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A friend of mine told me this was a great place to get some technically competent ideas from knowledgeable people. I am new here so please pardon if I sound like a n00b.

I have been tasked with finding a suitable replacement for our backup solution. What we have in place now is a vendor box that stores our backups locally then transfers them to some off site place over the internet. Its a cool solution but expensive in terms of monthly costs in relation to the small amount of storage we get (150GB).

I see a ton of possibilities but am unsure which would really be the best for our situation. Here is what I want to achieve:

  • Full coverage of 5 servers with plenty of room to expand
  • Can backup Exchange, SQL Server, all on the fly.
  • Capacity for at least 1TB per rotation
  • Have off-site capability, either by physical transport of media or sent over network

I have thought of several possible ideas but would really like to get some ideas from other engineers that have tackled the same problem in the last six months.

Thanks!

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6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Depending on your budget and amount of data you may look at a dedicated NAS/SAN from the likes of NetApp, Overland Storage, or NetGear.

NetApp makes a S550 that stores up to 12 SATA drives. They offer RAID-DP which is (essentially) RAID5 with an additional stripe mirror to help prevent data loss from two drives. (http://www.netapp.com/us/products/storage-systems/s-family/s-family-product-comparison.html)

Overland is much more entry level - http://www.overlandstorage.com/ .

Both offer snap and replication for DR sites. NetApp has a much more comprehensive software suite that will allow you to hot snap your SQL Server and Exchange data. At the moment, Overland doesn't quite have that software to hot snap (you'd have to flush your SQL Server DBs to disk first).

So, you can have virtually unlimited SQL Server/Exchange backups and invisibly transfer them to another NetApp or Overland across the network in realtime. Then, should the primary fail, you can re-direct everyone to the other one while it's being worked on.

For stuff on the cheap, look at NetGear's NAS products: http://netgear.com/Products/Storage.aspx

The ReadyNAS Pro is their newest/best solution, followed by the ReadyNAS 1100. Both are very cheap for SATA RAID storage. You'd have to set up your own replication stuff (e.g. rsync etc.) but for the price they can't be beat. Buy two 1100s, fill it up with 750GB drives, and you've got about 2TB (formatted; 3 raw) storage. Put one in your office, the other in the data center, and you're good to go.

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I know what you mean! I recently used a series of NetGear NASs to run backups for a set of dental offices. I then used windows backup in conjunction with robocopy to get the data to the NAS. They were simple to set up and once I got the scripts in place, has been solid. –  Cliff Racer Oct 2 '08 at 15:57

You may want to look at rsync. This will maintain one or more directory trees across two or more disks, across a network if necessary. You can also run this on Windows via Cygwin.

There is a windows wrapper around rsync called DeltaCopy.

Unison is worth a mention, according to this.

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Before designing - you have to consider the reason for the backup.

  1. Drive images, handle a disk failure or get a replacement machine online quickly.
  2. Up to date bakup of live data.
  3. Historical backups of old data for legal purposes.

These all have different demands and solutions.

  1. You need an image of the system drive, everytime you install a new patch/service pack etc. Hopefully you designed it so that exchange/database isn't on the C: drive. There are lots of ways to do this, Ghost, Acronis, DriveSnapshot or just a raid setup and pull one of the drives.

  2. Rsync ( basically a Unix tool, but there are clients for windows - see cwrsync) copies any files or parts of a file that have changed. It's ideal for copies over a network. the difficulty is to ensure that the database is in a consistent state when you back it up. Volume shadow services will let you back up an open file but check that the resulting server image is valid.

  3. For long term backups you want to look at tape/DVD kept offsite. As another poster said, these should be encrypted.

edit - A big advantage of the rsync approach is that you are simply remote mirroring the live sytem, rather than the backup being stored in some proprietry backup format - so you have a lot more flexibility.

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Two things:

1) If hot backups of your database are truly important, consider using the "agents" provided with any of the big backup software providers: Veritas, UltraBac, etc. Tapes are easy for rotation and such, but backing up 1TB to tapes is going to be painful without a loader/library to go with it. Your question may need to be revisited with hardware requirements as well. Hard drives certainly have the capacity you need.

2) Encryption should also be something to consider

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One of the problems you're going to face that isn't answered by solutions like rsync (which is brilliant BTW, if you had Linux, use it!) is the problem of locked files.

Exchange is one in particular, it won't let you backup its datafiles whilst its running.

So, you can use the Volume Shadow Service to make a snapshot and back that up, but it can be tricky. Or you use a commercial solution that handles these cases with dedicated hooks into the relevant systems.

Backup Exec is probably the best of them all. It has agents for all the enterprise software you can imagine. We use it and whilst it can be a bit difficult to get going, it is the kind of solution you want. We tend to use tapes for off-site storage as we get many TB of data stored, but it can stick backups on a server that you can copy off separately at the very least.

Alternatives.. you could look at r1soft's solutions, which continuously backup the entire server disc image (a bit like Ghost or TrueImage making incremental backups) over the internet to their servers. Restoring is easy as it can occur from bare-metal, which is cool. Its more a disaster recovery solution than a backup one though.

Or you could use TrueImage or Ghost to create incremental images on a network.

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Great comments!

While Unison is not something that will work on the scale that I need for this project, it could solve another issue I have with a different client so thanks!

At one point I was leaning towards BackupExec since that had the functionality of covering not only Exchange but SQL Server and recently added features that monitor clients for changes and do backups incrementally on the fly eliminating the need for scheduling backup windows at night as our backups would be, in a sense, constantly running.

For storage I was looking at a Tape or large removable drive array. I am not sure if there are any other practical portable options for off-site storage since bandwidth for us would not cover nearly what we are looking for.

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