In need of disaster recovery solution.

Posted on 2006-05-02
Last Modified: 2010-04-03

I work with a school district and they are in need of a new backup solution.  They have 2 Windows NT 4.0 servers and 4 brand new Windows 2003 servers.  Between these there is a lot of critical data...  Exchange 2003, Healthmaster Nurse Software, Follett Library Automation, MMS Generations Attendance suite.

I believed that the hard drives in the servers came in mirrored, but I do not think this is so now.  Right now we are doing manual backups of the data to another server, just sort of copying and pasting.

I would like to really have a NAS drive and setup Acronis True Image Server to create an image every night of each server... some peace of mind is what I'm aiming for.

Does anybody have any recommendations as far as a brand of NAS, or technique for backing something like this up?


Question by:diablo-26
    LVL 14

    Expert Comment

    school board; yikes!!  Biggest thing may be writing the request and justification for equipment (SW/HW) there.  Then getting the budget for what you want.

    For disaster recovery/business continuation (depending on who you talk to)

    System drives should be RAID 1 on all servers, with file servers using RAID 5 to protect the data and RAID 0 + 1 for database drives.  This will be good for issues occuring within the 1st 24 hours.  

    Depending on how long of a historical record requirements are, you may want to start looking for a robotic tape library with Veritas. (Dell sells this some robotic SDLT library systems if you want to look up their webpage)  Full daily backups may be the easiest to implement and restore from, but Veritas provides some very interesting backup schemes that will fit just about anything.

    We use EMC SANs and they are $$$, I don't know (1) of any NAS equipment that also would be (2) easy to recommend.

    LVL 2

    Expert Comment

    You must be on a budget....

    For NAS:
    Buffalo TeraStation - $700 per Terabyte, 4X250GB IDE, Raid 5, Gigabit - almost disposable. 2 TB unit is $1,400.

    For tape library (rotary autoloader):
    Quantum Superloader 3 - $2,000 for 160GB drive with 8 tape slots, $4,000 for 400GB drive with 8 slots.  Includes BackupExec


    Author Comment

    Thanks guys for your answers.

    Kenny, what software backs up to the NAS drive you're talking about?  Is it making a complete image of those servers or just selective files and folders.

    I guess anything can fail after a while but I just don't trust tapes.

    LVL 14

    Accepted Solution

    hi diablo-26,

    tapes are still a viable long term solution.  They are specifically still used in the NYC area colleges and a NYC area high school (the ones that I know of personally).    sDLTs and DATs respectively.  They are also still widely used in the NYC financials; the models vary widely with requirements (of course).  

    Spec wise you may be looking at a Dell PowerVault Tape Backup 122T to cover a school district's major app and then some. I can't really see a school system use anything bigger.  The only high priority app that would generate a huge volume of data with a delta would be email.

    I am trying to determine the role of NAS as a image backup system in a school system.  NAS does have value as a ubiquitous storage system for any OS.  The two scenarios that I can see is
    1. Server's system disk is mirrored which negates immediate failure in the 1st to 72nd hours; the NAS based server image will not be used in any active role and no down time.
    2. Server's system disk has no RAID implementation, there is immenent failure in the 1st to 72 hours; system is down until server's system drives are replaced and reimaged to active functioning state.

    School data located on the data drives will enjoy a similiar up-time scenario with RAID redundancy and tape backups.


    Author Comment

    Thanks for your comments, I will have to look into that Powervault.

    We really need to get these Dell PowerEdge servers mirrored, I thought the previous person ordered them that way, but they are not mirrored at all.

    Even if they were mirrored, I would still like a 2nd line of defense.  We have 4 different servers, each one handling an application.  Exchange 2003, MMS for Attendance, Healthmaster WAN app for nurses, and the Follett Library automation.  It's not a huge district at all, probably only like 200 mailboxes and half of those aren't being used yet.

    The healthmaster is probabably the biggest app at about 900mb in a SQL database file.

    I back up the exchange information store nightly, but that is just to another hard drive...

    Will have to give this some thought this summer.  Thanks again for your comments.

    LVL 14

    Expert Comment

    everything is a layered process and the "layering" is only prohibited by cost vs functionality.  The RAID depending on who you talk to is good for the 1st 48 hours or 72 hours of a disaster.  That time frame assumes that the issue is on the servers and the entire building didn't collapse.  With servers, harddrives are the most likely to go and depending on your SLAs, it will either take 48 hours or 72 hours for your vendor to somehow get a replacement part (harddrive) to your site and replace the defective one.  Of course you can also hedge your bets by having similiarly configured servers on your premise and a spare HD that can be hot swapped in the event of a failure.  (This is simple to say, but there's a lot of prep work to get it to this stage; this includes the politics of the school board, IT admin plans, the agreement with the vendor, just to rattle off some stuff)  After that, you have your long term plan.  In banking, there is a requirement to have financial data available for about 3 years; everyone extends that to "everything" for about 7 years.  A methodology of storing daily, weekly, monthly and yearly information backups offsite is developed.  Any bank can retrieve financial data from any app, data from anyone email or "the like" up to a span of 7 years.  This archive is also used in an off-site disaster recovery, in the event that the building does collapse and the critical portions of your network has to be recreated elsewhere.  The plans you create for this can be as basic or elaborate as you want, but again, its going to be limited by cost vs functionality.

    BTW; it may take the entire summer to plan, but I believe that by the end of the summer, you should be able to get RAID1 active on most of the servers.  Everything else may have some tie-ins with the school don't be disappointed if it takes a little longer to implement  Its just working with the politics.

    And thanks for the points.


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