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External Hard Drive versus Tape Backup

We have a tape backup system which uses Travan 20/40GB tapes - that is, they should store up to 40GB depending on compression. Realistically, the capacity is usually much closer to 20GB.  Lately the tape has been filling before the backup job has completed. I have cut all that I can out of the file backup list. So, it's time to upgrade to a higher capacity system.

I see that Dell has 1TB USB external hard drives for $300 (Iomega). Meanwhile, a tape backup system for 100GB uncompressed runs around $1500.  I'm wondering about the following solution: buy 2 or 3 of these hard drives, then schedule the Windows Backup Utility to back up the server's hard drive to the external drive.  I have never used the backup utility provided by windows - is it reliable and generally problem free? I would like to hear from Experts as to viability of this solution - are there any difficulties or pitfalls to be aware off? Are there any important reasons as to why I should go for the more-expensive tape drive option?

Server is running Windows 2003.

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The windows backup utility is quite good, it just lacks advanced agents for SQL, open files, and whatnot as well as the reporting is not as cool as backup exec or ultrabac.  for a typical SMB network it is fine.

Backing up to disk is a great option.  Lots of companies are moving away from tape due to the headaches involved and disk technology is competitive if not cheaper than tape now.

For using external USB disks and swapping them like tapes it works great.  We use a similar system with USB or eSATA high-rely.com single bay drives that the user swaps out every day.  Basically we treat it like a tape system, but the backups go to the drive letter of the high-rely drive.

The other bonus is if the server dies or is stolen you might be hosed if the tape drive is gone or damaged.  With the USB drives you can read those on any other computer
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
You might want to read over my backup comment which talks about when it's appropriate to use tape and disk... among several other topics.

I frequently use NT Backup and have a script I wrote publicly available if you want to try it.


Thanks firstcall for your quick response, and leew for your article (it was quite helpful).  I think I will pursue the external hd approach.