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Server backup solutions

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September 20, 2005 9:55:13 PM

So, I'm finally getting a new server (hopefully). I replaced the 6 yr old desktops last spring, now for the server.

Nothing special since there's only 7 users and we don't use SQL server or anything similar - its really just a large 'shared hard drive,' approx 3.0ghz (or the AMD equiv.), 1 gig RAM, Windows Server 2003 (probably SBS, but its not important), 160-200gig HD (possibly 2 mirrored in RAID1).

We're putting a good amount of data on it, and it could explode exponentially if we start getting busy - possibly 1gig+/month. So, backup is an issue. Currently, we've been using Travan tapes (Seagate 10g/20g), but the drive recently broke so I'm copying the 15+gig of data to various user's HDDs overnight until the server is replaced (better not have a fire until I get the new one - I don't have off-site backup ATM). I could just get another tape drive, but given the amount of storage, Travan & DAT don't cut it for capacity, and DLT is pretty expensive.

How do you feel about using an external hard drive? Maxtor has the OneTouch II small business one with all the trimmings (Dantz Retrospect with open file backup, server recovery, etc.) that comes with a 200gig drive and specifically works with Windows server. I could get 3 of them for less than the cost of a 40/70 DLT drive, let alone tapes.

Thoughts, comments, other ideas all welcome.

Mike.

<font color=blue>Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside the dog its too dark to read.
-- Groucho Marx</font color=blue>
September 21, 2005 12:36:17 PM

The DLT would just be easier, safer, and a lot more reliable. That's why it costs the extra money. It's a one time expense.

Now we all know that hard drives do 1 thing: they fail. They're inexpensive, you can lose or misplace one. You're going to save $500 maybe? But if you lose one, you're going to lose a hell of a lot more.

I'd go with the DLT regardless of the pricing; it's a one time fee and that alone can justify saving your system.
September 21, 2005 3:52:58 PM

Thanks for your input, Riser. I wanted to at least hear from you on this.

I'm going to comment on your points, and hopefully you can fill in what I'm missing.

>> The DLT would just be easier,... <<

Once either system is configured, the ease of operation is the same. Insert the tape or insert the USB/firewire cable and check the logs next AM, not much difference there. Am I missing something?

>> safer,... <<

I think the details of this will come out in other ways, but I don't see 'safer.' Can you define this more?

>> and a lot more reliable. <<

Over time I've used reel, cassette, QIC, 4mmDAT, 8mmDAT, Travan and a few others, but never DLT. DLT had better be much more reliable than any of the above because hard drive technology has failed at a lower rate than any of them in my experience (reel excepted, but they don't hold enough data). So to me the reliable aspect is, thru experience, not a selling point. Drives go bad, tapes go bad and tapes need replacing periodically anyways (and they're not cheap either).

>> Now we all know that hard drives do 1 thing: they fail. <<

So do tape drives and tapes.

>> They're inexpensive, you can lose or misplace one. You're going to save $500 maybe? But if you lose one, you're going to lose a hell of a lot more. <<

You can't lose a tape? True a tape is less expensive than a drive, but I haven't lost any of either in 20+ years.

I think I'll be saving a bit more than $500. I would buy 2 OneTouch drives (under 1000, software incl.), or a 80/160gb DLT (1000+), SCSI card (250?), 2 tapes minimum (150?), and software (500?) I haven't looked at DLT prices recently but they used to be quite expensive - I'm assuming prices have come down some. So, I'm seeing about 50% cost savings. If I needed a 4 or 5 'tape' cycle, then the cost savings would be erased, but for a simple 2 'tape' cycle (one onsite, one off)...

Assume all other things are equal (ease of use, safety, security, price, etc.) for a moment: Which would you want, a backup that can hold your whole system on 1 device even if you're full of data, or one that takes 2 or more tapes? (I can't count on compression - most of our data doesn't compress well)

Mike.

PS: another thought - If I buy 1 of the business editions of the onetouch, and a couple other external drives (Seagate for the 5yr warrantee), and ghost the onetouch drive onto the new Seagates, I could save significantly more $... hmmm, I bet that opens up a legal issue. :frown:

<font color=blue>Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside the dog its too dark to read.
-- Groucho Marx</font color=blue>
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September 21, 2005 7:04:03 PM

I would say it really depends on your budget. If you can afford it, I'd definately go with Tapes.

Hard drives are more likely to be stolen or used for other things - Not knowing how secure or who else works around you, is it feasible that someone takes the hard drive to use it and store information on it for a day? Do they delete something off it to make space for their information?

I looked up a DLT drive and tapes on CDW.. here's what I found:

Quantum DLT VS160 Tape Drive $1100 (80/160compressed)
3 year limited warranty, internal based drive, Ultra160 SCSI interface provided. MTBF = 250,000 hours.

Song DLT Tape VS1, 80/160, $60 (45-55, I went high) per tape. It's expensive, but they're pricey because they have a high tolerance and don't fail as often.

Brightstor r11.1 will run about $600, so your total would be $2,000 for a tape drive, software, and a couple tapes, $80 for a cleaning tape.

With Tapes, you pop the tape in and walk away. It pops out in the morning and you know if it copied everything or not. If it's not popped out, something came up. If it's out, everything was copied. You can check the logs to make sure everything copied, amount of time, etc.

DLT is prided as being the most reliable form of backup aside from magnetic. Hard drives might fail after a year, or they might go 10 years. You never know. If your drive fails, you will end up paying $1,000 to get any info off it. A tape is much cheaper for them to pull data off, but not by much, maybe 400-600 dollars. Tapes show signs before hand and are examined before a back-up and will state if there is a problem with them. A hard drive generally does not tell you it's failing - you have to be aware the drive is making noises or heating up, etc. Both are safe, but the tapes are designed for backups while hard drives are becoming a cheap alternative to spending an extra dollar.

The same thing can happen with a tape, but again, all things equal, I believe the tape is a much better backup but you're limited to having a tape drive, while the USB hard drive you're not. Now, if you get a virus on that drive or something like that, you'll likely encounter some problems. Tapes won't have that kind of problem with them until you restore a virus, etc.

It's really hard to say which is better because each can be countered with 'what if's' which is where the budget comes into play.

Now, you could easily buy a hard drive that fits everything onto a signal drive without a problem. One backup covers everything.. 200GB, etc. But you'd have to keep buying those drives if you wanted to keep a monthly backup to say.. but a tape will tell you when it's getting to it's 'replace me' time by saying "this tape has been written to 100 times, please replace" or it will give you a warning before that time comes. A hard drive won't.

Basically, with the tapes you're paying for something that is designed to do the best possible job. You can go with the hard drives and they'll do exactly as you want, they'll be just as good, etc. But when you're investing in tapes, you're investing in knowing that if a problem with the physical media does come up, you'll have a higher success rate in recovery.

On top of that, you can lock tapes much like a floppy disk so no one can write to it. Depending on your hard drive solution, you might be able to do that also.

But if you're running over 80/160GB of data in a month, the next step up in DLT will run you about $3,000, at that point money will become an issue.

But right now you're sitting at $2,000 tops for the DLT Tape drive.. depending on what the hard drives will run you and all that, it really comes down to what would you rather do and what are you willing to spend?

Either route you take, you'll be fine. The tape backup is just designed against failing and gives you more reliability than a hard drive.
September 23, 2005 4:43:00 PM

Sorry it took a couple days to reply - had some irritating issues the last couple days...

Just to respond to a couple of your comments/questions:

<< is it feasible that someone takes the hard drive >>

The people here have trouble plugging in an ethernet cable on their laptop. Accessing files on a CD that doesn't 'autoplay' requires a call to me to help. Explaining it to them, showing them, having training classes etc. didn't help. :frown: Since everyone knows not to touch the server, they're pretty safe. (Its an appropriate concern however :smile: )

OK, it was only one comment. One additional point that makes a big case for tapes: Carrying the device to the car, and you drop it. If its a tape its probably fine (or you spool it into a different case if you broke the cart.), if its an HD, well, they're a bit more sensitive.

Thanks for confirming and clarifying my thoughts. I personally prefer tapes, but the CFO is a cheap-a$$ed <somethingorother>, (and a sharp guy - not so computer literate, but he has a good eye for logic) so I needed more ammo.

If the HD route is significantly less expensive, its adequate. If I was to need 4 or more of the OneTouch drives (they're about $500), tapes would be the way to go. At 3 drives (I feel 3 is minimum - one off site, one at the server and one waiting in the wings), it's not saving much $, so I'll have a fight to get the tapes. If it was only 2 drives, I wouldn't even fight, I'd give in (approx 0% chance of winning, so...).

Thanks again, Riser.

Mike.

<font color=blue>Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside the dog its too dark to read.
-- Groucho Marx</font color=blue>
September 26, 2005 1:21:01 PM

Ahhh the ever present cheap ass CFO. :) 

With 3 tapes, you're only keeping a 3 day backup. Tape will be written over each use unless you're doing a partial backup, which needs specified in your backup software or using the Windows Backup software, which does do an adequate yet limited job.

You might want to consider another tape to rotate in every week or other week/month. Just to keep a backup from 1-2 weeks or a month ago, should a virus sit silent for a while, or someone deletes something and doesn't bring it to your attention.

BUT you can CYA by using VSS (Volume Shadow Copy) which is a nice feature for W2k3 - This feature is DISABLED by default, you'll need to enable it on Folders or the drive. Right click, Properties, it's in there somewhere, not hard to find.

What this does, by default, is will create a backup of each file every 7-8 minutes, in a secured spot. It'll keep a running tally, up to 63 instances of each file. A rolling window of your files. 63 * 8 = 504 minutes, divided by 24 (hours in a day), comes to roughly 8.5 hours, which is your workday with a 30 minute lunch. So you'll basically have 1 day's worth of backups if a file gets deleted. Even then, you won't need to restore from tape, you just go to where ever you specified the files be stored, and pull it from there. If the space runs low, it starts deleting the older saved files to keep space from getting taken up.

It's a really good feature, designed to put file restoration into the user's hands and out of the administrators.

That'll be a big thing to keep you from restoring lost files, but not really that helpful if you actually need a backup.

Just another not-so-well-known feature of 2k3.
October 3, 2005 6:36:51 PM

Thanks, I'll look into VSS. Looks like a nice feature to have sometimes.

Actually, each tape/drive is 1 week. Full system on Fri. nite, then Differentials Mon.-Thur. To restore you do the full and the most recent diff. If I was doing a new tape daily, I'd want at least 7 tapes (3 weekly's to rotate and 1 each for the other 4 days of the week).

Mike.

<font color=blue>Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside the dog its too dark to read.
-- Groucho Marx</font color=blue>
October 3, 2005 6:49:51 PM

That works.. but in a worst case scenerio, you can lose up to 1 week of work should that tape and server get destroyed. That all falls into how much work you lose and that's up to you to determine.
October 4, 2005 6:03:27 PM

we use hard drives to backup our accounting software.

we're in a unique situation that we're constantly updating and enterting. if we lose 1 days worth of entry we could be set behind and mis paying 1800 people. totally unacceptable. Tape backup solution isn't practical. we nee dsomething that although isn't a live backup, is quick, easy to make and easy to store multiple backups on.

we opted for an external hard drive. once or twice a day at given intervals, the backup software creates a new directory on the drive and copies over the working data to it. it's a 300gb drive. the data is about 1.2 gb. so what happens is on the drive you get a directory tree with many different backups from different points of time. if the databaase gets corrupted or lost, we can restore to any point in time in the last few weeks before the corruption took place

and trust me. it saved our lives MANY times. as for security of it. it's located in the CFO's office which is locked when he's not there.and really. if someone stole the hard drive. wed replace it.

but just in case too. after every payroll we send a copy of the data over the internet to 3 of our branches so that we can also recover it that way

on the other hand. our Resume Database is about 5 gigs and is replicated every few minutes to ensure that it's the same exact copy in 11 of our branches. if one branch goes down, all the other branches act as the backup for that server. no data is lost
October 4, 2005 7:24:48 PM

If you're copying data to other locations, you're covered because of the redundancy.

Now, with the hard drive, while it might work.. but:

What happens when you need to restore something and that hard drive was stolen? (You probably pull from a branch I'd guess)

What do you do when your hard drive fails with all your backups on it?

What happens if your building were to burn down at night?


Tapes just offer a securer and more reliable backup. Backing up to a hard drive works fine. There a drawbacks to either side, but at least with Tapes they're easier to store and harder to pull information off if stolen.

Depending on your situation, using hard drives wouldn't hurt, it's just not a recommended industry standard.

What stops your group from putting a tape in and running an incremental or full backup twice a day? The only thing needed would be replacing the tape?

If you need copies immediately, Win2k3 offers Volume Shadow Copy (VSS) which beats out hard drives and tapes for backup recovery, not really redundancy or realiablity though.
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