Poor Man's Server Replication

A small business is running Microsoft Small Business Server 2008.

The owner of the company wants a way to replicate - bit for bit - the entire contents of the server to a remote location (his home, possibly).

Seems like backing up an entire server across the Internet is not unheard of. Services like Carbonite and Mozy essentially do it! However, instead of paying several hundred dollars per month to replicate to one of these services, I'd like to install a second computer at the owner's house.

Assuming that remote server is always on, there's no reason why throughout the day (or at scheduled times?), the Small Business Server couldn't somehow replicate to this remote server.

Are there any do-it-yourself or open source software applications that can do this? I'll even consider commercial software as long as it is within a small business budget and doesn't require any fancy hardware (like a SAN).

(Reminder - SBS includes Exchange Server and SQL Server - so I need to be able to replicate data across the Internet in real time, without corrupting the SBS)  I would only expect to replicate one way (i.e. from the SBS to the backups server)

The backup server will NEVER be used unless the SBS goes down.
In fact, the backup 'server' can just be a workstation with lots of hard drive space.

I'm looking for a Business Continuity plan for small business.
Thank you!
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
Unfortunately none of the solutions you are investigating will do what you want (at least as stated in the original question.) The kicker you added is as follows:

   Reminder - SBS includes Exchange Server and SQL Server - so I need to be able to replicate data across the Internet in real time, without corrupting the SBS

That "in real time" bit is essentially a very enterprise request and thus *very* expensive. There is no open-source or inexpensive solution that will replicate a cold server in real time. You *will* have a tolerance window to deal with if you want to keep in the usual "SMB" budget.

With that said, robocopy won't give you a bit-for-bit copy. What it does, it does very well, but it is not a replacement for a real backup.

BackupAssist is a good product, but not what I'd consider WAN friendly. It really is designed primarily for media/local backups. It does generate files that can be synced over a WAN, however (albeit larger files), and is a viable option for a backup on the cheap. Just be aware that the larger files means longer transfer times which means a larger window of data loss tolerance.

DoubleTake is a fantastic product, but architecturally is designed for enterprises. It expects a dedicated repository server for replication which, between licensing, hardware, and setup, is usually beyond the scope of an SMB.  This is by no means a knock against DoubleTake, just an awareness of their strategy for backup and recovery.

StorageCraft is probably your best option. You'll want to make one backup to "seed" the remote server (as the initial backup will be very large) and then configure differential backups that can sync regularly. SP backs up to local storage, so you'll need another solution for the syncing portion, but there are plenty of open-source products that do this, and because the backups are differentials, the sync process should be relatively quick.

A newer player in the DR field is AppAssure. Similar to ShadowProtect, they use an imaging-based backup process, but I'm still in the process of evaluating their product for SBS use, so I can neither recommend or offer significant insight into ease of configuration or use yet. I bring it up because they are garnering positive reviews and they are making a big push for the SMB market.


I have not actually impemented this yet, but I have seen numerous demos on DoubleTake and heard overall good things. Maybe this will work for you,

Have a look at RoboCopy (which is part of the OS, thus free), which you can use to transport (copy or replicate) stuff between two sites.  You'd probably use the built-in backup utilities to backup, and then RoboCopy to move the product of the backup.  Robocopy will also allow you to limit the bandwidth usage.

What you can look at (if you want to spend some money) is BackupAssist which has a facility that will do an incrimental backup at the one site, replicate it to the other site and then create a new resultset effectively merging the last backup with the incremental to make the restore a one-step process.  I have not personally tested it so I can only go on the sales blurb as I understand it.
ecarboneAuthor Commented:
Hi wgray,

Thanks for recommending DoubleTake.
I have also heard of this program, and it seems to be a popular choice. However, I would have to purchase two licenses (one for each "server") which brings me to about $4,000.

Also, to implement DoubleTake, the "home" server needs to be running Windows Server.

I'll try to do some more research. Although DoubleTake is relatively expensive (to a small business, anyway), it may end up being a viable option.

I will check out RoboCopy and BackupAssist

I also found another software product called StorageCraft Shadow Protect. Don't know much about this product either but I will continue my research.

All good recommendations so far ... thank you!
ecarboneAuthor Commented:
Thank you VERY much for taking the time to write your response. (This is why I love EE ;-)

Now that I know the price for DoubleTake, I will look into StorageCraft and AppAssure and report back.
(I agree that I should make the first 'seed' backup).

While a real-time backup solution may not be affordable to small businesses, the options above are certainly welcome alternatives.
Thanks again!
ecarboneAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your help everyone. And thanks cgaliher for taking the time to explain the different products and what can and cannot be expected of 'non-enterprise' replication solutions. I am still researching this project on my spare time and if I come across something worth posting, I will leave a comment here.

Thanks again!
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