We have very minimal backups. About 6GB total (including Server 2008R2 OS), and it changes maybe 30MB a day if that. We have an extra server (Dell T310) sitting here with 4 3TB drives in RAID 5. It will basically be used to store a local copy of our main DC and files, and then the plan was to rsync that over to a computer at another office.

Originally, we planned on using Norton, Acronis, etc. and just doing a "backup plan" that would be full weekly + inc daily. Put a full copy of two weeks of that on this Dell T310, then rsync that over and store 2 weeks of that on the offsite server. So we have the current 2 weeks locally available, and 2 weeks prior available at the offsite location.

  1. Is this an ok plan?
  2. What OS or software should we use on the T310? Cost is not an issue.
  • I'm assuming you're going to be backing up to files, then rsyncing the files - don't expect the rsync to save you anything, since each backup file will be effectively unique. If you're really talking about 6GB, that's probably manageable, if it's much larger you may want to look at configuring something to use both that secondary server and an offsite server as direct backup destinations to avoid re-transmitting a lot of rarely-changed data. – fencepost Mar 9 '12 at 3:59

I'd strongly consider running Windows Server 2008 R2 on the Dell T310 and making it a secondary DNS server, Domain Controller, and Global Catalog server. You could even go so far as to keep the filesystem layout similiar on the T310, allowing you to "fail over" to it as a file server (by adding an alias name, for example) in the event the production file server fails. Since you're talking about so little data (6GB seems pretty low if you're including the OS-- are you sure you didn't mean 60GB?) you could easily keep a copy of the "live" for this fail over purpose in addition to the backups that your backup software maintains.

Insofar as the backup goes, using whatever third-party software you want seems reasonable. I don't think you're going to get much delta compression from rsync, but it'll certainly mirror the files to a remote server effectively.


The built-in backup utility works well but has some limitations. Chief among these is the handling of multiple generations of backup.

If you expose the storage on the T310 via iSCSI and mount it "locally" on the source server you can use the native Windows Backup functionality to store multiple generations of backups on the T310 in a single backup folder. If you expose the storage via SMB (i.e. a "shared folder" accessed via a UNC) you can't store multiple generations of backups in the same folder. You can do incremental backups but only the most recent generation will be available.

  • Do I even need a 3rd party software for this? Can I just use Windows Server Backup that's built in? Or is that too buggy/limited for this? Thanks for the answer, never thought of that possibility. – Matt Mar 8 '12 at 20:51
  • I'm very close to checking this as the way to go. Is it a good idea to literally clone the entire 2008R2 and files over to this "backup/secondary" T310 server? (including DC, AD, DNS, DHCP, etc.) I won't want to actually use the Roles, but it seems like it would be nice to have them there ready to be activated along WITH all the files on the fileshare. – Matt Mar 12 '12 at 20:48
  • I do stuff like this in a number of Customer sites. I keep the DHCP server disabled on the "secondary" server (I actually use netsh to kick out a daily backup of DHCP and ship it over to the other server for quick import) and the file shares for the "standby" folders aren't in the registry (but, again, are sitting close by for quick import), but other than that everything on the secondary machine is active. In the event of a failure on the primary machine I add an "OptionalNames" entry to the secondary machine, import the DHCP and file share information, then reboot and start running. – Evan Anderson Mar 12 '12 at 21:43
  • It takes a "human in the loop" to fail over, but the cost of failing-back is non-trivial, so I prefer to have a human involved in the decision making process. I'm happy with the solution, given the ease and low cost of of setting it up. – Evan Anderson Mar 12 '12 at 21:45

I'd keep it simple and use built in Server Backup feature, and have it do two backup jobs:

  • "operational" which is just your data files (if you have any)
  • "DR" full server image backup

You can have the scheduled jobs point to the other server's share. This works great when you only have a few servers.

Even better, for full server recovery, you just boot to the 2008 R2 disk and choose recovery and you can pull the image backup over the network.

I find this much simpler and full featured in small scenarios.

I'm not familiar with rsync but you might want to look at DFSR (Windows Server feature) for replicating changed blocks offsite. You can control sync time, bandwidth used, etc.

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