I'm helping out a small business with their IT needs and a few questions have been raised over the quality/dependability of their backup system.

Currently they have two servers in use with one DAT72 tape drive for both servers. A total of 14 backup tapes are used; week A (5 tapes), week B (5 tapes), 3 monthly tapes (i.e June/July/August) and one yearly tape. When the tape drive was purchased, the business believed they would be able to achieve a full compression ratio and backup 72GB worth of data onto each tape. However, as with most tape drives, the true compression ratio for this particular drive/business is only 1.2. That said, the total size of the data that is backed up each evening is about 70GB. To compensate for the low storage space on the tape, the business has been splitting backup duties between tape and external disk. As far as data growth, it's mostly in the form of PDF documents that are scanned in. I'd expect 500MB or so yearly of data growth, which would include system state data.

I'm looking for ideas on how best to move to a more stable backup solution. Online backup is an option, but the broadband speed at this location is only DSL 1.5MB/s. The business would like to upgrade their servers from Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 in the near future (new hardware). It's possible that a Linux server will be added in the future as well.

Ideas? (14 total) 2.5" SATA drives with enclosures - backup to disk each time?

  • What kind of applications are you backing up? Exchange? Sharepoint? SQL Server? Files? What backup software is currently being used? – smassey Aug 24 '11 at 17:39
  • Smassey, thanks for responding. Currently NTBACKUP is used as the backup software package. As far as what is being backed up it's predominantly files. SQL server is being backed up, but it's the database files themselves that are being backed up. No Exchange and no Sharepoint. – JohnSmith Aug 25 '11 at 13:39
  • Man,you re lucky. My small business is in the 4tb range. That is backup size. – TomTom Aug 6 '14 at 14:57

How about just buying a bunch of cheap USB disks - mirror them via software - back them up and leave one half of the mirror on site and take the other half home or somewhere else.That way there's a copy close to hand if needed and one that'll survive a fire or whatever, plus you won't have to keep them in sync manually. Then just cycle a number of pairs of them, 4-to-7 or so and keep one off site for longer as your 'grandfather' type backup.

  • Not to be crass, but while this sounds good in writing I expect it to work poorly in practice. You'd need a hardware mirroring device to overcome fighting w/ Windows to re-sync mirrors each time disks are cycled off-site (daily or, at least, weekly). If you know of such a device that can gracefully handle disk swaps like this I'd love to hear about it. Finding good, inexpensive off-site backup for small business has been a real pain point for me the last few years. (Online backup sounds great until you multiply out the yearly cost, tape is very expensive, external disks are dodgy, etc...) – Evan Anderson Aug 24 '11 at 19:33

Based on your response, there are a few things that you'll need to consider.

  1. NTBackup was removed from Server 2008 and replaced by Windows Backup. Windows Backup is an imaged-based backup software that requires hard disks for backup. It will not back up to tape. The version included with Server 2008 isn't as flexible as the version included with Server 2008 R2 in my experience.

  2. Since your backup requirements aren't too strenuous, you could probably get away with Bacula or Amanda as your backup software. Both programs are open source and support all versions of Windows as well as Linux. I don't believe either have an open-source plugin for SQL Server, but I know that Bacula has a work-around using the backup utility built into SQL Server.

  3. Online backup is an option. Amanda supports backup to Amazon S3. With a 1.5 MB/s line, it would probably take at least a long weekend to do your first full backup.

  4. If you don't want to pay for online backup, you can opt for something like a Dell RD1000. The RD1000 is a removable hard drive backup system.


I don't see anything "unstable" about your current scheme. It may not be efficient or cost effective but that doesn't make it not stable. Stability is a quality of constance and reliability, not efficiency or cost effectiveness. That being said, and not to be overly simplistic, but there doesn't need to be a complex or expensive solution.

Here's what I would recommend:

  1. Perform nightly backups to disk. As your current backup set is pretty small (70GB) this should be easy to achieve with any number of disk options; external USB, eSATA, etc. B2D backups are going to run fairly quickly and you should get pretty good compression.

  2. Perform daily disk to tape backups. These are backups of the B2D backup sets. If the data being backed up exceeds the capacity of a single tape then buy more tapes.

This gives you the advantage of having data that may need to be restored nearby (the B2D backups) and allows you to maintain your tape backups offsite for archival, historic, and DR purposes.


I'm not sure what budget you have, but take a look at Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM). We have this installed on an inexpensive Dell R210 that backs up ~250gb to a QNAP NAS over iSCSI. Offsite backups are done through Iron Mountain (now Autonomy and soon to be HP) Cloud Recovery for DPM. We do 14 day retention on disk backups and 90 day retention for offsite backups. We pay about $1.25 per GB for the offsite backup, and while it's considerably more expensive than say, Amazon S3, the integration with DPM is flawless and totally worth the price. DPM doesn't backup Linux however, so if you had a linux server you'll have to find a different solution there.


I use CrashPlan, they have a number of different offerings. It's continuous backup, so you wouldn't have to reload all the data every night. It also does de-duplication, encryption and compression at the client... They also offer cloud, local disk or local/remote computer as backups, in any combination.

I also considered SpiderOak and BackBlaze. But BackBlaze doesn't support Linux, so that was out.


300GB tape drives (and much, much larger) are not very expensive. They have dropped dramatically since people use Disk. Tape also has a much longer shelf life. Look for a possibly used SuperDLT tape drive, or some other tape capacity.. I can't remember the last time I saw a 70GB tape. And like someone else mentioned, look into amanda. It works well with tape, and uses standard file formats (like tar) so recovery is very simple.

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