First, some background on out situation. We're a small-medium business who has around 20 TB of data on two different NAS's, and that number grows by at least 10% annually. 90% of this data we need to keep for legal reasons related to the work we do, and all of it needs to be accessible. Less then 1% changes daily, but we still need to be able to view and access the other 99%.

Now as the end of the year approaches its time to start our annual backup. The last 5 years we've simply plugged several external HDD's into a PC on the network and used robocopy to copy the two separate NAS's to the externals. Then in early January we'll go back and in an incremental backup to the same drives to make sure we've got anything that changed since. Finally the CEO takes these drives to his house for safe keeping.

We also do a nightly incremental backup of the NAS's to another set of external HDD's. So solutions I'm looking at now for the annual are also trying to take into account our incremental nightly backups, to try and make both better.

So - goals: To complete the annual backup as easily, securely, and quickly as possible. As we're a small business cost is always an issue, and anything I come up with I have to be able to justify the costs to the higher ups.

So far I've considered tape backup, and just another NAS where once a year we pull the drives out to give to the CEO, and buy another set to rebuild a new backup.

I'm pretty new when it comes to backing up such large amounts of data, and any help or tips you have would be much appreciated.

So, any recommendations on how we could make our backup process better?

PS - Both NAS run on raid6.

  • PS - we've talked about somehow including some kind of revision on our incremental backups - some way to easily track edited, deleted, and moved files and a way to restore a file back. Right now we just look at a log, and if I see a HUGE amount of data move or go missing, I investigate. Not even remotely secure.... I've been looking into rdiff-backup. This is a secondary concern, but something I'll still take advice on. – Zxero88 Oct 31 '14 at 16:41
  • LTO tapes are an interesting option - but the drives appear to be extremely expensive, so difficult for a small business to swallow. – JBRWilkinson Dec 7 '14 at 21:32
  • 1
    @JBRWilkinson: I'm sorry, but they're not extremely expensive, compared to the cost of the 20TB NAS in the first place; comparably expensive, sure, but that's not extreme. Tape has the huge advantage over HDD backups that once you've bitten the purchase price of the drive and stacker, adding more media, to keep more layers of data, is cheap. Cutting archive tapes to retire some of your online storage is cheap. Cutting multiple tapesets, so your offsites of a given age aren't all in the same place, is cheap. – MadHatter Dec 10 '14 at 13:35
  • Tape is really a great option. Also assure the backup solution includes good de-duplication. – Dave M Dec 10 '14 at 16:12
  • 20TB NAS is about $1200 now, e.g. 4-bay QNAP NAS TS-451 with 4 x 6TB WD Red. I'm yet to find an LTO drive for less than $4000 – JBRWilkinson Dec 11 '14 at 15:02

It's a fairly broad question, and it depends a lot on how much budget you've got to work with. It also depends a lot on quite why you want annual backups. I'm going to guess there's some compliance constraint on data retention?

Personally I don't think well of the 'removable drive' approach to backups - it's actually not all that reliable, because of storage problems. It's also disproportionately hard to actually make the backup in the first place, so you end up doing - as you are - an annual cycle. This means you could quite easily be 6 months out of date, and that could destroy your business anyway.

Is losing everything for the last 8 months going to satisfy your compliance constraint? If not, then you're wasting your time and money off siting annually in the first place.

So first and foremost, whenever designing a backup solution - there's several key questions:

  • What is your recovery point objective - is restoring from 'sometime in the last year' good enough? (In all honesty, I would be surprised if it was).
  • What is your recovery time objective? - how long can you be down for? (Restoring off disks will take as long as backing up to them in the first place. Is that ok?).

  • What is your retention period? (How long do your backups need to be kept?).

  • What's the volume of data you'll be storing?
  • What threats are you trying to mitigate? (How important is that 'offsite' to you, because offsite backups require decent storage. In your CEO's house, in all honesty, is just not good enough. It's unlikely to be secure and clean enough for reliable storage).

And lastly, but by no means least:

  • how much money can you justify for something that is potentially going to destroy your business?

Backups aren't cheap, and no one cares enough to pay for them. But everyone likes recoveries, and when you need one, you NEED one. So how much is that recovery worth to you?

From what you've said so far, I'd be suggesting investigating what you can do with your NAS heads as they are. You may well find they support snapshots, which are quite good for 'backing up' a large volume of low churn data.

If you need to offsite, then that's one place where tape remains a really strong contender - I normally wouldn't suggest it, in a world where deduping spinning disk is comparable, but it's really good for packing and shipping to secure storage. (And actually designed for it, unlike a stack of cheapo HDDs).

Or perhaps consider one of the cloud backup options. Look long and hard at their Terms and Conditions (and their SLAs), but you may find you can backup to the cloud fairly cheaply.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.