SBS2008 Backup to QNAP NAS Drive via iSCSI; Rotating disks?

Hello,

We are using the QNAP TS-239 Pro II NAS unit as a backup target using iSCSI.  I inserted the Week1 hard drive, into the NAS unit, configured iSCSI on the QNAP, and created a LUN on the hard drive that spans the entire disk.  Next, I inserted Week2, and do exactly the same thing.  In SBS, I connect to the hard drive with the initiator and add the drive as a backup target.  I repeat this process for the second hard drive...  This process has worked very well for a few years, but, sadly and suddenly, I am experiencing issues on the QNAP in our office that makes me think that it is not really designed to be used as I am using it.  SBS connects to it, but the hard drive is not visible.  I look at the QNAP iSCSI info, and it shows that the LUN has an "Error" state, which I cannot figure out how to clear.  Has anyone configured this kind of backup solution?  If so, what NAS units do you think work very well in the scenario that I have described where you want to rotate disks?  I am going to be contacting QNAP this week and will post what I learn from them.  Of course, we don't want to spend tons of money on the NAS unit as we are an SMB.

Thanks for your suggestions,

Mike

P.S. We are using the second bay for backing up our VMware virtual machines, and it works great!

Thanks,

Mike
mjgardneAsked:
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Paul SolovyovskyConnect With a Mentor Senior IT AdvisorCommented:

It's not best practice.  Typically, iSCSI LUNs are not designed for rotating as they act as attached hard drives and not removable media.

If the QNAP has CIFS you can use it backup via a network share that may work better.  

What backup software are you using?
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Hi Paulsolov,

Thank you for responding. :)  We are using Windows Server 2008's backup software.  I don't understand how our use of swapping drives that use LUNs would be worse than using a shared folder on the drive.  We disconnect the drive, turn off the NAS unit, insert the drive from the rotation set, and then connect it via iSCSI to the server.  As you've mentioned, the server sees the drive as if it is an internal one and iSCSI is very fast.  Could you please tell me why CIFS would be better?

Thank you again for your comments!

Mike
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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
CIFS is a shared file system "windows shares" and doesn't require a constant connection but iSCSI is "always on"

ISCSI is a block level protocol designed for drives to act as "permanent" drives.
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Hi again,

Thank you for your response, but I understand the two technologies...  What I was trying to learn more about was why you don't think iSCSI is a good choice for rotated backups.  Is there a technical issue or is it a preference?  I have been using this solution in our office and with many customers for about 18 months, and haven't had any issues other than our office NAS unit is starting to act a little flakey.  I have contacted QNAP for some assistance and to see what their thoughts are on my question.  I'll post what I learn from them....  

The thing that is easier with CIFS is doing a complete restore to the server from a backup.  However, with the iSCSI solution, all you need to do is go to another computer on the network, connect to the NAS drive via iSCSI, and share that connection on the LAN.  This is necessary b/c windows restore does not (although MS alludes to it working) restore directly from an iSCSI backup.  

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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
The issue I can see with iSCSI is that when you add it to a system that it hasn't connected to before it may resignature the LUN if not handled correctly.  Otherwise if it works then it may be a good solution for you.
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Another advantage for the iSCSI solution is that you can divide a single hard drive into multiple LUNS...  We have three servers in our office and each one connects to its own LUN on the NAS unit.  Since Windows Server formats its destination drive, each one has its own, separate, LUN.  I don't think that different servers can share the same hard drive using CIFS because of the formatting that is performed when you add the backup drive as a backup target in Windows Backup.  I don't know for sure about CIFS since I don't use it.  Is what I have said true?
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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
If the CIFS is formated and is part of domain it should pick up since it's a SID and probably uses SAMBA.  The share may not be sharable when you connect but the files shoudl be there. Each server would have a separate folder.
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Ahhh... I see...  Pretty easy solution...  I will experiment with it while I wait for the NAS vendor (QNAP) to respond.  It would be interesting to see if there are any performance differences.  More to follow...
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Well, I have some bad new, paulsolov...  I reformatted the hard drive so it did not have any iSCSI formatting on it.  When I connected to the shared folder on the NAS unit from a desktop computer, I created a folder named, "Server1".  Next, I went to our Windows Server 2008 system and Windows Backup, but I did not see any way to tell it to connect via CIFS to the share.  In the previous version of Windows Backup before Server 2008, it was possible, but it does not seem to work, now.  I think that this was the reason that I went to iSCSI 18-months ago, but I forgot! :)  Anyway, so I am back to my original question...

Is there a vendor who provides a NAS unit that will permit the swapping that we are doing without any errors or penalties?  I am still waiting for news from QNAP and will post more info soon...
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Did more research...

1) Our SBS2008 server can only backup to local, USB, or iSCSI hard drives;
2) Our WS2008R2 server can backup to CIFS, but "...you will only have one backup at a time because when you create a new backup it overwrites the previous backup."
3) Our WS2008 Standard server can only backup to local, USB, or iSCSI hard drives;
4) Our VMware virtual computers can only backup to local or iSCSI hard drives;
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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
so looks like your options are limited.  what are you using to backup vmware?
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
VMware Data Recovery.  It is included in vSphere Essentials Plus or larger packages.  It works very fast, saving/restoring VMs (not users files), and performs scheduled backups.  It does not have tons of bells and whistles, but it makes recovery of VMs very easy.  The other big name backup tools, for a simple VMware deployment (i.e. single ESXi host, simple LAN, no dedicated backup LAN), were dreadfully slow.  For larger deployments, they would probably be a better choice, but in our SMB consulting arena, VMware Data Recovery works great.
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hassowCommented:
Hi,
the FastSCP tool by Veeam might come in handy too
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
Yup, it is good for fast copying of VM files...

But, I am still looking for recommendations for an iSCSI NAS device that supports rotating hard drives, as I am doing with QNAP.  I am still waiting for a response from them as to whether they officially support what we are currently doing...  
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mjgardneConnect With a Mentor Author Commented:
Well, I am amazed that no one else seems to be using iSCSI to backup their Windows 2008 servers to a NAS unit...  In the end, QNAP never responded to my two e-mails, so I decided to reformat our backup drives and create secured shared folders for each of our servers on the NAS unit.  On each server, I created a scheduled task that runs the following command.  It does the same kind of backup as the graphical tools, but DOES NOT provide any kind of notification as to the success or failure of a backup.

A user can verify the status of a backup in two ways:

1) Open an elevated command window on the server and enter the following command:
wbadmin get versions -backupTarget:\\192.168.1.10\SqlServer
The last entry in the window is the most current backup that has been performed.  It lists what has been saved, and its success or failure.

2) Open Server Manager; iii.      Expand the “Storage” node; Click on “Windows Server Backup”;  In the "Messages" listbox, you will see the status of the backup.

One of the advantages of using a CIFS backup is that if you need to do a full system restore from your backup, you can easily restore from the CIFS share after booting into recovery mode.  With iSCSI, you have to have another computer connect via iSCSI and then share the connection so the failed computer can be restored.

I hope that this info helps others...  



wbadmin start backup -include:c: -allCritical -vssFull -backupTarget:\\qnap1\Server1 -quiet -user:TheNASUser -password:TheNASUserPwd
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mjgardneAuthor Commented:
No one completely resolved our issue, so I have posted my resolution in order to help others.  Paulsolv assisted by discouraging the use of iSCSI and LUNs.
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