Best Media Strategy For Backup Exec


I want to set up one of my clients with backup exec to handle all the back ups. They have 2 windows 2003 servers (one is SBS) and about 8 laptops all in a domain enviroment.

The laptops get taken home each night. As I understand it I will be able to set it up so that when the laptops are back at the office they will be automatically backed up. Is this correct?

I am also trying to figure out a good backup media strategy. I don't really like the idea of tapes as I'm not very experianced with them. I was planning on using 2 external 2TB hard drives (2TB is more than enough backup space for this enviroment). One drive would be connected at all times and someone in the office would swap drives each day. Backup exec would backup everything overnight to the connected drive, the person would come in to work, disconnect the connected drive (and take it home) then plug in the second drive for the nightly backup. Does anyone see a problem with this strategy? Is there a more efficient way to do this?

Thanks in advance for the help.
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briancassinConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Backup strategies can be partly preference and mostly what strategy best serves your needs while protecting the data.

It looks like you have decided on a full backup but I want to present to you the advantages and disadvantages of this decision.

Full backup advantages and disadvantages
a. It takes longer to do a full backup
b. the advantage is you will only need that tape or drive to do a recovery.
c. tape rotation is as easy as put the tape in for the day of the week for that weeks worth of backups so it would Monday Set 1 if it were the first monday of the week of when you implemented your backup.
d. quicker to restore files as you only need to use the previous nights backup assuming the file was deleted this morning. If it was deleted two days ago then you would use the backup from 3 days ago providing the file was removed after that nights backup ran.

If you were to do an incremental backup which means you Monday is a full backup and then the rest of the days of the week your backup is scheduled it only backs up the changes. The advantage and disadvantages are
a. It's faster then a full backup
b. If a file has to be recovered you will need Mondays backup and all the days leading up to the day that you need to restore the file. Can be difficult to find all the tapes needed for the recovery.
c. takes longer to recover files

Limited recovery scope & data loss potential:
You have only two external drives which means you have two single points of failure. If either of these drives go bad your backup is bad. Hard drive failure today is much more common imho then tape failure. External hard drives (if using off the shelf from a retail store) are designed for backup but they are designed for occasional backup, they're not designed for gigs of data to be moved everyday on and of off of them, The constant rewriting to the platters will take its toll on the parts inside the drive. You have not mentioned how these will be connected (USB, SATA, SCSI). but I am assuming USB.

Backup Strategies
Most companies have up at least one week worth of backups if not three weeks of backup. The reason for this is Monday morning a user may delete something but not realize they needed it until later in the week with only two days of backup (actually one if it the deletion occurs and then the change is backed up).

Transport & Cost & Damage Risk:
Tapes are much smaller to transport they also they are not easily damaged when subjected to bouncing, banging, etc. If someone were to drop a tape yes it could break. If someone drops the external hard drive the chance of it being damaged is almost certain.
Tapes intially could cost more as you will need more of them but they are cheaper to replace if one goes bad.

Data Security:
While someone could potentially steal data from a tape most people do not have a tape drive readily accessibile. Everyone has USB ports so if this was to be an external USB hard drive someone could easily plug it into their home computer and put all of the company data and put it up on torrent site. You must also consider who you are allowing possession of the drives, you don't want someone who should not be seeing payroll data taking it home if it contains payroll data. Usually someone in the I.T. department takes the tape drive home.

These are the tried and true method of backup hence why they are still in use today. Tapes are not difficult to work with once you learn about the different backup methods. Most people use a full backup since they are easier to restore data from. The only impeding factor is time. Depending on the size of your data you are backing up it could take a half hour or the job could run for 10 hours. This is why some people implement incremental backups and others implement full backups. Also the tape backup drives are more expensive but once again they have a very low failure rate as long as you run the cleaning tapes when the drives request them or you have done x amount of backups if your tape drive is not that advanced.

The laptops would have to be setup in windows for synchronization when connected to the domain. This can be done through group policy. You would also need to redirect their My Documents folder to the server for example it would be mapped on the server  C:\USERFILES\%username%\ and the my documents location would be mapped to H:\  This could all be done through group policy.

Your other option is Roaming profiles however many do not do this because it can take a while for the profiles to be brought down from the server. However all user settings are retained such as favorites in Internet Explorer etc. You can also specify this in group policy without roaming profiles I believe.

You can use the external hard drive its not a bad idea if your looking at an affordability standpoint it is going to be cheaper then a tape drive and tapes. As far as functionality I do not believe two days worth of backups is enough. I also do not believe an off the shelf external hard drive is going to be as reliable as a tape drive either. It all boils down to your data and how important it is. If your dealing with payroll, personell files, or CRM systems that data changes daily in and any loss would be catastrophic I woulld use a tape system. If your not dealing in these things or the data loss would be more an inconvience then a show stopper then maybe an external drive would fit the bill. It all comes down to what best protects the data from disaster, loss, fire, damage etc. Which is analyzing your requirements and identifying what matters most.
Pawel_KowalskiAuthor Commented:
Thank you Brian for that detailed write up, that is a huge help. How reliable are tapes and how often do they need to be cleaned? Are they something we should replace every now and then (what frequency)?

Our enviroment is small with about 7 computers in the domain (along with the 2 servers). The problem I have with roaming profiles is that users take their laptops (which is their primary computer) home each night and having to access their roaming profile through a VPN would be time consuming. The second issue is that we do not run exchange and all email is retreived using outlook to a PST file. As I understand Microsoft does not recommend storing PST files on a network drive. What I understood about symantec backup exec is that it would actually backup these laptops in the background when they are connected back to the network in the morning. Do you know if this is the case?
David ToddConnect With a Mentor Senior DBACommented:

As for tapes and tape drives, do look at the LTO series. Drives like these will give long service. On the other hand, some of the smaller format dat drives and tapes don't look as robust.

Cleaning drives - we put a new LTO4 drive into service around 6 months ago, and it hasn't requested a clean yet. I've maybe cleaned the old LTO3 once. The previous SDLT's I've cleaned twice or three times between two of them in a year.

Generally the drive has a light on the front panel indicating that it needs a clean.

In terms of email, my thoughts are your backup process is going to be much more robust if email is in exchange, and the laptops get to work off-line when not inthe office. I'd look at having as much as possible on the servers and only worry about backing them up. If you turn on software encryption - assuming that your tape drive doesn't do hardware encryption - then the CPU of your source is going to be working quite hard. That is, the encryption is done by the Backup Exec agent.

On the other hand, LTO4's can do both the encryption and compression in hardware.

BTW don't take the tape sizes at first glance. What I mean is that LTO4 for instance has a listed capacity of 1.6TB with a very small asterix, and then in small print it says 800GB native. The 1.6TB in this instance is assuming that you achieve 2:1 compression, which depends on exactly what you are backing up. If you backup reams of word documents in the older format then you could do better than this; if you are backup SQL Server backups which use SQL compression - ie SQL 2008R2 - then I'd suggest you're likely to get not much to no compression. If you have a lot of very high quality pictures or music or video then its likely to compress well; or if the pictures are jpegs and mp3s with no resolution and bit rates then its likely to not be much. You really will need to try it and see how Backup Exec handles your data. If you have Backup Exec you can see what you can achieve in that regard to disk.

I do recommend tapes for off-site backups and recoverability and archive purposes. I'm continually asked to go back several years to find an old document.

Think about tape rotation - we have four sets of tapes for the days of the week, and 6 sets of tapes for month end. Then we do a year end set and put that aside.

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Pawel_KowalskiAuthor Commented:
Thank you so much for this. I will post a new question about which tape drive to select and about proper cleaning and managing of those tapes. Again, I appreciate your great help.
Pawel_KowalskiAuthor Commented:
your welcome glad I could be of assistance.
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