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Our small non-profit organizes its tech traditionally - we have a windows file server, do our own backup tapes and pay an arm and a leg to a local IT support vendor. We have 5 staff and the most complicated tech need is a shared MS Access database. Additionally a lot of the staff work offsite frequently. I'm the treasurer, not the sysadmin.

I'd like to switch to cloud-based backup and file sharing (e.g., jungledisk) and downgrade our support needs and costs. Is this a good idea?

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I've mentioned this before in answers to other questions to my apologies in advance if anyone gets bored.

I have a small business client who uses both JungleDisk and a local backup to a second file server.

We backup over 4.7 million files from our master Ubuntu file server to a slave Ubuntu file server (same location) via a 10.0.0.xxx network using rdiff-backup once every hour.

We then backup once every 6 hours via or Jungledisk to the Amazon S3 cloud.

The original file count was much, much smaller... only a few gigabytes. Over the years it has grown to somewhere around a terrabyte of data.

If the master file server fails (or a small number of files are accidentally deleted), we just restore from the local backup.

If a catastrophe were to happen (ie. colocation facility burns down) we can fall back on the JungleDisk/Amazon S3 backup.

The cost of Amazon S3 (and JungleDisk) is SOOOOOOOO cheap that I would absolutely recommend it to small businesses as a means of off-site backup. But obviously you need to be responsible and keep a local backup as well. I'd even recommend an OFFLINE backup at least once every XX weeks or XX months.

Also, if you go the JungleDisk route... pay the extra $$$ and get the version that does block level file updates (uploads only the changed portions of large files). Its worth every penny.

You can never have too many backups.

I hope this gives you some ideas...

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At the end of the day cloud computing may end up being cheaper, but the trade off you make will be control. There will be no recourse if Jungledisk bungles your backup, something you'd have greater control over if you were doing it yourself.

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I'd go the other way on this -- cloud computing is ideal for small sites. Jungle Disk uses Amazon's cloud for their backup services, and that's a pretty reliable provider.

In this situation, before I went to the cloud, I'd make sure I understood how I would recover in the event that my provider stopped offering the service. For Amazon, I think you can count on some warning if that ever happened. However, you should know how you can access your backup files directly in the event that Jungle Disk goes away.

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I think going cloud is not for such a small business. If you had many servers and PCs virtualizing them can be a good idea. Same for storage, but a single server isn't worth the trouble, from the cost cutting perspective, as well as from the backup point of view - now it's in your hands. How reliable will the cloud provider be - you'll only find out during disaster, and that's not the time for negative testing

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If you're a small non-profit...especially the small part...there's really not a reason to move to the cloud. What is the current deficiency in your backup system you have now?

You said you're doing backups to tape yourselves; what are you paying your IT outsourcer to do that you're paying an arm and a leg for? If the backup solution is properly implemented it should be largely automated. You should be paying your IT help people to maintain and troubleshoot issues, not maintain your backups. If you are paying them to come in and do backups, then A) you aren't using the right solution or B) they're working on other things and you're kind of alluding to two issues, and I don't know how the backup change will solve your large IT support bills.

For file sharing and backup, a good non profit solution is to invest in a system to run OpenFiler or FreeNAS for file storage, and another system to rotate storage to tape off the file shares since you already said you had a tape backup system in place. Openfiler and FreeNAS both support software RAID and you wouldn't need Windows licenses.

If you can get a deal on two decent systems (which aren't all that much for a five-person outfit) you can get two systems and run an automated unison or rdiff-backup to synchronize data on two Linux systems.

You may need a tech person to come in and get you set up initially, but for the most part as long as the hardware doesn't fail much of what you describe should be really easy to automate for the most part by a qualified tech person so you don't need to pay as much for periodic visits, if that's what is costing so much to your organization.

Also some prevention can go a long way...i.e., decent hardware for the servers (backup and file storage) so it doesn't crap out on you, some form of RAID that isn't in the motherboard (either software based on Linux or hardware based like 3ware for linux or Windows), and UPS's to protect your hardware will help you in the long run.

I know I'm suggesting spending money in order to get something up and working well, but without knowing what hardware you have in place and what system you have in place right now it's hard to recommend anything. I also don't know what your arrangement is with your IT people. For a five person group you could probably get away with spending on a couple systems off-the-shelf to act as a file server and backup server like I'm proposing. Or you may be able to settle for a single computer running Linux with a couple external firewire disks on which you can save files with diff-backup periodically so your external drives are your backups and your system is a file server.

It also largely depends on what kind of data you're storing...a small database?

I'd almost recommend a seven hundred dollar system or so with Linux and a couple external hard disks on which you save data as a backup to one and copy it to the other external disk in case of failure...that should have you more than covered for simple needs.

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