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Background

My company is a small to mid-sized business and averages 200-350 GBs of backups per night, coming from 12 servers. Our backups are running on Backup Exec 12.5. We want to be really cheap on backup hardware. We originally went for the best deal on two 8-disk SAN enclosures we could find, and we got what we paid for. Within 2 years, both have died. The disks are fine, though. I just need to reconnect the drives and we'll be back in business.

Situation

Having gone through it a couple times now, I'd much rather have a single drive or enclosure die at a time than an entire SAN. So I'm considering putting those drives into their own individual usb 3 enclosures, connecting them all to a usb 3 hub, and connecting that to our backup server.

Question

I just want to get the job done at the best price. Would this be a support nightmare, or not work at all? Is there a better cheapo solution than this?

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4  
you came from cheap and now you want to get even cheaper hardware...guess what will happen :p –  Lucas Kauffman Jul 2 '12 at 16:08
    
I already said I'll accept hardware failure, Lucas, especially with redundant backups. I just don't want to see 8 drives go down in one night again, plus I don't have the budget for a $5000+ enterprise SAN. With the savings here, I think I can absorb a few dead enclosures or drives and still come out ahead. What do you think? –  erictheavg Jul 2 '12 at 16:18
    
I think the problem here is that you said specifically, "We want to be really cheap on backup hardware," which in most experiences, means down the road having MORE support problems than going with the "right" solution from the outset. Replacing cheap equipment with more cheap equipment is rarely cheap in the long run, nor as reliable. –  Bart Silverstrim Jul 2 '12 at 16:24
    
I appreciate everyone's input here, and I don't doubt you, but I would like to support these claims with math before I bring them to my boss. Let's say an enclosure costs $50 and a 2TB drive costs $100. Both of these prices are generous and will go down over time. At these prices, one drive and one enclosure could fail on me every month for 3 years before I match the upfront cost of an enterprise SAN. Can someone show me how a high end solution gives me better ROI? –  erictheavg Jul 2 '12 at 16:55
    
How much do you get paid for the time you're using restoring the backup system? Part of the cost is the time you spend fixing it, figured as part of your paycheck. And is the data lost in the backup worth anything? I.e., if my Time Machine drive dies, I lose backups from the past 12 months. No prob...get a new drive, spend a day and a half letting it create new ones...now I have backups for yesterday, but I lost that file I needed from two months ago. Is that a problem for your business? –  Bart Silverstrim Jul 3 '12 at 10:56

3 Answers 3

To answer your questions, would it be a support nightmare? Depending on your definition of support nightmare, probably not, but you'd still be wasting a lot of time, and in the long run, more money. When you keep getting cheap hardware and duct-taped solutions you'll have something that works for the most part, but will probably be consumer grade and you'll end up replacing parts as they wear out. All the money you saved at the initial purchase will be eaten up over the next 3 to 5 years in replacement parts. But it wouldn't be a nightmare in that it would be drop-dead simple to hook up.

Think of it this way...you get a tape backup that is inadequate for your backup needs, so you need someone to keep switching tapes out. It's simple. A Starfleet trainee could do this. Watch the backup...switch tapes...label appropriately...two or three tapes later, it's all backed up. But you're paying someone to spend time babysitting those backups. And they waste time, you're wasting money on additional tapes, and in the end it's more complicated than spending more money on a proper solution that fits your needs better.

Is there a better cheapo solution? Depends on what you mean by better. You're bare-bonesing your solution now. What more does your management want? Throw a RAID card in there, mirror the drives, and call it a backup? Have your client machines keep local copies of vital data on their systems, periodically copy a version to a central share, call it decentralized backup? That last one would probably be your cheapest "backup" solution, next to requiring your employees to keep copies of their home directories on personal flash drives and in the event of server failure copy their stuff back to it upon getting the server back online...

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Roaming profiles are pretty much a primitive form of decentralized backup, and you can push much better ones with task scheduler and group policy. He does also say that he wants to do real backup with a big fat drive sticking off the server, which there's nothing wrong with IMHO, for a small enough company. Combine that with low-cost cloud backup and you have a decent solution. The only step I'd say then missing is sending encrypted copies offsite, to a home or another branch if he can't afford a data vault. –  SilverbackNet Jul 3 '12 at 6:24
    
roaming profiles is decentralization? :| –  SpacemanSpiff Aug 13 '12 at 5:02

To answer your question, no it wouldn’t be a support nightmare and in fact this practice is supported by Backup Exec.

Due to the way that BE 12.5 handles backup to disk, each disk would be treated as a tape so you would have to rotate them as you would rotate 16 tapes through a backup cycle.

My only advice would be to upgrade to Backup Exec 2012, which supports backup to disk as its primary backup option. This also changes the way that BE backs up to disk. It treats it a what it is, at hard disk, and should improve backup times as well.

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For less than the price of a BE upgrade for the entire system the OP could do it properly and get a tape based system instead. –  John Gardeniers Aug 13 '12 at 4:58
    
This is true, and as I mentioned, backup to disk is supported in BE 12.5. BE 2012 would just give more/better functionality. –  Mr Virus Aug 13 '12 at 5:32

If you have some expertise, look for open source solutions. No point in paying for an old 'used' SAN and proprietary backup solution and not expect backup to fail.

Look at FreeNAS on better hardware. Look for SiliconMechanics or Xisystems and they have hardware built for storage. Review your backups to ensure you do incremental and there is no de-duplication. this is first step in cutting your backup costs :)

Whatever you do, your proposed solution is a nightmare to track backups and loss of one USB 3 disk menas loss of data. As someone suggested above, you are better off with a tape drive.

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