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Caution: This is verbose :)

My Problem: Client requires a possible rebuild of their current backup plan for local and offsite backup. Tape and online backup are not an option. (Client decision).

Background/Infrastructure: 1 Server running Windows SBS 2008 (15GB Data including Exchange) and 10 workstations on a domain. No data is on the workstations. Server has raid1 for OS and Data ( on same logical drive -- I know, bad) This was due to budget. We need daily, weekly local backups completed and an offsite plan.

More background:
We have a technician (My Manager) who implemented a backup system he is not happy with but resists to have me change it. The client has lost confidence with the system is place. The client wants to consult with me directly to help protect their critical data.

This is how backup is completed now: (What I feel should change) 1. The tech completes a file level backup manually once per week (weekly backup) to NAS A then once per month (Monthly) to NAS B using Xcopy. For daily backups, the client has 5 usb flash drives (32GB) labeled (Mon-Fri) that they connect to their local computer and run a script manually (Xcopy) to backup to each flash drive over a network share for the given day. For each day the user rotates the flash drive then takes one offsite.

What I would like to do/change:

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Backups. 1. Use backup software such as Acronis or Symantec backup to complete daily, weekly backups to NAS A and run concurrent jobs to NAS B. Setup a robocopy script to complete a full uncompressed backup daily (data only - not exchange) to each NAS for quick access to data only if needed. (2 physical devices with the following retention - daily kept for one week and weekly keep for one month)

Offsite: 2. Rid of the USB drives. Install 2 usb external hard drives and label them (Mon\Wed) and (Tue\Thur) at the users computer for full daily server side backup. (The user does not want to go into the server room in the basement to manage media. this is why the user’s computer) Ex. Monday backup to disk completes, user connects (Tue\Thur) hard drive the following day and takes the (Mon\Wed) offsite then brings back Wednesday. This repeats with the (Tue/Thur) hard drive leaving Wednesday then coming back Thursday - I hope that made sense. The idea is they have one external hard drive offsite each day. 2 Physical media with full daily backups (2 weeks or more retention depending on HDD capacity).

My personal challenges:

  1. Client lost confidence with tape. Manger wants multiple physical media for retention this is why the USB drives. He is not happy with his own setup and says he does not know what to do.

  2. The client is happy with plan above. Disc imaging is not an option as my manager is not confident enough about the process – He is old school. However, I agree with my manager that the more physical media with backup data the better chance of recovery you have. My manager would rather see many external hard drives used (one for the each day of the week). Is the practical?, I have never seen this in any of my years in IT.

Anyway, just looking for feedback and recommendations. If my proposal is bad or should we be truly using more external hard drives like we would tapes ( Ex. 5- daily -5 weekly, etc).?

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For backing up 15 GB of data it seems way overcomplicated.Considering how cheap online storage is , what are the clients objections for online storage solution?Is it security worries, compliance issues or something else? –  Sergei Dec 23 '11 at 11:46
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4 Answers

It might be helpful to talk about the size of the client (though I'd imagine its a small business if they're backing up around 15Gb of data) because that makes a big difference to how backup systems are approached.

I know you've said "tape and online backup is not an option" because of the client and that your manager isn't happy with disk images but this is where a good IT professional earns their money - you want a backup plan but because of somebody's "confidence issues" you've discarded lots of well known methods that ought to be reliable in favour of some weird process with file copies between NAS boxes.

This would concern me, to be honest. If one of the NAS boxes is off site somewhere then this is substantially no different to a "online" backup, and if they're not offsite then this adds nothing but time and points of failure to your backup (a burglar will just as happily steal two NAS boxes as they will one. A fire will just as happily burn two NAS boxes as it would one, etc).

How is a unreliable process (sorry, as much as I use xcopy and robocopy myself, they have no place in a backup solution) that adds nothing to the security of the backed up data if both NAS boxes are on site going to improve things?

Unless you use ruggedised drives that are designed for backup applications, I personally wouldn't waste time with hard drive copies either. EWWhite mentions a good solution around ruggedised drives designed for this kind of use along with decent backup software and that would be a starting point for me.

Incidentally, you mention a lot about copying this data to various places that you're using to store backups but I've seen no mention of how you're going to test these copies. Its not a backup plan if you don't discuss how you're going to use test restores to verify the integrity of the data.

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I think the solutions you've presented are overcomplicated. This can be solved with a backup software suite (e.g. Symantec Backup Exec).

Please take a look at RDX drive technology. The "cartridges" are ruggedized purpose-built 2.5" hard drives available in several capacities. This is outlined a bit here at: Are RDX removable disks a good replacement for LTO tape?

Using Symantec Backup Exec, it's quite easy to establish a disk-to-disk-to-tape backup routine (D2D2T). Replace the "tape" with the RDX drive in this case. You don't have that much data, so that makes things even easier. You can run multiple backup sets to a particular cartridge. Establish a rotation that makes sense for the organization.

Managing media is part of the backup process. You could run daily full or incremental backups to local storage or NAS, but something needs to be rotated offsite. That's where the RDX drives come in. Duplicate the full backup job to the RDX cartridge at reasonable intervals and store those offsite.

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Without getting into the details of your current method and your proposed plan:

  1. I agree with ewwhite that you're making things too complicated.

  2. Your manager needs to get his head in the game. He's doing a dis-service to this client with his current approach and his reticence to rectifiy it.

  3. All of those XCOPY or Robocopy backups are going to do you no good if you have to restore the server from bare metal. I seriously doubt that you'll be able to restore the server as a whole, including AD, the System State, and Exchange, to bare metal from an XCOPY or Robocopy backup.

  4. I don't care what type of backup media you use or what media rotation you implement, but I would recommend that you take a look at Windows Server Backup that's included in SBS 2008. It's purpose is to backup the server, including the data, the System State and Exchange. It's included in SBS 2008 for a reason. Microsoft doesn't force you to use it but they include it for the sole purpose of backing up and recovering the server, in whole, to bare metal if neccessary, for customers who don't have or don't want to implement a third party backup solution. It can also be used to restore selected files, folders, and applications (Exchange) if needed.

In summary: Forget XCOPY and Robocopy. USE WINDOWS SERVER BACKUP.

You can use third party backup software if you want but you'd better make sure it can perform a bare metal restore of the server and you'd better make sure that it's application aware (Exchange) and that it can restore the System State and Exchange to bare metal if needed.

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+1 for taking the simple and obvious route of Windows Server Backup. For such a small client, the current complexity is ridiculous. –  Ashley Steel Dec 27 '11 at 21:32
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My first thoughts are if you are storing your archive backups onto a NAS and let’s says there is a natural disaster, fire, flood etc. You will not be able to recover your archive data. Only the data thatis stored on the USB drives as this NAS drive will be wiped out as well.

From experience (100+ Clients using USB backups) we haven’t been able to do a full DR procedure with them. They all have been semi “Worked around”.

All of our tape backup clients have been able to recover from a bare-metal recover in a maximum of 48 hours, and most of this time was waiting for tapes. I understand that you cannot go down the tape route but might be worth a little more education.

Tapes will keep for years without the data being affected. If the hard drive gets a shock, dropped, too cold, too hot etc etc and there could be a problem.

I know this raises more questions than answers. But these are my thoughts on the question asked.

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