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Your thoughts on choosing a backup strategy / things that you want to protect against, etc.

I was in a seminar yesterday and my mind drifted to something I've been mulling for a long time with no anwers, but I am realizing more and more that it's really important to resolve - data backup.

I am eager to hear your thoughts on backing up in general.  Please participate - there's no really wrong answers.  I'll give points if you add value!

I made a list of some things that I think need to be asnwered to come up with the appropriate backup process for small businesses.  I've dabbled with backing up to:

an internal drive in another PC in the building
a set of external drives, swapped off site
thought about web based online storage

Some of the things that make you need a backup:

Fire-small (2nd machine with backup is OK)
fire-whole building (2nd machine with backups is lost)
theft-server (2nd machine with backup is OK)
theft-big  (2nd machine with backups is lost)
loss of access to building (flood)  (2nd machine with backups is lost)
loss of access to building & offsite storage (regional flood / disaster)
loss of data en route to remote site (confidentiality) (how critical is it to encrypt your data)

Types of backups:
full everynight (easy restores but beats up the backup media with lots of reads / writes)
Full / incremental (less wear and tear on hardware, but harder to tell at a glance if data is up to date / need 2 sources for a complete restore)

Then for recovering data, how easy / hard / fast / slow is it to:
recover select files
full data restore

In a pinch, how easy will it be to:
ability to read backup media (if it's exterenal hard drive, that's easier than finding the same tape drive as was used to make the backup)
ability to access a version x months/years old (something the client has to decide - how likely will they need to go to a snapshot that is 1 year old / cost to tie up that media - tapes would be cheaper than an external hard drive)
ability to access x previous versions (how much space are you devoting to backups / how many versions will you keep)
archive x months / years old data (rather than backup 40 gigs of data each night, maybe archive data that is x years old to (tape / hard drive) and only backup the 2 gig of data that is < 1 year old????)

Native vs. proprietary files?  (I love being able to look at the backup files directly in windows explorer that I xcopy'd to an external drive.  I use beyond compare (scootersoftware.com) to see that the server and backup drive have the same files.
in a proprietary file, you really don't know it's an OK file till you do the restore.  I have a bunch of acronis true image files that don't seem to want to open.  could they all be corrupt?!  it may be operator error, but 1 bit chaniging on a 20 gig backup file could corrupt the entire file, rather than just a word doc in a native format backup...  yes, native would take more space (turn on the drive's compression), but more peace of mind?!
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Scott CSenior Engineer

What I do here is perform Daily, Weekly, and Montly backups.  All are full.

In addition to tapes I also do a disk2disk backup.  These are much faster to restore from and I don't have to go to the server room to insert tapes in most cases.  I do disk2disk for Daily, Weekly, and Monthly.

The Dailys are overwritten once a week.  The Weeklys are overwritten once a month and the Yearlys are overwritten every 2 years.

I backup all dynamic data nightly, full mailboxes of managers and directors nightly as well.  The masses get their mailboxes backed up on the Weekly and the Monthly jobs.

I send the Weekly and Montly tapes offsite to another part of the city.

The Daily tapes are kept in a "fireproof" safe in a room that is sepearate from the server room.

I currently use Veritas Backup Exec 9.1 and have the Remote Agent and the Exchage Agent installed.

With this strategy in place the only things I haven't been able to recover are files where the user doesn't know their names or where they were located, or in the case of emails they don't know the subject of the missing email.

A total disaster of the building would cause us to loose at most 1 week of data once the servers were back in place.
Senior Engineer
As to the speed/ease of recovering data...

That will depend on how much data is backed up and when you are trying to recover something specific, how detailed is the information about the file/email you're trying to recover.

With little information...quite a while ro never.  Detailed and exact information...minutes.
Most Valuable Expert 2015
Don't consider full / incremental, it can require more than 2 restores. The way to go is to use Full / Differential, there you only need the last differential and the last full backup for a restore and it otherwise has similar requirements to the incremental backup.

leew has done a good document on backup on his homepage,it should tell you all the aspects, here is the link:


My personal preference is to backup to disk first, then backup those backups to tape, particularly if you want to keep your data for longer periods, tape is the way to go for long term storage. DVD's or CD can be an alternative if your archiving volumes aren't that big. Just make sure you keep those tapes / media in the proper environment and they should last a lifetime (whatever that means)! The advantage of backing up to disk is that because of the sizes of today's HD's you can probably keep a couple of backup sets on one disk online, this makes restores simple and fast. Also, you can then do the tape backups during office hours without reducing the speeds on your lan because of the running backup, and if you need more than 1 tape someone is there to change it. This can safe you the investment for an automatic tape changer...
hi, there

Here is my perfect world.

VmWare with many machines running in consoles based on machine power.

So lets say a Physical server with 8GB Memory 2 processors, 100GB disk space, Fibre cards

VmWare installed
1 file server 1 proc, 4gb memory
1 Domain controller 1 proc, 4gb memory

all images residing on a SAN system so all servers boot from the SAN. All data is written to the SAN.
all user data on the SAN. I can now make one backup of the SAN "Legato" 1 CLient license, 1 Storage License, 1 Tape License.

If one of my virtual machines goes down I will just need to change the boot order on the Fibre card and in sec I will be back in the business, I could start another Physicall + Virtual machine.

Our shop uses IBM's TSM backup software with EMC virtual tape (disk) libraries.  The tape libraries are copied offsite daily via dark fibre.  This may be overkill for a small shop but the general idea can be scaled back and might make a good fit for your shop.

The pieces required would be a backup application that can use disk as its media, sufficient disk to hold your projected quantity of backups and a disk replication driver such as EMC's Replistor.  Of course you'll need to duplicate the hardware at a remote site and provide sufficient bandwidth to handle the replication traffic.  Replistor uses TCP/IP for replication.

Regardless if you go big or small, this approach has several benefits.  First, backing up to drives rather than tape is very fast and the restores are even faster.  Second, a copy of your backups is sent offsite without any need for human intervention.  Third, this approach is scalable (we backup about 7 TB of changes daily).

Disclaimer - I've mentioned products from IBM and EMC because that is what we use in our shop.  I am not affiliated with either company nor do I resell any of their products.