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I'm looking for ways to improve my off-site backup strategy, and a big hurdle is making it easy to remember to take the media off-site every day.

Rather than having to go into the server closet to get media, is there an easy (and inexpensive) way to have a networked tape drive or networked removable drive located elsewhere in the office?

Taking the media to the off-site storage location can then be delegated to trusted members of staff who aren't sysadmins.

We currently use BackupExec 12, and a full backup of everything on our servers runs to about 125 Gb - more than can easily be sent off-site over DSL.

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The backup media would be encrypted, of course. – TigerInCanada Aug 3 '09 at 17:42
I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that there isn't an easy way to do this with BackupExec and I may need different software. I also spoke with Symantec the other day about their online storage, and despite the price tag it appears not to support rsync-style incremental transfers, so it would choke on a backup set of less than 5Gb over DSL. This is slated to be fixed in BackupExec 2010. – TigerInCanada Aug 7 '09 at 17:06
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Modern backup solutions for most businesses should not rely on someone remembering to cycle media out and move it to off-site locations. There are a number of reasons it is a bad idea, mainly because of human error.

Online backup is where its at. 125GB is not a lot of data. How much of your data changes on a daily basis? Once your first backup takes place, only changes are sent off to online backup services. With only 125GB, this should not really be a lot of data that changes on a daily basis.

Finally, regarding a networked tape drive - wouldn't this be as simple as creating a computer whose function would be to host the backup drive? It would have to be fast enough to host the BackupExec software. Although, having a tape with all of your company in an "easily accessible" location sounds like a bad idea to me.

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That could be a lot of Data, Assuming a MegaByte a second: 125 GB = 128000 MegaBytes. 128000 Seconds = 2133 Minutes. 2133 minutes = 35 Hours. That is a long time, and 1 MB/s would be pretty high for DSL upload in my parts ... – Kyle Brandt Aug 3 '09 at 17:24
Additional DSL lines for backup are an option, but recovery time for a full restore is also a concern. The real-world performance of DSL here is 2500/700 on a good day, so enough bandwidth for a quick recovery could become expensive fast. – TigerInCanada Aug 3 '09 at 17:42
I want to "+1" you, but I can't get behind the first sentence. Many small businesses get great ROI from backups that require media rotation (tape, external hard disk drives) to fulfill the off-site component of backup. For a small business w/ a single location manual media rotation usually ends up being more cost-effective than trying to push data across a tiny network pipe. As long as the backup solution can let the sysadmin know when the people aren't rotating media I'd aruge that it's fine to use people. Look at encrypting the media if "Joe Anybody" is going to be handling them. – Evan Anderson Aug 3 '09 at 17:46
Just wanted to give 2 points - again, that 135G backup would be one time. Likely a few megs every night would be backed up after the first upload, which is doable over that pipe. Secondly, with some backup services, you can get them to overnight a USB drive with your data on it, if you need speedy backup. – Dave Drager Aug 3 '09 at 18:44
Sorry if I come across as negative on your tape backup solution - but having used BackupExec before, and being in charge of rotating tapes -- I know how easy it is to forget to bring it home, or leave it in the car, etc. We moved to online backup a few years ago, and haven't looked back. At .35 a gig, the price is very reasonable and it does things like Exchange mailbox level backup, all the fancy things BackupExec does. I recommend it to almost all my clients. – Dave Drager Aug 3 '09 at 18:47

You could share a USB2 HD over the network. 1TB ~ $150. You could attach it directly to the computer of the user who is responsible for taking it offsite.

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I'm going to go against the trend and say that I'm actually something of a fan of retaining a daily manual element in one's backup solution. While fully accepting that it's prone to human error, it does have the advantage that it helps to build good habits, which will be to your advantage when you need to ensure that a less regular manual element is done.

Even something as basic as a large sheet of paper stuck on the door, with "STOP! HAVE YOU CHANGED THE TAPE?" printed on it can be effective.

One warning about online backups: you may be able to shift the data out efficiently enough, but what do you do when smoke starts coming out of the server and you need that 135GB back NOW?

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You could use a Drobo, and just disconnect it when you leave. Hard to forget to pack that thing under your arm.

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You didn't mention budget constraints so I'm going to suggest that you use an inexpensive PC or entry-level server to host the Backup Exec server and the tape drive and/or removable storage. Intall the Remote Agent on the servers to be protected and backup to the devices on the Backup Exec server. This server can be in a more accessible location since it will only contain backups. THe removable media will therefore be easily accessible for rotation.

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Not a bad idea, but I think that BackupExec SBS can only be placed on the SBS box, so that would require the full version of BackupExec and its agents, which gets somewhat more expensive. – TigerInCanada Aug 7 '09 at 16:58

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