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Can I use multiple USB HDD to backup a 2003 SBS Server

Posted on 2008-06-11
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-14

I have a Windows 2003 SBS Server with about 120GB of data on it.  Out of this 120GB, 80GB never changes.  Between 1 and 3 GB changes on a daily basis.   I use it strictly as a file server (do not have Exchange, SQL, or any database  running on it).  Thanks to previous answers I was about to use the Dell RD1000 removable disk drives as a primary backup device.  I currently backup to a NAS device and an older Western Digital OneTouch.

I priced out a single RD1000 with one 160GB cartridge and three 80GB cartridges for about $1,000.  This strikes me as being very expensive.  I went online and found that I can buy an Iomega 360GB Network drive that comes with USB2 for $140.  

Then it occurred to me, why can't I buy three of the Iomega drives (for about $600 with tax) and use them in a rotation scheme?  These drives would be twice the size of the Dell cartridges and would cost a lot less.  Let's say I have drives A, B, and C.  I would first connect drive A, do a full backup including System State using the SBS backup tools.  I would store this drive offsite.  Then I would install drive B, do a full backup with System State.  I would leave Drive B attached and do daily differential backups for one week.  At the end of the week I would disconnect Drive B and store it locally under lock and key.  Then I would connect Drive C, do a full backup and use it for a week for differential backups.  Once every few weeks I would swap out one of the drives with the offsite drive.

This way I always have a full backup offsite that is no more than two weeks old. I also have a full backup with daily increments on a connected drive and another full backup that is less than a week old on another drive that is disconnected.

I work out of the house so storing offsite backups is not as easy as taking a drive or disk home - I already am home.  My offsite backups are stored in my bank's safe deposit box.  I have looked into online backups and may post another question about that to improve my offsite backup protection and reduce the trips to the bank.  For now, how would this work instead of the RD1000?  This way I cut my cost in half and my data is stores on standard hard drives.  The only potential issue is will I need to reconfigure the backup software every time I swap drives?  Or is there some way to set up the backup s/w to know there are three drives, A, B, and C and to simply select the drive from the server once a week.

Hope this makes sense.  If there is some backup software that costs under $200 that would make this much easier than the SBS backup, that would be OK too.  I really appreciate all of the great feedback I have received on this forum.
Question by:MrChip2
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Expert Comment

ID: 21761381
Well you can use the free one in Windows:  Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Schedules Tasks

Author Comment

ID: 21762225
Hi mekkattiljj,

I am familiar with the free backup that comes with Windows.  What I have not tried is using scheduling across multiple drives.  When I connect Drive A for the first time I can assign it a name.  I assume I need to assign different names to each of the three drives.  Will the scheduling disregard which drive is plugged in and simply backup to the "hard drive connected via USB"?  Or will I need to have one schedule for each drive and once a week go into the backup software and select the appropriate drive?  I am looking for specific advice on whether or not the external HDD process can be automated to the point that all I do is unplug one drive and plug in the next.  If it can be automated, how do you do that?

I would also like to get advice on whether or not this idea is a good one.  There is no point in implementing this if the strategy itself is bad.

LVL 50

Expert Comment

ID: 21763957
You probably don't even need to use a backup utility.

You could probably get away using robocopy (Google it - it's free and from Microsoft and you use it as a replacement for xcopy).  Make up a series of batch files that make folders for the daily backups and copy all of the daily stuff there.

You look like you want to use Network drives.  What's wrong with plugging USB drives straight into the server?  Might be a cheaper option than NAS.

If you are keeping a backup at home make sure the container it is in is fireproof as well as under lock and key.
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Author Comment

ID: 21764241
Hi dbrunton,

Thanks for the input.  It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how advanced we get some of the better solutions run at the command prompt!  I took your advice and Googled robocopy.  I see there is a GUI interface available for it which will make it easier to use.

In terms of network drives, I saw the Iomega drive at Costco's website and thought that it might be nice to have the flexibility of the 10/100 port attached.  The price per GB is a bit higher than a USB drive.  However, my server is in a rack and it is a little bit of a pain reaching behind it to plug USB cables in.  I thought if I could plug it into my gigabit switch, it would be easier to unplug and plug in the drives when I rotate them.  Granted this is somewhat minor and maybe my backup speed will slow down a lot over my network (which is all CAT6 with a gigabit switch).

Is there any difference between networked and USB drives in terms of being able to configure with NTFS?  Will robocopy work just as well on a USB attached drive as a networked drive?  

I haven't had a chance to read up on robocopy in detail, but it sounds like it will not do incremental backups.  If that is the case, it won't be good for my daily backups because I cannoy isolate the files that change to a single folder.  I will in essence need to completely back up the entire server each day - a bot of overkill since only 3GB out of 100 will change.  What do you think about using robocopy each Monday to do a complete copy and then the backup utility daily to track incremental changes?

Another reason I was thinking about a networked drive is reliability.  For instance, I see that I can buy a Seagate 500GB FreeAgent external HDD for $100.  So for less money I get more storage.  I also read that the drive is designed to turn itself off when the computer is shutdown.  I think this is common with external hdds because they are usually connected to a PC.  The problem is that my server is on 24x7.  I am concerned that these drives are not meant to be on all of the time.  I am guessing - maybe I am wrong - that any drive designed with a built-in NIC should be designed to stay on all the time.  Does this make sense or am I off base?  Customer reviews of the Seagate drive were mixed.  Some loved it while others said it failed to copy all files or just plain stopped working after a few months.  Maybe this is more of a Seagate problem than external HDD.

Sorry, I know I am rambling.  I am waiting for a revised bid from Dell to see if they will be more price competitive.  Any additional suggestions before I close the question?
LVL 50

Accepted Solution

dbrunton earned 2000 total points
ID: 21764534
Ah, if the computer is in a rack you could probably forget about the USB unless you leave a spare USB cord plugged into the USB and dangling somewhere for easy plugin.

robocopy will take only the changed files by default.  See

So you can use robocopy for both.  Note that robocopy is a slow copier compared to xcopy and others because it goes for reliable copying rather than speed.

>> Is there any difference between networked and USB drives in terms of being able to configure with NTFS?

You can have either FAT32 or NTFS on the USB drives.  If you use FAT32 permissions will be lost.  For portability I recommend FAT.  For reliability I recommend NTFS.

>> Will robocopy work just as well on a USB attached drive as a networked drive?  

No problems.  I've set up a backup system onto USB drives for a place I used to work at.  Three USB drives designed to rotate on a daily basis.

>> that any drive designed with a built-in NIC should be designed to stay on all the time

All items break down.  Hard disks usually only have a three year warranty from memory.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31466384
Thank you dbrunton.  It was particularly nice to know that you have implemented the solution you are recommending in the past.  I am now going to do a bit of research at CNET, PC Magazine to see which drives have the highest reliability ratings.  Do you have any suggestions on unbiased review sites?  Thanks again!
LVL 50

Expert Comment

ID: 21764686
>> Highest reliability ratings?

Ouch.  Every expert has their own opinion on what drive is best.  Review sites don't usually  focus on reliability because you can't test the drives long enough to get a result.

Google did the largest survey on drives on this matter because it concerned them.  From memory there was no one particular better manufacturer than any other.

Some batches of drives from various manufacturers are known for their failures.  For example, Hitachi/IBM Deskstar had a bad reputation.

Review site for hard disks - you'll need to make an account to access the information there.


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