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I need to implement off-site backups and would really appreciate any advice on this.

Current Setup:

  • 2 Racks with internal 100MB network.
  • 15 servers each backing up approx 100GB of data each day over the network to a backup server in the rack.

My thoughts were to upgrade the internal network to 1GB to speed up the backing up to the backup server and then purchase a rack mounted tape backup drive for the backup server to then backup to.

Does this sound a reasonable way of going about it? Also ideally we'd only want to retrieve/replace tapes once a week, will an automated tape drive be able to do this and could it cope with a nightly tape backup with this amount of data?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sounds like a good plan but also consider using some form of cheap'ish disk-based backup such as a 2/3/4/5-disk Thecus NAS or similar, then back up the data from that onto tape. That way you can restore more quickly if needed and also get the backup done and dusted more quickly to allow your servers to get on with their own work while allowing for off-site tapes to be made at leisure.

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+1 use a disk backup system as well as tape – Oskar Duveborn May 18 '09 at 10:44

Yes, use a disk backup system as well as the tape. Store atleast a few revisions back on the disk system and when you do the tape backups as you say, you do them from the disk backup system and not from the production servers themselves.

Storing several revisions on the disk system makes it very easy to rerun a tape job should the robot or tape fail (which they tend to do more often than you think).

And of course, restoring data from the disk system is much faster and easier - it could have a user tool/portal so users can restore files themselves...

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What you describe as your current arrangement is not an off-site backup, it is an off-server backup. By my reading your backup server is in the same facility, probably the same rack, as the servers it is holding backups for.

You should certainly have some form of physically separated backup, i.e. tapes or a really-off-site backup (i.e. a server in another facility), in case a one-in-a-million accident or hack happens to affect all the servers in your rack at the same time.

1.5Tb of data flowing every night, if you go for a really-off-site-server backup option, is not going to be cheap (you'll need that much bandwidth at both sites) so tapes might be the better option for you. I suggest you do at least a cursory cost/benefit analysis to be sure though. Tapes also have the advantage of being an offline backup - if someone manages to hack in and wipe both a server and its online backup (as happened over at recently) they won't be able to touch the offline backup (the tapes).

In either case keep the local backup server instead or replacing it with tapes and/or a server elsewhere - it will be quicker to restore from if you ever need to, and you can use it to co-ordinate the backups instead of each server talking to the other resource separately.

Summary of terminology:

  • off-site : actually physically at a completely different site
  • on-site : obvious...
  • on-line : connected to the network, locally or otherwise, and always available
  • off-line : not connected (i.e. tapes or disconnected external drives)
  • off-server : on another machine or media (could be off- or on-site, off- or on-line)

Both off-site and on-site solutions can be on-line or off-line, with offsite+offline offering greatest protection and onsite+online giving the most efficient backup+restore processes.

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We have 3 of these that are rotated on a daily basis (1 on site, 1 in transit, 1 off site)

The data is copied onto the disks using Robocopy ( and encrypted using TruCrypt. The encryption ensures that even if the person responsible for the disks loses one, we can be sure that the data is safe.

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+1 for encrypting off-site data – Randy Orrison Jun 9 '09 at 20:11

And remember: if you can't restore from a backup, you didn't back up. Check your tape backups frequently. Ideally, do a restore to a clean test system every now and then, to make sure you're getting everything you need. There's plenty of horror stories out there about backups that weren't.

One thing an automated tape system can't do for you is send tapes off-site. Make sure you keep backups sufficiently separated that you can't lose too much in one incident too small to kill the company.

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