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We are a small company and we backup all our data daily on an external HD.

We are 5 of us. Each of us has got an external hard drive that brings everyday from home. That HD gets written with the daily backup and the guy brings the HD back home.

This is done every working day on rotation (every day a different guy).

I don't think logistically this is a great way to go. It is easy to forget to bring the HD and one of the guys can be sick or on holiday.

Can you please suggest a better solution given that we can't use an online service, we want to bring the daily backup offsite and we don't have a lot of money to spend on this?

Thanks, Daniele

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It's also an idea I kind of cringe at hearing because you have people who aren't probably "Tech people" handling hard drives and traveling in their cars with them. You don't mention the amount of data you're backing up, or what business you're in, or even how you're making the backups (copying files? differential with a particular program?...) Is it encrypted? People who aren't "tech" people aren't often known for taking care not to cook equipment in the back seat or making sure everything is locked up all the time.

You also don't mention your options. You mention your limitations, but not options...for example, is there a small office space or company owner with a fast business connection at home? Data could be copied over VPN to a server offsite, which would automate things to a huge degree and eliminate the "whoops" factor. Depends on your data needs, though. I'd mention a company owner because that would also eliminate the awkward firing an employee with the backups thing.

The switching of 5 drives is definitely overkill. You really only need one offsite storage; one person with the duty simplifies the management and tracking of resources and responsibility.

The lack of money part is a common complaint but really, it comes down to how much it's worth to have your data recoverable. How much money does the business lose if the server dies? How much will it cost if the data is lost completely? If the pursestrings can't be loosened or money found to insure recovery from those scenarios, then there's another problem to deal with. No business wants to spend more than it must.

My personal guidelines are these:

The simpler, the better.

The fewer people involved, the better. It's more reliable to have one person in charge of having this done than 5 people running around with data.

Encrypt it. Especially if it's leaving the site.

Automate it. If you can use a VPN solution to link to an offsite storage server then you can delegate a person to periodically just check the logs to make sure the backups were successful.

If you're going to continue the single hard disk option, narrow it down to one person taking it offsite. Keep one drive on site. Swap which drive is taken offsite. Periodically check the drives for disk errors.

Have you taken into account problems with the server? Again, depends on how much you rely on your server and how much downtime you can stand, but if the power supply dies or controller/network card fails, how long will it take you to get working again? Can you get a second system to set up as a mirror of the first, or a supply of parts should the first system fail?

Make sure if you're transporting drives that you have a good carrying container for it (preferably a cooler with insulation/foam in it to prevent wild temp changes and bangs from damaging the disk platters). Maybe it will also be slightly less appealing a theft target, as people might be more inclined to steal a briefcase than a lunch.

Weigh your situation against how much it costs to lose the data, how much you want to invest in managing it (remember that the more complicated it is, the greater the chance something will go wrong, or the greater the chance that other people won't follow through or find shortcuts that will lead to problems), and what scenarios are likely in your situation to protect against (dead drive, corrupted data, theft, flooding...) and then come up with a DOCUMENTED procedure to follow. DOCUMENT your backups, document how you're doing them, who to contact, who's in charge of what, even parts on the server. Imagine (especially in a small business) if a new "IT person" were hired and on their second day your server died, and no one else was around. You should have a binder that they can flip through with all the information needed to get the business up and running again.

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+10000, "I kind of cringe at hearing because you have people who aren't probably 'Tech people'" - I dislike removable HD Backup systems because the HDs are so much easier to destroy than tapes; people get careless/forgetful/distracted/whatever. – Chris S Aug 16 '10 at 14:35

You've not provided a lot of information about what your constraints and objectives are, so I'll assume you've got a very lmited budget and are not concerned about backup security.

In which case, it's a viable solution - and a lot better than the approaches taken by a lot of companies.

The important thing is to identify where in the process you are adding value - IMHO its when you remove the backup from the site (although have you planned for a disaster occurring when you are all in the office and it gets struck by a meteor?).

The mere fact that someone has not come into the office on a particular day, or has forgotten to bring in their media does not prevent a new backup from being taken out of the office - you just need to ensure that you keep a few extra disks around.

However you may want to think about what happens if there is a delay between a defect occurring in the data abnd this being identified - even if nobody goes on holiday or forgets to bring their disk in, if it takes more than one full cycle of backups, then you can't go back to a previous state.

If the problem was a security vulnerability, which was subsequently exploited then it can be very difficult to get back to a point where you know a large system is secure.

I would recommend considering using write-once media (DVD? Tape?) and/or adding in monthly backups too.


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+1 for monthly backups – Scott Lundberg Aug 16 '10 at 14:43

it seems a little overkill to have 5 different off site backups, esp as 4 of them will be out of date by more than 24 hours. Why not just have 2 teams of 2 people, and sync the 2 backups as its made ?

without money, or online backup or online sync the options are a little limited ! - how much data are we talking about here ? Im guessing your using USB 2.0

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around 150 GB. Yes, we are using USB 2.0. We are pretty happy with the performance. The problem is the logistic. – Daniele Aug 16 '10 at 12:05
What about on-site backups? Do you keep any copies there or are the 5 disks the only ones? – Stefan Wolff Aug 16 '10 at 12:43
150 gig per backup, or the data you're backing up is 150 gig? Are you just making copies, or is there a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly archive scheme? – Bart Silverstrim Aug 16 '10 at 12:47
There is no archive scheme. The size of the whole backup on HD is 150 GB. – Daniele Aug 16 '10 at 14:16
@Daniele-You're saying that you basically have a copy, not a backup? A backup means that if your server has a corrupted file, you can recover by pulling a file from a week ago or a month ago. If you're copying, that corruption gets transferred right over. There's no versions of a file to roll back to (or when a user says they lost a file they last used a month ago or during an audit 6 months ago and now it's gone...) – Bart Silverstrim Aug 16 '10 at 15:13

I always try to stick to the backup concept that was drilled into me. You've already got the son/child/daily backup happening. If your business can recover from rewinding and doing a day or two over in the event of a restore event happening after a daily backup is missed, you're ok.

Next you want a weekly backup - 2 extra "media sets" (in this case, external hard drives)... alternating them to your offsite location (safe deposit box is what I generally use - generally natural-disaster-proof & cheap). But something like Mozy will be easier, and possibly cheaper - with all the same benefits.

Monthly and/or yearly backups are pretty important, too. Their cost is generally negligable compared to how much time/money it would take to recreate that file from last year that was deleted 3 months ago.

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I prefer the Hanoi tape schedule; but I think it's a generational difference. – Chris S Aug 16 '10 at 14:37
I think G-F-S is easier to grasp initially, too, but I may have to switch to Hanoi now that it makes sense. Thanks for bringing that up! – Kara Marfia Aug 16 '10 at 15:12

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