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Is it practical to have a server OS and data on separate drives and back them up separately?

Posted on 2009-07-05
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Last Modified: 2016-10-27
One backup strategy I have used with a desktop pc is to install Windows and programs on one drive and data on a separate drive.    I take an Acronis image of the OS drive and update this image periodically after Windows updates or after adding new programs.  I back up the data daily.  If Windows gets scrambled I simply restore the OS disk using the image and then I have a clean system again without touching the data.  Because I am not backing up the OS, the size of the daily data backup is small.
Is this strategy practical with a server?  Why or why not?

I have a Dell PowerEdge 2900 server with a PERC 5i integrated controller.  Windows SBS 2003 and programs are installed on a RAID 1, and data (Exchange databases, SQL database for my accounting software, Users Shared folders, network shares, Client Apps, and WSUS database) are installed on a RAID 5.    I use BackupExec 11d.

Thank you.
Regards,
Cliff
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Question by:kiwi_canuck
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by:myhc
ID: 24781378
It's possible but I would not suggest it.

If you are using backup Exec then you already have everything you need.
(make sure you purchase the Exchange Agent)

In the case of a disaster, you would reinstall the server basic OS and then restore the data ontop of your OS.

The backup can be stored on an external HDD for safty. Athough I would suggest using backup media such as a backup tape.
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24781408
Hi myhc - why wouldn't you suggest it?
I have backup exec agents for SQL and Exchange.  I also have IDR but I don't trust it from what I have read.
I have an internal tape drive and use DAT72 tapes.
Thanks.
Cliff
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by:myhc
ID: 24781414
Do you have more than one HDD in your server?

Config examples:
HDD1 - Mirror - OS C:\
HDD2 - Mirror - OS C:\
HDD3 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
HDD4 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
HDD5 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
---OR---
HDD1 - Mirror
HDD2 - Mirror
   Partition 1 OS C:\
   Partition 2 DATA D:\
---OR---
HDD1 - Mirror1 - OS C:\
HDD2 - Mirror1 - OS C:\
HDD3 - Mirror2 - DATA D:\
HDD4 - Mirror2 - DATA D:\
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Dextertronic earned 450 total points
ID: 24781814
This is not only practical but highly recommended for recovery and performance reasons.

Recovery for the very reasons you stated before, the ability to blow away your OS volume and not affect your data volume.

Putting you OS and your data on different RAID arrays also improves the rate at which you access you data, allowing for concurrent reads to diffrerent volumes.

I do  a similar backup methodology where I use Symantec Backup System Recovery Server (Symantec's answer to Acronis)  to create nightly images of OS and App volumes.

The data volumes go straight to tape using separate tape software (in our case Arcserve).

We use this combination on dozens of servers and it works like a charm.

Great for DR too. Don't bother with IDR when you have Acronis. Just make sure you do regular images and keep a set  of them (one to two weeks) just in case you have to go back in time to an earlier image.

Very important that your regular data goes to tape and then the tape goes offsite. Might seem like overkill but when your office gets flooded/burgled/burnt down

Hard drives die all the time, usually when you need them the most.

Don't rely on external hard disks as anything but short term backup media.

Tape is still the best long term backup media.
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24781827
myhc - config is like your first example:
HDD1 - Mirror - OS C:\
HDD2 - Mirror - OS C:\
HDD3 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
HDD4 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
HDD5 - RAID5 - DATA D:\
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24781863
Dextertronic - thanks for that.  What info needs to be moved off the OS volume so that the OS volume can be blown away independently and work seamlessly with the data?  I am concerned about there being a database on the data volume but a checksum or something on the OS volume that does not match causing problems when I try to put yesterday's backup of the data with last month's backup of the OS.

Where are you storing your OS images?  External drive? Tape?  Do you take them offsite?

I have Acronis for workstations, but not for the server yet.    I am considering buying a server version for maintenance imaging purposes but also for the value of universal restore.  But Acronis for SBS has a pile more features; i.e., it is a backup solution itself, which makes me wonder if I should switch over to Acronis solely for backups.  Any comment on that?
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Expert Comment

by:tankergoblin
ID: 24781947
Are you using database server to install your data?
if yes then you can do that. Because database server like MS SQL they have database management sys.

if u are using access then it is not recommended. Also  it will slow down your process if u use it as multiple user.
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Assisted Solution

by:Dextertronic
Dextertronic earned 450 total points
ID: 24781972
There are some scenarios where that might be a problem but if you are using a progam like Acronis that resolves most of them.
All of the Microsoft apps are fairly robust in that respect.
Exchange can be challenging occasionally but by way of example I often use a recent image of my exchange server, restore it to a recovery servers and then restore the databases to the data volume that might be weeks or months older.
The same goes for SQL server.

Our images are copied via a script from a staging data volume on a server to an external hard disk.
We use robocopy to sync a full set of all the images from the night before to the external hard disk.
The external hard disk goes offsite every day with the backup tapes.
There are five external hard disks (Mon - Fri )but we keep two weeks of images on the disks.
The images are of the OS Volume and where appropriate the Application volume (e.g. the Exchange program files)

Acronis is great, I use the Symantec imaging solution (Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery[BESR]) because that's what I'm familiar with.
Symantec have a cheap version for SBS.

I wouldn't go imaging for your entire backup solution as I believe that ordinary data (as in not OS volumes) belongs on tape.
I see imaging as a fantastic supplement to tape backup.
The ability to restore data from months or years ago is only feasible with tape.
(unless you have a really expensive SAN with huge capacity and archival software)

I do have a SBS server left in one of my sites and I use BESR to image the OS volume and Backup Exec for SBS to wite the Data volume to tape.
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24782090
tankergoblin - I don't know what you mean by "database server to install your data", sorry.  There are a few MS Access projects but all data is stored in an SQL database via MS SQL Server 2005.
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Expert Comment

by:tankergoblin
ID: 24782507
i mean where you store your database server? same with your application?
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Assisted Solution

by:SelfGovern
SelfGovern earned 50 total points
ID: 24784530
Since you're backing up business data including live databases, rule number one is: Test your restore.   Even if it means renting a matching server for a month, test restoring the OS partition, then the data, and make sure you can bring the system up again when you're done.

If you have archive needs (business or legal requirement to keep data for more than, say, thre months), I strongly recommend using tape as the backup target.  LTO-3 will be faster than most any disk target you would have, and the safety of having the data both off-site (safe from fires, floods, earthquakes, disgruntled employees, virus), and on media that can be read for as much as 30 years, could be a lifesaver (or at least a business- and career-saver!).

Don't rely on hard drives for archival storage unless you keep them powered up -- there's no guarantee that drives will retain data when unplugged for long periods -- and if you keep a bunch powered up, well, your electricity bill will start to show it.  
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24788893
Dextertronic - can you tell me any of the scenarios you have come across in your experience where the separate OS/data backups don't work so I can avoid the pitfalls?

Sounds like you have a good setup.  I agree with keeping the data on tape, thanks.
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24788914
tankergoblin - I have only one physical server, so yes my database server and applications are on the same server.  Thanks.
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24788963
SelfGovern - thanks.
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by:Dextertronic
Dextertronic earned 450 total points
ID: 24789955
To be honest I havent found one.
All the Microsoft applications that I support respond well to this scenario.
And i havent found a third party application that doesnt like it ... yet.
The biggest challenge is Exchange, but that's the same set of challenges you get rebuilding an Exhcnage server using any method.


To give you an indication of how good this is I  use BESR as an integral part of mid cost range DR plans.
I have successfully restored entire environments of multiple servers to different hardware in DR centres using BESR.
The two really cool aspects are restoring to different hardware (historically problematic), BESR makes this easy, and converting the images to Virutal disks for easy loading into VMware/XEnServer/Microsoft VM.
In the DR scenario I end up loading up to three virtual servers onto one physical server running VMware server.
And it's the imaging technology that makes this happen
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24790032
Sounds robust.  Thanks for your help I will give it a go!
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Author Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 24790112
Dextertronic - is there any non-obvious data that I should move to the data volume?   I have moved Exchange databases, SQL database for my accounting software, Users Shared folders, network shares, Client Apps, and WSUS database.  Backup Exec uses an SQL instance, should I find that data and move it too?  Is there anything else you move to the data volume?
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by:Dextertronic
Dextertronic earned 450 total points
ID: 24790275
It doesnt hurt to move any and all databases.

I havent worried to much about the backup database in the past but it's good practice to keep the same approach across the board.

Depending on whether you actually use them or not you might consider moving the SBS web sites and their associated configuration files, particularly if you've put effort into customising Outlook Web Access or the Sharepoint site.

Sounds like you have all the key files.

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Author Closing Comment

by:kiwi_canuck
ID: 31599961
I will not be able to test the solution for a while so I will close the question.  Thanks for your help.  Much appreciated!
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