Verifying a disaster recovery backup offsite

hiddencove used Ask the Experts™
we've recently acquired a client who has an HP storageworks as their main backup solution.  The client has a Win 2003 SBS domain controller with 5 clients, however all documents and data files are stored on the server so the workstations aren't part of the backup schedule. The DC is installed on a HP proliant.

What I'm after is an approach to verify if these backups are being performed properly (apart from checking the job status screen in Data Protector Express) and also how effective they'd be in light of a full blown disaster ( burns down and all we have is a copy of the offsite backup). Ideally we'd like to do this offsite so we don't interfere with the clients' production system.

Some of the issues I'm curious about:
- Can the domain controller be recovered onto a blank machine from the offsite backup alone, or will the base operating system and applications need to be reinstalled first?
- Can the domain controller be recovered to a different machine (ie. not a proliant)?  Something like a high powered workstation or even to a virtual server space?
- Are there any extra software packages (eg. imaging software) we can use to make the above two scenarios possible? Or does the HP Storageworks and/or Windows Backup provide these capabilities already?
- Minimum lab hardware setup to properly test all this

The main aims we'd like to come out of this:
- create a platform to evaluate and revise our backup methodology
- have a tried and tested method of procedure for the clients' distaster or data recovery

thanks for your time

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Top Expert 2010

easy. rent some time at a datacenter and actually perform a recovery as if it is the real thing.

There is NO OTHER WAY to test.
Top Expert 2010

p.s.  if you don't do this, an they have a real disaster that you can't recover, then you better get a new job, 'cause you will lose the lawsuit. If certain type of data is lost or compromised, then the decision maker that is responsible could end up in jail, and pay fines out of his or her pocket.  read up on the law.
We use a software call shadow protect to backup our server. This software allow you to backup and restore to a different machine or a virtural machine. What I have done for one of my clients was create a image of the server and retire to a virtual machine I setup on a pc with 12 gig of ram and a quad core proccessor. The server was a dual proccessor xeon proccessor machine.

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Top Expert 2010
Shadow protect is a good product, and can certainly restore a system quite nicely, but this is only part of the process.  A D/R test needs to be a full D/R where client computers actually use the new system.  This requires network reconfiguration, not only at the D/R site, but you have to make sure that active directory is set up AHEAD OF TIME so that the change is transparent AND AUTOMATED.

I have seen a lot of horror stories and angst when people get their apps running on a server again, but the test fails because they neglected to test client computers and discover that their apps and computers won't run on the new system, and they have no practical way to reconfigure clients w/o effectively manually reconfiguring them.

A successful D/R means at worst, a client has to reboot their computer and they just log on before and everything runs (slower, of course) with the current data.  At best, they never know they are running at the D/R site with exception that they have to resubmit any form they are working on.

Also any data entered while running at the D/R should be live data and when the test is over, you are able to migrate it back in.  At some point, the D/R site has to go offline and you don't want to lose any data.

Hence, only way to do a full test is to do a full test.  Shortcuts mean you will not have a successful test.

Of course the client may not want to pay for a full transparent D/R experience, it is their call, but please CYA and understand their expectations..  Some clients only need to have a D/R site online within 24 hrs , others are willing to give you no less than 5 minutes.    Price and architect accordingly
Personally, I would re-formulate your backup strategy.

If the information is that important, I would rent a virtual center and create a second DC and a replication of all documents. I personally hate those backup solution - if anything gets corrupted, I'd lose the whole backup. I use robocopy to do most of my backup - if there's corruption, I only lose the corrupted file, not the whole backup. I do not use tape either. NAS drives are your friends.

To answer you two questions, Acronis is the one you need to make both possible.
I agree with all expert comments above.

The only thing I would add is that there are plenty of service providers out there that will do the recovery for you. The only thing required on the customer end is to log in and validate that everything is there and works.

If you want to save yourself a bit of time/effort and more importantly, have some piece of mind, I would line yourself up with someone who can offer this to you as part of their service.
Julian ParkerSenior Systems Administrator

With regards to the server there are several ways to recover, Acronis is widely used and quite reliable. I'm more of a unix type person myself so can't offer much in the way of Windows advice.

However, with regard to;
> ( burns down and all we have is a copy of the offsite backup) should bear in mind that DR is not just about recovering the data, you need to consider the infrastructure as well, bums on seats stuff, comms, air con etc etc.

If you need DR you could probably get an option from a local business continuity provider who could sort out the hardware and availability stuff, they may even have an excellent way of recovering the servers and give you advice on what you need to do.


thanks to everyone for their excellent comments.  acronis and shadow protect look like feasible in house solutions, which we'll weigh against outsourcing to another provider

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