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Backup strategy/solution for small business -- recommendations needed

Posted on 2006-07-12
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-05
My 4 year old Dell Precision Workstation and 80 gb hard disk are chugging along just fine, but right now I'm just doing incremental back-ups to CDs, and that's not enough.  I run a small business and major downtime from a hard disk crash would hurt plenty.   If the HD crashes, I want to be up and running again within a few hours.  I also like the idea of having a complete copy of the data out of town, in case something like Hurricane Katrina strikes.

I'm mulling over different options, and would like feedback on them:

1.   Get a new computer.

The Dell does everything I need it to do.  My only fear is that it will suddenly go out of service.  If the hard disk is the weak link, then I could just replace it.  But if other components on four year old computers regularly start to act up, then it's time to start thinking about a new machine.

If I get a new computer, of course, I have to budget time to re-install all the software, plus figure out what box I'll get.  

2.   A second hard drive, either USB 2.0 or (if necessary) SATA, plus Ghost or another software solution.

It would be easier for me to install a USB 2.0 drive, as I have a couple of free USB ports.  However, I *could* buy a SATA card, if SATA is that much more desirable.

If I get a back-up drive, I'd want a hassle free restore process.   Best of all would be to simply reboot from the back-up drive; I think only SATA would give me that capability.   It also would be acceptable to open up the case, replace the dead HD with the back-up drive, and reboot.  

I haven't used Ghost, though, and don't know if Ghost makes things that easy.   I also could install the new HD, fire up Ghost or another software program and then wait as it restores the volume.  (What I *don't* want is to have to install the HD, install the OS, install various drivers and then only restore selectively -- I could do that with my current set-up.)

I know that other products are available, such as Maxtor One Touch.  Maybe that's just what I need.  I tend to be leery, though, as I've had years of bad experiences with back-up products.  I've heard good things about Ghost, but maybe I haven't heard enough.  

3.   Tape Drive.

I now have a film scanner on a low-tech Adaptec 2930CU PCI SCSI controller.  I could get a better SCSI controller to use with both the film scanner and with SCSI tape backup.   I like tape because it would let me postal mail copies of my data out of the city, solving my Hurricane Katrina concerns.  But maybe it's more than I need.

The main priority: to be able to get up and running again fast, with all or virtually all of my data, in case of a hard disk crash.  

Thank you!
Question by:adams_timothy

Accepted Solution

Silly_Burrito earned 300 total points
ID: 17095087
In case of a hard drive crash, you'll probably want a backup hard drive solution for one of the fastest ways to go. Two ideas for you:

1. Have you ever thought about setting up a new computer using RAID technology? I realise that you may not have it now with your DELL, but if you configure it correctly, if one of the hard drives crash, you can just rely on the second hard drive until you replace it. The downside is that you lose storage space, but it gives a certain peace of mind.

2. What about online storage? There are vendors out there who offer online storage that you could use in an emergency. If you keep your most important data there and have a ghost image of your system (for all the programs), you may be up and running in any emergency.

Assisted Solution

DaMaestro earned 210 total points
ID: 17095264
1.) Some may say ride it to the wheels fall off

2.) Well if you want to go with an external SATA enclosure that also has USB2 support http://www.satagear.com/SS-302i-Silver_SATA_II_Product.html 
Ghost may give you issues if you are not restoring to a machine with similar hardware, but not a candidate for shipping all over the place.

3.) SCSI is quite expensive, you may be looking anywhere from $300-600 for the drive

Online backup, good versality, high cost per GB

Hmm the tape drive might be the best option
LVL 14

Assisted Solution

ECNSSMT earned 300 total points
ID: 17095996
a disaster strikes suddenly, mailing a tape out of town may not guarantee that the contents get out of town safely, and will be at your destination  "in time" for you to restore all of your data.

I couldn't get a good feel for the size of your business; but if you are of the less than 10 people & not the stock market variety of business, the USB 2 harddrive backup may prove to be the most complete and low cost option.  The caveat would be that the backups have to be done just in time for you to leave by the end of the day; you have to take the backups home with you on a nightly basis and return with it every day to repeat the process.  The cost itself is limited to the HD itself.

while the many options are viable; there is a cost associated with the daily mailing of the tapes to an offsite holding area (I can only estimate $1-$5 per day, per tape to be mailed to the site; the cost of the tape and maybe the cost of a site or even postoffice mailbox if that is the case); depending on the size of the disaster; the post office may not be guaranteed to escape the disaster itself.  

The cost of the duplicated equipment is also in question.  You may as well assume that the equipment on the original site is irrecoverable; (anything that you can recover from a disaster site is a triumph, but equipment can be easiliy damaged by people friendly water).  Depending on your available monetary resources; a tape drive may or may not be a cost issue; along with the rest of the equipment you may have to replace to get the business going.

The tape backup; disaster recovery site and off site storage is very viable for many medium size businesses who have the monetary resources available to invest into a large tape array (sDLTs) , an offiste storage area (Iron Mountain or Univault in the NYC area) and a disaster recovery site (ComDisco or IBM) with a stated system configured and awaiting for a disaster to strike.  

Ghosting is great for duplicating system drives and as a subset of restoring an individual's system drive , and although sometimes I do think "do it any which way you can", I would not recommend Ghosting in this case.  It would be an additional layer on top of the technology you'd be getting (HD, TAPE, internet).

So in terms of a small business; I would recommend using a USB2 HD as being the cheapest technology; if you are a bigger sized entity that can absorb the costs, TAPE and then the INTERNET.


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Assisted Solution

zwseemm earned 150 total points
ID: 17096033
Have you ever thought about a removable hard drive. You basically buy one enclusure that you install in your pc and then each night or however often you want you can back up to the hard drive, remove it, put a new one in. It might be a little more pricey but if speed of recover is what you are looking for I don't think you will get any faster.



Expert Comment

ID: 17096633
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Author Comment

ID: 17100988
Thanks to those who responded.  I just joined Experts Exchange, and should have read the guidelines before posting.  Questions here (I now see) should be as specific as possible.  This was my first-ever post; I won't make the same mistake again.  

I'm going to award points and close this question -- but I still don't have the information I want, so will divvy up the question and post different, smaller, more specific inquiries from now on.  

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