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We are upgrading our storage capacity and backup procedure where I work, and I would like to have your input on this.

We currently have a Windows Server (HP ProLiant ML310e Gen8: Xeon quad-core 3.3 ghz, 8gb ram) that handles file sharing for the whole office (8-10 employees). We currently use two external USB drives (WD MyBook) in a RAID array as main storage for day-to-day office work. We also use another USB drive for other data less frequently used. The server is running 24/7, and the USB drives spin down after a while of inactivity.

Am I right to think that USB drives as permanent storage is bad practice? We don't actually need them to be removable. Just the backup drives.

So here is the plan:

  • Replacing external USB drives with 3x 4TB (or 6TB) internal SATA drives (RAID5 array)
  • Put all the data we own on this array so that the storage is centralized
  • Re-use the USB drives for backups only.

So for the most fast, reliable and robust solution, is the internal drives option the way to go? Are there any PROs of going the external USB drives route?

EDIT: I should mention too that we will probably eventually have a PostgreSQL cluster in there. I don't know if I should use 2 separate RAID arrays for the cluster and the rest of the data

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    The issue I have with your question, is that it's more of a "shopping" question than an on-topic question. For instance "So for the most fast, reliable and robust solution, is the internal drives option the way to go?" -- the answer is 'it depends' ...same for "Am I right to think that USB drives as permanent storage is bad practice?" - The word "permanent" makes any media a bad practice. I'm trying not to sound harsh, I get the question overall, but answers here will be very subjective even if they are with sound advice options. – TheCleaner Jul 26 '16 at 18:54
  • Although I somewhat agree with TheCleaner, there is a best practice for data storage, configuration and back up. Most small businesses go through this growing pain to move into a solution/system design that is more in line with standards, and although it may sound subjective, is more commonly the typical practice of any growing IT infrastructure. – htm11h Jul 26 '16 at 19:00
  • I understand that the answers will be subjective, but I find the "it depends" answer interesting for me, because maybe I will recognize myself in one or another situation exposed. I didn't want to ask a "shopping" question, but I wanted to have some knowledgeable inputs about what is common good practice when it comes to storing data in a situation similar to mine. – Gobtron Jul 26 '16 at 19:05
  • The issue is that cost, time, risk, politics, etc. come into play. For a simple solution, internal drives on a server under warranty for the data. Offsite backup using something simple like Crashplan would be better than dealing with USB drives, unless you don't care about fire risk, etc. Again, simple and not really a great answer. – TheCleaner Jul 26 '16 at 20:14
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I think ideally your server should support RAID10, add 4 or more hard drives to this system and keep your data there. (I just installed another 6TB Western Digital Red for $239 I believe in my DELL server.) That will protect it, if a drive fails just replace the drive and the RAID will be rebuild.

Now if you building gets leveled by some sort of disaster, where is your data off sight. I would use the external USB drives and exchange them each week, assuming you can rebuild a weeks work of data. Create a backup routine to save your RAID data to the USB drives daily, weekly, over the weekend, which ever works best and exchange the USB drives when it finishes.

When the USB space is inadequate, your only real solution is an offsite service, there are hosted backup solutions out there but they can get expensive. It all depends on the size of your back ups.

I do know of a few business owners that use Comcast that set up VPNs between there businesses which are about 20 miles apart, they each have a server in the others office that replicates data to the other off-sight location. Comcast business helped them set it up I believe. I think it is also a little pricey, but neither has lost any data.

  • Off-site backups will be taken home, on a physical drive. The rotation would be weekly, and the backups would be incremental, using snapshots. Cloud storage is not really an option for us because of the costs and the internet bandwith usage. – Gobtron Jul 26 '16 at 18:55
  • I did not really suggest a cloud back up as they are typically cost prohibitive to small business. The Comcast solution I mentioned was not nearly as costly as both business already used the ISP and had high speed connectivity. It works well for not too much data. But I think you have your solution. – htm11h Jul 26 '16 at 18:57

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