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I have recently taken over the responsibility of a small business network of 35 users. I am a bit green on backup strategies and am considering my options.

We currently backup our SBS Server to tape (LTO 2). In addition, separately, we backup an SQL Server database. This database is critical to the business, and regulations state that we must be able to roll-back to a point in time up to 3 years in the past. The previous incumbents have simply taken a full back up every day for the last 18 months. This is now about 1.8 GB a night and there is about 920 GB already stored.

The database is currently backed up to a single external USB 2TB drive - clearly risky as if this fails, no data!

We have multiple geographic locations that are connected via point-to-point fibre optic i.e. exclusively ours, and all on the same subnet.

I propose to change the SQL Server backup plan to do once weekly full, with daily differential, and half-hourly log back up. I estimate that this will:

  1. take up less space;
  2. allow us more flexibilty to go back to a point in time, and;
  3. not lose 24 hours worth of data if we have a catastrophic failure.

For some reason, I have got it in my head that Tapes are the best form of backup for moving data offsite, but would mirroring the backed up database files over the fibre to a NAS in another location be an, or even more, effective form of backup?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Ok, first - Tape is more reliable than (disc) drives. Mostly / also because with a drive the drive is on the medium, with a tape you can use another drive to read a tape. Tapes also store huge amounts of data for a relatively low price - they are the most efficient form for offline backup (no real time single file restore) and often used in combination with short term tape storage from advanced backup systems (backup to disc, copy to tape for long term archival).

Second, your predecessors were idiots - that simple. There is no reason to take a full backup every day. Make a backup per week or two weeks, followed by a differential backup per day until the next full backup - already cuts down the amount of time. Then use log shipping to backup hourly log files to another offsite system. This gives you a lot of saved space and point in time to every hour. Can all be set up to make the backups automatically. Your plan with every half hour works similar - you have nicely identified the issue they had - not knowing how to handle backups properly.

Third, you just have to realize that basically some TB backup for an area you are regulated to have point in time recovery for 3 years is just the cost of business.

You should also check regulations - you may find you are required to store two offsite backups. Please check for some provisions like that. Also tapes are offline - that makes certain kinds of attack vectors on your backups harder (hacker can not delete the backups so easily if they are on tapes not in an autoloader).

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Firstly, thanks. I take your point about Tape as a reliable (and cheap) medium. I think I will look at a backup -> Disc -> Tape arrangement. Thank you also for affirming my suggested SQL backup plan. – iWeasel Jan 17 '12 at 11:14

I agree with the previous answer... Tape is the most cost effective answer for long term back-ups.

There is no reason why you can't use the back scheme suggested, and back to a NAS. After your full back-ups are complete, have a tape back up made of the full, and use your NAS as a shadow during the week(s) between your full back-ups.

I would suggest taking your full back-ups at closer intervals, say on a weekly basis.

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