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Data Storage Solution for Mid-Size Business

I am managing the network of a Mid-Size Business and we need a Data Storage Solution.  I am in need of some recommendations for the Data Storage Solution and a Backup Solution for this data.  We are currently using a large RAID Array attached to a Windows Server.  We have 1.5TB of data on it.  It is getting full and it is very old.  I'd like the new solution to be able to hold at leat 3TB of data and not attach to a windows server for managment of the RAID.  Also, I'll need a new Backup solution that can handle backing this data up as well as a couple of other servers at about an additinoal 500GB nightly.  I'd like to have some options that include an inexpensive solution up to a very expensive solution.
Let me know if you have any questions... and thanks in advance.
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I'm not sure if I'm allowed to "advertise" on here, but here goes.

The company I used to work for had an excellent electronic data vaulting (televaulting) solution.  Basically, you backup your data over the WAN (encrypted) to their replicated off-site locations.  This assumes you have the bandwidth to handle this.  The nice thing is, you only do one full inital backup, and then you only backup the changes to your data form there on out.  So, the thing we saw were some of the inital backups could take quite a while over the WAN, but after that they were relatively quick based on the rate of change.

The nicest thing is, you pay for what you STORE.  The backup software (which is clientless, so no more accellerator agents and whatnot) does intelligent analysis of the data (deduplication, compression) and you only pay for you compressed stored size, per gig.  For that much data you could probably get a good rate, too.

I'm not a sales guy, I was one of the techs, but I'm actually working on using them for backups for my new company.  If this sounds interesting, you can go to:

That has a nice lay out of the basics.  They also have a non-sales demonstration (It's done by a tech, not a salesperson) every Friday at 11am EST.  Takes about 40 minutes and is just a breif overview of the product and how it works done via webex.

It's a great solution if you don't mind MRC, and it brings your inital costs way down.

Hope that helps.
cridogAuthor Commented:
Thanks... but I'm looking for a Data Solution as well as a backup Solution.  Any recommendations on the Data end?  And how long does 3.5TB take to backup.  It seems it would take months for an initial backup.
On the data storage, EMC is the cadillac of SANs:

Also, has a nice managed NAS solution.

As far as how long it would take on your inital backup, well that depends on your internet pipe.  Also keep in mind that you are only transmitting the compressed data, so cut your numbers in half.  Also, you said you only had 1.5 TB currently, and you want the new solution to hold up to 3TB. Has a somewhat decent bandwidth calculator, but doesn't have all the connection speeds out there.  If you have say, three bonded T1s, look at the T1 speed and divide by 3.
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[I am no 'expert' here I've just been looking into this myself.]

There are a number of Free NAS solutions available which are generally stripped down and customized [to the purpose of NAS] Linux distributions. You will have to look at them to see if they meet your security needs.

CPU/RAM requirements are minimal. An old 500MHz P3 w/256MB RAM would be 'enough'.

By using rsync you can set two or more of them up to mirror each other in real time.
[I dunno how to do that yet, just that it can be done. I be a 'hardware guy'.]
I -think- this can be set up to sync with a NAS that's off-site via internet.

The load on CPU and RAM is minimal. You want a RAID card that does all/most of the RAID work and then all the CPU/RAM are really doing is authenticating permissions and transferring files around.
- The biggest concern is bandwidth.

You want Gigabit or better LAN and a RAID card that runs in a PCI-X or PCI-E slot. Ideally you want the LAN and RAID to be on independant PCI BUS's so they aren't sharing bandwidth within the motherboard.
[This is why you use a server board vice a consumer board. - Independent BUS's.]

- Good motherboard choices:
A number of older P3 server boards have multiple independant BUS's and PCI-X slots.
(I have a P3 Tyan S2518 with 2 PCI-X slots using a Giga-LAN in one and a RAID card in the other.)
Same-same with Socket 603, 604, and the newer socket 771 Server boards.
(These often have dual Gigabit LAN (or more) on-board already.)
Server boards are dual CPU boards but you only need one CPU.
Older server boards and CPU's that are WAY more than you actually need aren't that expensive.
You may well end up spending more on the case to mount all the drives in....

You can get SATA RAID cards with 8 and 12 ports.
Most allow using more that one card in a system.
If you only have one slot on an independent bus then choose a 12-port, otherwise 2x 8-port cards would be fine. [Could add the second card and/or more drives as your needs grow.]
Lets say you have a single 12 port.
Use 2 ports for the OS - mirrored.
Use 2 ports for 'Hot-Spares'. [1 Hot-Spare is enough but two is a tad safer.]
[The RAID will automatically rebuild a failed drive onto a Hot-Spare 'on the fly' without crashing the NAS.
The HOT-Spare has to be on -THAT- RAID card to work though.]
You have 8 ports left for data drives.
With 1TB drives and RAID 10 [mirror/strip] that's 4TB data capacity.
Use a RAID form that strips and mirrors for the data drives as stripping almost doubles transfer rates.
[Interface speed doesn't matter much as it's the head-disk transfer rate that limits RAID throughput.]
Now lets say you have two 8 port cards.
#1 | 2x for OS | 2x for spare | 4x for data [Just this card with RAID 10 and 1TB drives would be 2TB.]
#2 | 2x for spare | 6x for data.
You'd have 10 ports for data drives.
With 1TB drives and RAID 10 [mirror/strip] that's 5TB capacity.

You could gain a little more space by using a partition on the OS drives for infrequently used files and by reducing the number of Hot-Spares.
cridogAuthor Commented:
What do larger corporations use?  I'm looking for a quality solution.  To 1. Store 3TB of data and 2. backup the full 3TB of data.
Enterprise class servers tend to use many smaller drives vs a few large ones.
Basically them more drives there are the faster the infrastructure will be.
- Think about it like how many drive heads are working for x many users.
- The more more heads working the less time each user has to wait.
'More spindles' as some call it is a big advantage for large databases.
Unless it's very new equipment I'd expect the current norm to be 250-500Gb drives.

They use various methods. [I don't do this so this myself so is just the basic idea.]
One way is to spread the load [bandwidth] across multiple servers sometimes using devices called load balancers. Another is to use servers that are set up to be nothing but large NAS or SAS units. In that case the machine is basically acting as a network-to-drive interface in a dedicated fashion. [They don't do any 'thinking', they just move data. Many use a 'network appliance' motherboard which stripped down to just what's needed. Not much CPU or RAM but lots of bandwidth to drives and LAN.] Fiber Channel or 10Gb LAN may be used.
3TB is a lot of data to back up. It sounds like you might start looking at an iSCSI solution of some type doing disk-to-disk backup, and then running tape offline from the disk backup. Seriously though, even if you're on the bus, 3TB takes some time to back up.  Best rates you're looking at something around 7 hours for the backup. (Assuming about 120MB/s transfer rates... which you probably will never achieve. - not your fault... the hardware's fault -)

Does the data change frequently or is it just arcives? Because the alternative is to do a complete backup occasionally, and then do differential or incremental backups of the data.

HP makes some nice iSCSI devices for the backup process with HDDs and tape drives inside the one machine. e.g: D2D130.

How important is off-site storage?

You're asking a question that seem simple on the surface, but can get very complicated very quickly.

You also have to consider data de-duplication options, as well as what software are you going to use for the backup.

As far as 3TB goes for over the wire internet based backup? Probably not a viable solution. It would take a ton of bandwidth, and if you frequently have large quantities of data being updated you'd need days to back up the changes.

NAS is certainly a solution for the disk space, but to get any performance you need to go with the higher-end drive subsystems. Ones with enough ram and cpu to support multiple users. You can't get away with a $200 Buffalo or Netgear box for this one.  (trust me on this one I already tried it because a client whined they wanted they whine "why is it so slow?" ... never again!)

How many stations? How many users? How many servers? How much total disk space to back up? What operating platforms (OS(')?) What speed LAN? What speed Internet?


Using a NAS solely as a backup device has nothing to do with how many users use the server it's backing up.

The write speed with tape drives will kill any advantages you'd otherwise get by bandwidth improvements.

120MB/s would be good (applicable to) an array with one set of drives.
If you use 4 sets of drives [more spindles as I mentioned before] you'd up that by 4x.
- Assuming the same drives -> 480MB/s.
With a PCI-E RAID controller that would not saturate the PCI BUS.
Then use a 10Gbit LAN/NIC's [~1250 MB/s] in a direct link between server and the NAS. (Or mirror Server.)
A 3TB full backup with that arrangement would take about 1hr 45min.
- Add more spindles and you can reduce that even further.

Absolutely agree with PCBONEZ about the NAS when used as a backup. It all comes down to speed of the data transfers and where is your bottleneck?. Are you within the system on the bus? Or are you on the wire? And as far as tape drives go, their purpose is to give you a convenient way to remove the data from the site. They are not particularly fast data movers, but they are still the most portable and cost effective alternative for moving data to another safe-site. And you can gang tape drives and do multiple simultaneous backups to tape for increased speed/decreased backup time. (Unless someone knows something easier/more convenient and cost effective to move large amounts of data on-site/off-site? I'm all ears!) Anyone tried to move a big NAS and then re-attach it?... Every day?

The 120MB/s is roughly best tape speed. (not HDD transfer speed) And on a Gb LAN you won't get much over 80MB/s transfer. You would have to go to 10Gb LAN or FC for faster speeds. Anyone checked on the price of 10Gb LAN cards lately?

Point being, what does all this mean to SMBs? Nothing, because most aren't going to spend the money to get the throughput they need for the transfer of large amounts of data. Especially in a bad economy. They are going to buy whatever fits the budget and sacrifice speed for cost.

I forgot to ask... why don't you want your RAID attached to the server? Would it make more sense for you to set up a SAN and virtualize your existing server platforms?


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