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Best way: hard drives - raid or Separated

Posted on 2006-05-18
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I need to get a new server and install windows 2003 on it. It will be primarily as a file server.
What is the best way to configure hard drives for file server and be able to back it up to hard drive in the same server then to tapes.
- would it be better to have 1st drive for the OS and 2nd for the shares and the 3rd for the backup (backup every night to the 3rd drive then from it to tapes since I need sometime to backup to tapes during the day, (don’t have tape changer )  and that way I have 2 backups
- or have the drives set as raid 5 and do backup to external then to tapes
- or ............ any other suggestions, Thanks
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Question by:fm250
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16711714
In my opinion, it's foolish NOT use RAID on a server with rare exceptions.  A file server is NOT one of those exceptions.

Typically, file servers are most often setup with RAID 5 so unless you have some compelling reason not to use RAID 5, then that's what I'd use.

As for backups, is this the only server?  How much data is being stored?  Tape is NOT the best backup solution in ALL cases.
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by:fm250
ID: 16711767
thanks leew for the quick reply,
Well, the data is over 150 GB and is getting bigger, also I might need to stick with tapes because of the cost. but would be the optimized solution then? and what is the best backup solution?

also you can get the all 500 pts since I have the same question here with other 250pts:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/Windows_Server_2003/Q_21855769.html
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16711848
obviously data grows in most environments... but is it growing a GB per day or a GB per year.  150 GB is relatively little.  There are other factors you haven't mentioned - are you required by government regulation to archive data or are you just trying to protect against server failure and/or disaster recovery?  Depending on the answer to this, external drives can often be cheaper.  An SDLT or LTO drive and tapes will cost you $1200-$2500 to implement and use for non-archival purposes for a year or so.  But, two external USB2 or firewire hard drives of 400GB or more will only run you $400 or so - maybe less.  You could even spend $1700 and get 3 750GB drives and rotate them off site - that's enough for 5 full backups per drive.
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by:NJComputerNetworks
ID: 16711899
Better to use the RAID 5 option.  In the non-raid options, you will lose data if one hard drive fails.  Therefore, you are better to have a RAID5 set... create logical drives for your OS and another logical drive on the RAId 5 for you data.  In this way, you OS and data is protected.  
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by:fm250
ID: 16711969
>> but is it growing a GB per day or a GB per year
40-50 GB every 2-3 monthes

>> are you required by government regulation to archive data or are you just trying to protect against server >> failure and/or disaster recovery?

 Both are yes

>> data

Also I forgot to mention that I have already a tape drive that I can move from an old computer to the new server and a veritas 9.1.  in addition the tapes are smaller to store outside.
Another thing is I have had problems in the past backing up to external HDDs using veritas.
Please advise depending on these factors, also does HDDs last more than tapes... what are other good media? Thanks
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by:fm250
ID: 16712036
NJComputerNetworks,
I have the other backup drive. Also can I create logical drives within RAId 5 and will still work.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16712121
Archival purposes, tape definitely is more economical, especially since you already have the drive.

That said, as I said before, it's foolish NOT to use RAID on a server with rare exceptions.  And for file servers, RAID 5 often makes the most sense, so that's my recommendation.
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by:fm250
ID: 16712290
the only worry is With RAID 5 when I backup during the day to 20/GB tapes and open files which usually cause lot of problems, how would this be solved with raid 5.

Also do you have comments on other questions in the prev post. especially which one last more tapes, HDD, or other media? .... thanks
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 16712417
There are really a wide range of considerations in any backup plan.  For complying with regulations, tape is far more economical.  For DR, disk is often but not always more economical.

RAID 5 vs. no RAID will make ZERO difference with regards to open files.  This is why you need to use open file agents and such to backup such files.  In this case, more advanced backup software than the built-in Windows backup is required.

Which questions in particular (can you post links)?

I'm still working on an edited version of this that I'll be posting on my web site, but here's what I had been posting more frequently on this site:
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]
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by:fm250
ID: 16713494
thanks leew, please clearify 2 point please:
- You first said tapes are not reliable, then you said they are good for data for long periods.
  so let's say the cost is almost irreltive here regarding HDD and tapes, and the tapes only used/cycled 10-15 times?  which one is reliable and will be good/last for long time (10-30 years)

- also one method I had in mind was, having 1st drive for the OS and 2nd for the data and 3rd for the first  backup (dialy at night) and then from it I can then do another external backup (if I go with tapes) and I think that solve the open files problem. now if raid is used how can I solve it?
Thanks a lot
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Lee W, MVP earned 1600 total points
ID: 16714262
I don't mean to say tapes are not reliable, but rather other things are more reliable.  this being because tapes themselves CAN be damaged.  And Tape heads can get out of alignment, ultimately making the hardware used to store the data record and read improperly, allowing only that tape head to be able to read the data reliable (I'm sure data recovery services can compensate and recover data in most cases).

Again, how do you get the open files closed for the copy to the third hard disk?  If they can be copied to the third hard disk, then they would be backed up to tape.  Using proper backup software with open file options will be able to backup open files on a RAID or NON-RAID system.

Ultimately, if you insist on going that route, You could - I would certainly test it, first because I simply don't see how that solves anything.  I would also say you would need a MINIMUM of 5 disks and should then do two RAID 1 sets (Mirrors), on of the OS and one of the data.  The third (5th) disk doesn't need to be RAID because it's purely backup - if it fails, you lose nothing.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 16715368
Gee, after all this excessive stuff, would you like a good simple workable solution, or are you set on the above?
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by:fm250
ID: 16745015
scrathcyboy, if you have any helpful comments, solutions..etc please post and will be happy to spilt the points.

NJComputerNetworks, can I create logical drives on the raid 5 without problems. in other words, if I create a logical drive for the OS and another for the data will the Raid still does its job as its suppose to. I  have not try that.
I don't need to backup the system every time, no much change, I need only to ghost it once and would like to keep it sepeart if that is a good idea.


leew, thanks, if you have more comments on these please advise.


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by:NJComputerNetworks
NJComputerNetworks earned 300 total points
ID: 16745201
Yes, you can configure a hardware RAID5 set using your array configuration utility.  Then, in your raid configuration utility you can carve out two or more logical drives: one for your Os and one for your data drive.  Then install your OS.  In this way, you will still have a c:\ and D:\ drive ...but everything is protected on the hardware RAID 5.
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by:scrathcyboy
scrathcyboy earned 100 total points
ID: 16745260
RAID 5 uses 3 drives minimum, and expert exchange is full of problems where people lose RAID 5 arrays and cant recover from them, I have experience the same.  Since modern hard drives are fast anyway, be more concerned about reliability than squeezing speed on a 2003 server.  So set up 3 drives like this --

Drive 1 + Drive 2 = RAID 1 mirror -- both make up a single C drive.
Drive 3 is stand-alone drive -- this is D Drive.

Each week, clone the entire C drive to the D drive
Each day backup incrementals/diffs to tapes
Once a week or month, backup the full C to tapes.

You will NEVER NEVER lose your setup with this config.

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by:fm250
ID: 16745285
Can I install the system first and then create the logical drives from the os. is that still ok?
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by:NJComputerNetworks
ID: 16745324
Yes, you can install RAID 5 hardware rAID using your RAID array configuration utility.  Then install the OS...and create logical drives here.  this is Ok
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