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We are an online business. Currently we are using DVD's for our backups. The problem is we are running out of space.

We are considering two alternatives here:

  • external hard disk drives
  • tape drives

We require a copy to be taken off-site every time a backup is performed.
Presently we are backup up tens of gigabytes.

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As for your current use of DVDs, if you are a business why are you using hobby level backup media? The choice of hard drives or tapes tends to be a little controversial and even a bit emotional but here is my opinion.

Modern tape technology is extremely advanced and error resistant, with multiple interleaved copies of the data being written to the tape, complete with error detection and correction information. Tapes are extraordinarily robust and although tape drives have a similar failure rate to top quality server grade hard drives, unlike those hard drives the critical part, the bit that holds the data, can simply be used in another drive, something not easily done with hard drive platters.

Hard drives are fragile and unreliable. Of all the components that make up a computer the hard drive is far and away the most unreliable. And that is if the thing is left in one place and not shaken or dropped. You figure how reliable they are as portable media. On top of that they do not use the robust technologies that are so well proven with tapes. Sure, you'll get people telling you how they've had the same drive for 20 years modern drives don't show signs of being capable of such longevity.

If you feel you absolutely must use hard drives at least use 2.5 inch laptop drives, as they are designed to survive more brutal handling than "regular" hard drives.

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+1, I love HDs for short term backup & Tapes for long term backup. – Chris S Jul 23 '10 at 12:55

This has been a topic of discussion here before:

Think about how many medias you intend to keep in rotation and your desired retention window for old backups and you can start to do a cost comparison between hard disk drive-based backup and tape.

I'd love to see an "enterprise grade" hard disk drive-based backup system meant to replace tape. I haven't seen one yet. SATA drives in non-ruggedized hot-swap carriers is the best I've seen, but I'm not convinced they can handle the workload that good tape technologies (LTO and, to a lesser extent, DLT) have proven they can handle. The "RDX" hard disk drive-based backups (which use 2 1/2" laptop drives in ruggedized carriers) I see frequently offered as the "high end" disk-based backup solution are WAY too expensive per media.

Off-site backup via "the cloud" sounds great, but unless you've got a very small data-set or a very long window to restore, I'm still seeing the constraint of the "drinking straw" sized pipe to the Internet (as compared to LAN bandwidth) as being a major limiting factor. I'd love to do away with local physical-based backup entirely, but it's hard to beat the bandwidth of hand-carrying a tape back from the bank versus your Internet pipe.

You'll find that, for larger numbers of medias, short backup and restore windows combined with crappy Internet bandwidth (where I live, at least), tape still leads hard disk drive-based backup in terms of cost for media. Combined with the rugged and proven nature of tape, I'm hard-pressed to recommend hard disk drive-based backup to most Customers today.

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"...bandwidth of hand-carrying a tape..." reminds me of: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." —Tanenbaum, Andrew S. – Ward Jul 23 '10 at 23:08
+1 for taking into consideration the bandwidth requirements of "cloud" based backups. All too many don't think it through properly. – John Gardeniers Jul 24 '10 at 3:50

How about backing up over the network to a third-party? if you have to backup to disk then try not to use a cheapo single USB disk, they're less reliable than other systems such a mirrored dual-disk NAS box or a mirrored eSATA drive. Tapes are still in common use and are actually generally more reliable than disks but they have their own problems too (speed and cost/GB being the two main ones). How much data are you talking about and what sort of data; is it flat files such as office documents or 'open' files such as databases etc?

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Tens of gigabytes. They are different types of data: images, videos, database dumps, source code...basically anything that concerns our online business. – Daniele Jul 23 '10 at 12:26
"Tens"? Heck a DAT72 drive can handle data like that and it's very cheap. (Please don't take my comment as an authoritative source of what backup technology you should implement without carefully evaluating the proposed solution). – Chris S Jul 23 '10 at 12:58
Agreed, that's nothing - I'd buy a dual-disk NAS, make sure it's configured to be mirrored. – Chopper3 Jul 23 '10 at 13:01
a NAS device would leave the data at the same site, would it not? I'm of the opinion that data stored at the same location as the original doesn't qualify as a backup, because a backup should be able to get you back up even after the complete loss of the site. In other words, it must be taken off-site. The volume doesn't factor into the strategy, merely how it's implemented. – John Gardeniers Jul 24 '10 at 3:59
I agree completely with you but the NAS could be at a second, connected, office or be shutdown and moved each night. – Chopper3 Jul 24 '10 at 6:37

At our office I back up locally with a RAID 1+0 and remotely with Carbonite. No size limit with Carbonite which is awesome.

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How do you backup using RAID? – andol Jul 23 '10 at 12:54
Well its 4(1TB each) drives. Drives 1 and 2 are combined to be 1 2TB configuration. Drives 3+4 are direct copies of 1+2. Making a 2TB system with a direct 2TB backup. RAID 1+0. – jer.salamon Jul 23 '10 at 13:00
You're not "backing up with RAID". You're doing a disk-to-disk copy that just happens to be onto a RAID volume. – Evan Anderson Jul 23 '10 at 13:03
Well yes but its a backup of my data, arn't all backups disk-to-disk copies in some way? – jer.salamon Jul 23 '10 at 13:05

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