to backup your data offsite.  They would effectively upload the data to their site and scheduled times, instead of using tape or media.  You could possibly get cheaper service and use a 3rd party web host with large amounts of storage if you are prepared to do a little extra legwork yourself in maintaining things - removing old files, scripting the upload, etc).

What you are backing up will make a different in your overall required costs.  If it's JUST files, then you don't need any special software.  If it's Exchange then you would be better off buying backup software that can do a "brick level backup" (This ability is often part of a seperately purchased agent that works with commercial backup software) which would allow you to restore individual email messages.  The built in backup tool with 2000/2003 will backup exchange and restore it, but's an all-or-nothing thing.  But with e-mail as important as it is with so many businesses, a brick level backup often makes a lot of sense and can save a lot of dollars.  Then there's the Windows system states - A normal FULL, DIFFERENTIAL, or INCREMENTAL backup will NOT properly backup Windows OR the Windows active directory.  To do this, you MUST do a system state backup.  The built in backup tool will do this for you and save it to a file.  I STRONGLY recommend doing system state backups of ALL domain controllers and Exchange Servers whenever making changes to the domain.  Not doing so is an unnecessary and risky gamble.  High end backup software, such as Veritas Backup Exec or Brightstor ArcServe will do system state backups as well.  Then there's your database servers.  If your company runs a SQL class database, you need to consider the expensive backup tools like Veritas or Brightstor.  They have available (at extra charge) agents that will backup the databases without shutting them down.  This can be critical if your database needs to be running 24x7x365.

Lastly, cost per GB.  Though old tape's cost per GB for backing up LARGE amounts of data (TB in size) still can't be beat.  LARGE tapes cost between 30% and 50% less than a hard drive of equal size. But the tape drives often costs many hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  So, for example, if you are backing up 10 GB of data every night and want a way of doing this automatically, then I would suggest two or three external hard drives that would be swapped out once per week.  This would cost you perhaps $300 and potentially last you 2-4 years.  Whereas tape, even though the tapes might be $50 each, the drive will likely cost $400 or more - depending on type of drive.  So you end up spending $500-$800 over 2-4 years, at least, and you're using a technology where, if your tape drive dies you have absolutely no access to your backups.  On the other hand, you can always attach a hard drive to any computer and read the backups.

In short:

CD/DVD option:  If your data doesn't grow that much, you can use a CD/DVD recorder to backup your differential data.  The backups are fairly fast, the media is compact and cheap, and the data can be accesssed - usually - by any system with a DVD drive.  The problem is, most people can't get a complete backup on a DVD and getting them to work in an automated fashion CAN be difficult.

External hard drive option:  Costs are relatively inexpensive and depending on the hardware you buy, cost can be as little as 33 cents per GB - or less.  For fast, reliable, easily performed, and easily recovered backups, I believe this is the best solution.  You will, of course, need at least two drives so you can cycle one off site.  Only drawbacks are that if you need to store data for long periods or have large amounts of data to backup (over 400GB), it can be more expensive than tape.

Tape option:  Unless you are backing up terabytes of data and/or need to keep each backup for a lengthy period of time, tape can be more expensive and less reliable than an external hard drive.  for LARGE backups and storing backups for long times, it is still the most cost effective solution

Internet backup option:  I don't necessary recommend this company, but here's one option - http://www.remotedatabackups.com/.  The idea is great - you get an off-site, quickly recoverable backup of your important data.  This is an important factor that can make the cost per GB (compared to other backup methods) less important.  You will typically want to have a reasonably fast internet connection and keep in mind that LARGE amounts of data (GB's worth) CAN take hours to restore and initially backup.  Once backed up, you can typically backup changes fairly quickly.  For a "poor man's" method of doing this, you can always script an FTP connection to a remote ISP and upload important files, such as accounting files, via the script nightly - you just need to periodically delete old backups or most likely run out of space.

Aside from backing up your critical data, don't forget to configure your SQL databases for backups, Microsoft Exchange (if used), and when backing up Windows 2000 or 2003 servers or 2000/XP workstations, MAKE SURE you backup the System State, which contains Active Directory information on domain controllers, your registry, and essential files that your computer uses to know it's vital information.

Oh yes, one more VERY important detail.  TEST YOUR BACKUP PLAN.  Pick a weekend and fake a problem.  For example, turn off your server and consider it dead.  Rebuild the server on another system and do a restore to see that everything works.  What good are your backups if, when the time comes and you need them, you can't get them to work?

[Version 1.5, Last Modified March 16, 2006, soon to be moved to a web site]
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by:rindi
rindi earned 332 total points
ID: 16476684
If I understand you correctly, you want to run a backup over the internet. If you have a lot of data to backup, this isn't practical at all, except if you have a really fast internet connection on both sites, and this fast connection would also mean fast upload, not only download. DSL or Cable connections usually only are fast for downloads, not uploads, so backing up over 1 or 2 GB could take days and block the rest of your internet traffic during that time.

Please tell us what volume you expect to backup, and also what your internet speed is, both ways and both nodes.
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by:HIKEMARRIS
ID: 16478840
thanks to both of you...to rindi,,yes, I want to back up over the internet. The data I need to back up is 24 GB, which I would take manually to the Off premisis back up site and load it there. then 5 nights a week, I would do an incremental back up to the off premisis site. the incrementals, using microsoft backup, are about 2 to 2.5 GB a night. The up speed from the office is 512Kb and the downspeed at the remote is RoadRunner cable, which is anywhere from 1 to 2 MB. SO...I need a program to automate this, and to use some type of secure transmission protocol to transfer this over the internet to the off premisis site. Can this work? or maybe I need to figure out how to make the incrementals smaller, they may be including some unnecessary data...if this is the case..with my speeds,,, how large of a backup could I do each night and still...how to do it. thanks
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16479018
512 Kbits Upload =
64 KB per second
3.84 MB per minute
230 MB per hour

2-2.5 GB would require 9-12 hours to backup.  This is NOT the best solution.

with nightly backups, why not do something a bit more sane... Go buy Nero Burning ROM and a DVD Recorder.  Then create a script that uses Windows backup to backup to a file and in the same script, burn that backup to a DVD.  The next day, take the DVD home.  AT worst you lose a day's worth of data.

If there are some CRITICAL files, such as accounting information, then script that to copy off site - that's fine.  And probably fairly small (certainly not near 2 GB).

Further, we still don't know a log of what you are doing.  I posted my comment hoping that you would answer some of the questions in it, both implied and directly asked.  To be more specific:

1.  What are you backing up to?  Tape?  CD/DVD?  Hard disks?  Rev Disks?  What?
2.  Why are you so into doing Incrementals when you have to restore EACH and EVERY incremental to recover data.  Is there a reason you are not planning on doing differentials?  Given your data size, I can see that as possibly being the reason, but to provide a better answer, what is YOUR logic to this?
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by:rindi
ID: 16479081
I think 512kb is too slow for that amount of data.

A good tool for backing up only the changed data is rsync, a linux tool that according to the link below should also be workable on windows:

http://optics.ph.unimelb.edu.au/help/rsync/rsync_pc1.html
http://samba.anu.edu.au/rsync/
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by:rindi
ID: 16479200
leew, have you thought of shortening your "canned" backup response? I think it really is a good response, but it is so lengthy that it probably overwhelms most of the askers. I know this may be difficult, but it might be worth it. :)

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by:HIKEMARRIS
ID: 16479476
Thanks leew. They were backing up to tape each night. switching tapes daily. The problem was that often the last person out of the office "forgot" the tape, or the tape would get left in the car of one of the office personel. Really fixable actions, but! It would be so nice if it could be automated. The home machine is a 500GB hard drive that would keep the data stored off the premisis on this hard drive. A monthly "full backup" could be done manually, and transfered manually to the off premisis machine. This would get rid of most of the chance of human error. The nightly backups would be insurance against system failure, building burning, etc. The data is all of the info a lawyers office uses. The court motions, the court schedules, phone call logs, I am not familiar with all of the terminology on the items. Am I looking for an unworkable answer? I have been running this thru my mind for the past couple of weeks, and I need some assistance on how to best manage it. thanks again.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16482144
Are you an employee or a consultant?

Again, I don't see a real good (cheap) solution that can get you beyond the need for a human to be responsible.  Is there a fire-proof safe?  

Rindi - Actually, I've edited it somewhat (and it's actually grown) and intend to put it on my web site as soon as I'm satisfied with formatting and content, probably by the end of this week.  Then I'll post a "highlights" version and a link - probably about 1/4-1/6 the current size.
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by:rustyrpage
rustyrpage earned 332 total points
ID: 16482155
Having been in a similar situation, I will tell you that it is virtually impossible to do what you are trying with that kind of a connection.  We do something like that on a grand scale & use a dual-bonded T1 & our data JUST makes it in time over-night.  I think that your only option is to do something in-house & then just have someone responsible for taking something home each night.   So what?:

Why not put a machine into someone's office that has a 500gb hard drive (or whatever) & setup the server to transfer all of the data to that machine each night (incremental of course)...that way you have the data in both places, accessible on the internet.  Then, get the tape drive in that machine (which is off-line data as of the time it finishes the transfer) & have it start the backup to tape around 8:00 in the morning...it can run as long as it needs to on the off-line data & then pop out the tape.  Since the machine is in the office of someone who is responsible, they can then take the tape home (or, if you want, go pick up a safe that is 300 bucks that is fireproof & store the tape there)

That is probably your best option short of upgrading both the internet connections & setting up a site-to-site VPN.
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by:HIKEMARRIS
ID: 16488380
Hello..I am a consultant contractor, and I do most of the network and hardware, physical equipment maintenance and upkeep for this company. I am trying to find an answer to their requests.
these are:
1 do a nightly backup
2. have it backed up or mirrored to an off premisis site
3. use some type of security to keep sensitive data confidential
4. back up from server on static ip address>>accross the internet to a winxp pro machine on a dynamic address on a RR cable connection.

I am just not sure how to accomplish this.
By reading your comments you have assisted me in making my request more precise in explaining what I want to do...thanks I hope someone out there has a workable answer.


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by:rustyrpage
ID: 16488641
Unfortunately, as far as I have seen in the past, even with that clarification, it still isn't possible.  Just the sheer numbers of transferring 2-3gb over a 512k (optimal) connection is nearly impossible.  Look at what leew said about the time needed.

The only option that you have is to do what I was saying about having a computer in-house that can be a mirror of the previous night's data & have THAT one do a sync over to the bosses home computer (plan on having it take all day & using a lot of their bandwidth).

I would say that as a consultant it would be a good time to let them know what is reasonable vs far-fetched.  I do a lot of management for smaller sights that want big things...most of the things I can do, but some of it isn't possible either financially or logically.  This is an example of when the client may need to see the numbers & time it would take at an optimal level to do what they want.  I would say, since you're talking about cable modems that it would be closer to 10-15 hours.  
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16489130
Your a consultant so you need to be honest with your client.  Automated remote backups are not practical for them under their circumstances.  If they want to triple their upstream internet speeds, then this becomes more practical.  Getting SDSLwith a 1.5Mbit up and down would cut the time required to 3-4 hours.  But that does mean you would be saturating the line at that time. A T1 would be better as it is full duplex and a bonded T1 (two or more T1's) would be best.  But now you're talking about going from what they probably pay now - $50-100/month for internet access to paying between $250-$1000+ per month for internet access.  If this were like my attorney client's office, then the amount of data backed up would be 500MB, at best (excluding e-mail) and that would backup (at those speeds) in a couple of hours, maybe a little longer... but 2.5 GB is a lot of data...

You could always hire a 3rd party company for off-site backups, some place like Iron Mountain - but that can quickly get expensive as well.

What I would probably suggest in this specific instance is this:

1.  Tell the client this is not a practical solution at the present time.  While it can be done, a 3x faster internet connection would be required to ensure that the data is transferred in an appropriate amount of time.
2.  The client needs to find a responsible employee to take backups off site every night and bring them back.  Make this a part of that employee's job with the understanding that failure to appropriately complete that aspect of the job is an offense worthy of termination.
3.  Offer, for an additional fee, to stop in once per week and copy a previous night's backup to an external hard disk you would bring with you.  This will provide an additional level of redundancy and add to your own service offerings.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 16489182
Along the lines of number three...if I were you, since they are either going to have to spend 800 or more dollars on internet to do it automatically, I would offer to come in every other night & pick up the last two tapes & charge 100-200 dollars for time & gas.

I think you just need to get from them if 800-1000 dollars more a month for an internet connection (which you may not even be able to get a faster connection at the boss' house) is worth saving 1 day's worth of data.

Like Leew mentioned, it is a very good option to hire an off-site backup company.  Then you would have to upgrade your office internet to a T1 (or similar) & then they would have software that you could use to securely backup all of the data.  Obviously there is a cost, but then again, you have already determined that the cost is worth the benefit.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 16489234
Check out http://www.intronis.com

The software that you use to do the backup will compress all of your data to a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, thus cutting the time significantly.  It actully does an incremental backup, so obviously the first time would take all weekend (if not longer)...then after that you will only take a few hours.
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by:rindi
ID: 16496278
Just to comment on leew's suggestion for using a 3rd party company for off site backups, for a law company this might not be an option, because confidential data goes into other hands.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 16497920
I know that in the medical industry, we are allowed to do it depending on the setup & situation...for example, if the data is fully encrypted while it is on-site & never touched by anyone (if they touch it, they have to sign a confidentiality agreement).  I would certainly check with a lawyer (wow, ironic) about the legality of doing this.

Another option would be to buy a simple 1U server with 200-300gb of data & put it in a data-center (co-lo) that doesn't have access to the actual server.  Then you can buy some sort of co-lo software (names escape me now) to have it compress & then mirror the data over to there...once again, this would require a faster connection at the office.
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by:HIKEMARRIS
ID: 16705471
hELLO ALL. I have had to put the backup remotely on hold, as I cannot accomplish it at this time...thanks for all.
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by:rustyrpage
ID: 16705805
As you can see from the above person whose post was deleted...advertising is not allowed here.
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