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Backup Solutions for Small Business

gunther4817
gunther4817 asked
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I am looking for a new backup solution for the company I work for. We currently use Veritas 10 with nightly tape backups, but the HP tape drive is starting to fail. I am looking to backup the server to external(USB 2.0) hard drives nightly. We use Windows SBS 2003/Exchange Server2003. I would like to start using Acronis for the backups, but am not sure if that is possible using the external hard drives. Can anyone steer me in the right direction? Thanks!!
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I would advise against using disk based backups for a primary system backup.  It is your call, but I would recommend that you use a SCSI based tape system, best bets are DLT-technology and LTO-technology.  USB throughput isn't bad but a single disk solution will not stream data at anything like the same speed.

I have heard good things about the Acronis software but I haven't used it myself.

If you keep several reliable full-system backups then I do not believe that a disk solution is cheaper than tape.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
SteveH_UK and I have a disagreement over this in another question... I believe that unless you need to archive the backups for a long time or are backing up huge amounts of data, I believe the wise choice is a disk based system.  I have not used Acronis on a server yet (I do actually have the license, but as yet, no opportunity to test), but in general, except for a true disaster, I don't see the point in using third party software when the built in backup works just fine.

I have a backup article you might find useful - it had several other experts from this site review and contribute to it.

http://www.lwcomputing.com/tips/static/backup.asp

Author

Commented:
Thank you both for responding.
I have heard pros and cons with using any type of backup solution, with both hardware and software.
This is a small company...<25 users. We do not have a large amount of data to store, and the data does not have to be archived for long periods of time. The owner of the company wants to use Acronis because of the restore capabilities, so we need to use software with this feature. Also, he likes the cost benefits with using the external drives. I too like the idea of using the hard drive solution since we won't have to rely on having only one tape drive that can fail.
leew, how many hard drives would you use to implement this?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
At least 3.  One attached to the system, one stored locally in a fire-proof safe and one taken off-site.  Depending on how much data changes and how often, you may want to rotate them nightly or weekly.  This is up to you.  More drives can't hurt, but if you go nuts, you lose some of the cost-effectiveness of using them.

Author

Commented:
leew,
I appreciate the info. I will proceed with using the hard drives as you recommend. Thanks again!!
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Also consider - Firewire is FASTER than USB - even though the specs suggest otherwise.  If you have a choice and/or can install a firewire card, I would recommend using that.  Better still, for performance reasons, an eSATA connection can be great as well...
Even if you are going with disks I would recommend slightly more disks than three.  It's a question of how many backups you need, in the case of a disk failure.  You have to assume the worst case that a drive fails while you are writing to it, thus losing all the data on it.  So if you use the same drive for weekday backups, the worst case is that you lose a whole weeks data.  So I would recommend a minimum of four drives, alternating weekday and alternating weekly.  Your risk is still quite high with this model because hard disks failures are quite high when used with heavy duty cycles.
Note also the distinction.  Your HP tape drive is starting to fail, but not your tapes.  Your tapes are still good for recovery.  This isn't the case when a hard disk fails.  Also, quite often the hard disk failure is so-called "catastrophic", i.e. all the data is lost.  An external device generally won't damage your system, so it isn't as bad as an internal hardware failure, though.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
I disagree.  I have yet to have a hard disk fail on me that I'm using for backup.  I've had plenty of sporadic tape and tape drive failures though/

That said, nothing works 100% of the time and a failure at the right/wrong moment could be a problem.  However, in my opinion, the odds of a disk failure at the exact moment of a system failure (in a UPS protected system) is extremely low.  And if one did happen, data recovery services, while not cheap, could PROBABLY (but not definitely) recover the data of previous backups.

This is all about managing risk and your tolerance for pain.  In a true disaster, what can you handle losing?  1 day? 1 week?  1 month?  This will determine how many disks and how often you rotate them off site.  If the data is truly critical, you can always use an external drive that is actually a mirror to protect against a single failure.

I also recommend, for truly critical data, such as accounting information, you look into multiple backups.   For example, at one client, I have the accounting data secure-FTP'd to my systems every night, copied to a local system, protected by Volume Shadow Copy, and backed up with the regular backups...
Look, leew things backup to disk solutions with hard disks are perfect for this and I think they are useful but have serious risks.  We differ in our opinions and I doubt we'll get agreement here.  My arguments are made on a business case basis, considering risk assessment, scenario planning and acceptable cost and loss considerations.

For my part, my credentials are that I have acted as an IT manager and consultant for several small businesses for six years, have managed a 10 server estate to a single LTO drive, have never lost data, have recovered in disaster scenarios (not due to tape drive or tape failure) and have discussed best practice with industry experts.  I have followed storage technology for around 8 years and have trained as an Oracle DBA.  I have also seen many hard disks fail, both removable and internal, IDE, SCSI and SATA.  I've seen many admins have to rebuild sites with inadequate backup policies and a resulting loss of data.

I do agree that backup to disk such as leew suggests is a viable solution, I just disagree that it is the best solution in your environment.  If your boss wants it then what can you do?  I do recommend that you research it and discuss with manufacturers the pros and cons of tape and disk.  And make sure you know what purpose they are advocating you to use it for.  Many will advocate disk-to-disk-to-tape, and that is something entirely different.
Should have been "thinks" in the first line, sorry!
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
SteveH_UK strongly believes in what he is saying, or so it would seem.  I ask you both note that I never said "he is wrong, I am right".  My position is based on my experience with 5 years as tech, 5 years managing 35+ Windows servers, and during most of that time and since then (totaling 12 years or so), I've been a consultant and advised small businesses and branch offices for a variety of companies in my area.  The only failures I've ever had with backup media is when using tape.  And I've had NUMEROUS problems with DLT, SDLT, and DDS (I've not used LTO, but while the writing methods may be different, the basic, underlying technology is still the same, mechanical and "tape" system).  My problems have included failure to read media recorded on otherwise identical systems, failure to properly backup after proper maintenance and system configuration for no apparent reason after 45 days or so of otherwise flawless work.  I have probably 2 dozen backup disks at my current clients (some clients use different forms of backup) and I've never had a single disk fail on me.  I too have discussed backups with numerous colleagues (including members of user groups and other MVPs) and in my experience, most favor disk in small environments.

gunther, I think you should weigh the advice of both of us, recognizing that neither of us knows your business well enough to say definitively, one way or another, how you should do your backups.
Agreed with leew's conclusions.  But just to point out that both tape and disk systems are mechanical and both are prone to mechanical faults.
Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
Steve, I invite you to review my backup web page and offer changes/updates - I do try to be fair - and I do give credit.  I also have an excel spreadsheet for estimating backup costs... I'm not exactly an excel guru, but if you want to offer any advice on that, I'd gladly take it.

Author

Commented:
I thank you both for reponding and giving me insight into the different backup scenarios. I understand Steve's point in using tape, but I need to switch over to using disks, and this is why I wrote in to find out how to go about this. leew, you gave me your point of view on using disk backups, and this is what I will use to implement into our backup strategy. Again, thank you both.
noxchoIT Product Manager
Top Expert 2009

Commented:
Hi gunther4817, I would suggest you cheap and reliable solution. Sure metal backup services could fail so software backup on sector level to external USB drive is better solution than tape drives. In Drive Backup I would point to Cyclic Backup option that controls the storage space and erases the earliest (oldest) backup archive automatically via scheduled tasks. Look info here on the site given below.
http://drive-backup.com/corporate/server/