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Backup Strategy Review - Need Advice!!

Posted on 2009-04-13
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Our company currently has about 40 users.
+ 1x 2003 SBS Main Server (exchange, web, intranet, backup, sharepoint, AD, etc)
+ 1x 2008 STD Terminal Server (Accounting Software)

-The main server has [1x internal raid drive] with all the system file + [1x external raid drive] with all the company data and exchange server data + [2x 80GB tape drives]
-The terminal server has [1 internal raid drive] + 1 [extrnal usb drive]

-The main server is backed up every night to the tapes drives that rotate daily (w Backup Exec) + to the internal raid drive on the terminal server via network (w Backup Exec System Recovery)
-The terminal server is backed up every night to the external usb drive.

The company also has a remote site with 3 users. Remote files are stored locally and synchronized every night back to the server and then to the tapes.


I am currently reviewing the backup strategy for serveral reasons :
- The tapes run out of space almost every month (has to constantly try archiving bits and pieces to gain a bit of space on tapes)
- I can't even convert the backup from System Recovery to a vmware virtual disk to properly test it in a virtual environment as I don't have enough space
-The company is constantly growing and is expected to grow even more soon with the acquisition of another company.

Now I've seen a lot of storage and backup solutions - NASs, Dell PowerVault, Disk backups, tape backups, etc
But I don't really know how would be best to reorganize everything so it allows growth and takes less time and effort to manage and of course is recovery efficient..

Any tips and suggestions on how to reorganize the whole storage and backup are very welcome!!!!!
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Question by:cybrexus
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24133889
I would highly recommend finding an online backup solution, or at least use an online solution as part of your plan.  I try to stay away from tapes as you never know when they will go bad and you have to replace them every so often or they wear out.

Are you just backing up data or backing up entire hard drives?  If the latter, then consider planning out how to quickly rebuild the software on a system rather than backing it up and then just back up the data.

I'm not an expert on this, so hopefuly someone else will give a more in depth answer, but I hope that helps.
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24134932
I don't think we could afford a 3rd backup solution and throw another $200/month for that.
Backup Exec does the partial backup of only critical data and Backup Exec System recovery does entire hard drive.

Any other suggestions..??
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24135000
Like I said, I'm not an expert so I hope someone else can give you a better answer, but allow me to put up a better defense for the online solution ;)

I didn't mean to use it as an extra backup strategy.  I only meant that if you had the resources and didn't want to abandon your other backup strategies you could use it as an additional option.  I would definitely use an online option over using tapes any day.  Do you take your tapes off location?  If not what if there is a fire?  Your tapes get burned up with the serves.  Tapes don't give you any indication that they are worn out so you have to test and/or replace them routinely if you want to be sure your backup is safe.  And they are not exactly fast to access.  Also you can automate an online solution.

The pricing is nowhere near $200/month.  Even 10 years ago the pricing wasn't that much.  You'll have to do your own research on which service would best fit your needs, but depending on your needs you can find online backup solutions for as low as $5 to $10 a month for unlimited storage.  I saw another one for like $50/year I think.  The thing to pay attention to would be the bandwidth and how easy or cumbersome it is to use their service.
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by:dbrunton
dbrunton earned 200 total points
ID: 24135524
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by:itprotocall
itprotocall earned 200 total points
ID: 24136529
you might be better of by opting for 1 large external USB attached to the primary server.
This could hold your daily backups (from Backup Exec) and also be used to recover the 'system recovery' to a virtual disk and test it out.

the existing tapes can be used for weekly or monthly full backups of critical data, whereas the USB servers for your daily backup/restore needs.
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by:nappy_d
nappy_d earned 100 total points
ID: 24136564
If you are looking to expand your backups, consider putting in place the HP MSL 6030.  THis tape unit holds upto 30 LTO 3 tapes that can support 400GB/800GB backup media for something like 30TB of data backup.

There are many similar units like this out there.  This ma help you with your expanding data storage backup issues.

Also, consider moving a G.F.S backup rotation if not already in use,to help reduce the amount of media being used.
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24136643
re: nappy_d
- not planning on spending such money, extra costs have to be minimal if none at all - maybe by replacing existing stuff

re: dbrunton
- this is one of the main options indeed but again a bit pricey considering that prices are higher in Australia (I won't be able to order on this HP website)
- I was also thinking of reworking the whole strategy as I seems a bit messy with backups going all of the places.. :S

re: itprotocall
- the current procedure is to backup daily on 2 separate tapes, basically daily tape rotation with 5 rotations of Friday tapes - but if you reduce that down to weekly rotation and the office burns down, you can only get back a week old data which I don't think the management will be happy with

generally trying to work out an easily managable, scable and inexpensive solution or a combination of solutions...

any other suggestions...?
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by:nappy_d
ID: 24136787
You still have the problem that your data storage is exponentially seeming to outgrow your backup strategy.

I really do believe you need a tape library. You should look for one that is still in the marketplace for the type of tapes you are currently using.
What are you using, LTO1, 2, 3 or DL?

Also change to a GFS rotation scheme. Diff backups, Mo-Thu and full backups on Fridays.

HP is just an example of a tape library manufacturer.
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by:itprotocall
ID: 24136817
the tapes can hold your full backups, and the disk can hold daily incremental or differential.
at any point in time (in case of disaster or data loss) you can get back to data from 1 day back.
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24137036
re : nappy_d
- the data isn't growing that fast - it just happens that now is the time it approached the tape limits - the budget is really tiny

re : itprotocall
- the problem with disk backups is that they wouldn't be taken offsite so if office is flooded or burns down then 1 week of data gone - can't afford that


maybe some general ideas - thinking outside of the current system - maybe I should stop backing up system state/AD/Exchange to tapes and do this only to disk? and then do online backups of just files to somthing like Amazon S3? or again that would be a problem of not having an offside restore for AD and system state... :s

thanks for your help everyone! any other suggestions/ideas??
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by:nappy_d
ID: 24137109
I personally never like on-line backup systems because if my internet connection is down, I have no access to my data.

Check out this tape loader option. http://www.cdw.ca/shop/products/default.aspx?EDC=1011378

If you find some way to sell this to your company it may be worth while.

Another solution is archiving.  Leave only stub files on your server(approx 2-6kb) and store the rest of your data near line or off-line.
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24142223
The chance of the internet connection being down right when you need it is possible, however to be fair the chances of the internet connection happening to be down and you needing your backup data at the same time are probably not too far away from the chances of part of your tape backup being corrupted, or at the most marginally higher.  However it won't be long before your connection is back, but you can't uncorrupt your tape data.

And even if you went with the online solution I would expect you would still do tape backups as well, but more like on a weekly basis rather than daily.

Something else I was wondering about: are you backing entire hard drives or just data?  You obviously don't need to be backing up the entire operating system and other software except when you make changes like installing a service pack or other patch (back up the registry though, of course).
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24143656
Both backups now backup all of the data -
1- the whole drive gets backed up daily incrementally onto an external hard drive
2- all folders and files + AD + Exchange + SQL + System State + Sharepoint get backed up every day in FULL on tapes

this strategy was chosen because if the office burns down or any other disaster - the external hard drive will be dead and server as well - the only thing we will have are the tapes, in this case 1 day old

is that not a very clever strategy?
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24144155
Well it's an ideal strategy if you have plenty of space, which it seems you don't.  Also consider that if the office burns down, your company might want to buy a different server than the one they had.  But the drivers you have backed up are specific to the machine you had.  Unless you get the same machine, it's very possible that you will have to reinstall the operating system anyway.

Another big pro of your method is the convenience of not having to worry about how to backup data from the various technologies.  However, if you were to take the time to plan a system that would just back up the data you need you would only have to back up a fraction of what you're backing up now.

I think it's clear that the strategy you're using now would work fine if you had more money to throw at it.  You might try to assess (as best you can) how much money you think it will ultimately cost your boss to have you create, implement, and test a backup system that doesn't back up all the software.  Also try to assess how much money it would cost to successfuly continue with the current plan.  Show this to your boss so that he can clearly see that if he chooses to try a new plan, it's still going to cost him money because someone (you) has to implement it.  I would also try to point out the potential losses that would occur if something catastrophic happened and you weren't prepared.

Last comment:  one online solutions offered unlimited storage for $5 while another one offered it for $10 a month.  That's dirt cheap.  maybe you could do some combination of backing up online and using the tapes you've already got.
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24144159
oh and maintain...  Create, Implement, Test, and Maintain ;)
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24153903
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

Here is a possible backup plan that I came up with :
- Tape backups with a GFS rotation scheme
- Tape backups will only contain System State + Exchange + SQL + Sharepoint + All company data files
- Tape backups will not contain full hard drive backup (until now they contained the whole system with ALL files - this was necessary for the Symantec Intelligent Disaster Recovery to work but since I heard that the IDR has trouble restoring to a dissimilar server configuration, I will ditch the IDR completely)
- Tapes will therefore not be taken offsite, except for the monthly and Friday weekly backups

- A differential backup with System State + Exchange + SQL + Sharepoint + All company data files will be done every night to our remote office over the VPN connection (for this to work the internet connection data allowance will be upgraded at some extra cost approx. +$200/month, I am still looking at alternative cheaper internet providers)
- An incremental hard drive image backup will be done daily and an extra external USB hard drive will be bought to use for off-site copy of this image
- The extra hard drive will be taken off-site daily after the image is automatically copied to the hard drive

Basically this would allow to have an offsite copy of the full hard drive + offsite backup of critical files at any given time as well as onsite tapes..


Please let me know if you see any weaknesses of such solution... otherwise I will go with that..
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by:dbrunton
ID: 24153964
Offsite backup should include copies of install CDs, serial numbers and possibly irreplaceable hardware (I'm thinking of tape drives here).

If your daily incremental storage doesn't exceed 4 Gb consider a DVD drive for burning this data to DVD.
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24154652
$200/mo?  Is that for a T1 line or just to upgrade the allowance with a regular connection?  That's pretty outrageous unless it's a T1.
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by:cybrexus
ID: 24155038
That's actually a SHDSL 1mbps/1mbps - now we only got 15Gb download and it would need 50Gb for this solution to work so an extra 200 bucks.
Now I'm looking whether upgrading the tape drive wouldn't be cheaper over time actually. If it does then after all it may be the only cost effective solution no matter how hard I tried to find something else... :S
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by:brandonvmoore
ID: 24155123
All I know is that I can get a T1 for that much in Dallas.  Do you not have cable in your area?  I have cable and we don't have allotment restrictions, but maybe other areas are different.
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by:nappy_d
ID: 24156773
Up grading your tape drive would probably be a better solution(I.M.O) if you are going to that way look int a tape library that would allow you to take advantage of your existing media.  This would help save you some on cost.  

What media are you currently using?

Take a look at this one.  It supports Choice of LTO-2, LTO-3 or LTO-4 drives.  Hopefully this is one of the media you are currently using.

http://www.overlandstorage.com/US/products/arcvault12.html

I know that Internet bandwidth is ridiculously expensive in Oz
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cybrexus earned 0 total points
ID: 24463555
Thanks everyone! I opted for the following:
- reduce the tape backups to only critical data and ditched the Disaster Recovery optionin Backup Exec 12
- using Symantec Backup Disaster Recovery 8.0 software withe Offsite copy option to take the whole hard drive backup home every night
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