In my case, its about 1 or 2 terrabytes of images, etc. for my design firm. Any ideas?


9 Answers 9


At the agency where I last worked, we setup the art department with a four tier backup solution:

  1. NAS Device - Hot Backup
  2. Tape Backup - Snapshot Backup
  3. rsync Backup - Off-site Backup
  4. Fire closet - Disaster solution

First, we loaded up an old Dell server with a few SATA cards and RAIDED the drives together using Software RAID. Everything was mirrored onto this device on a nightly basis and provided a hot backup in case of hardware failure on our primary server.

Second, we attached a tape device that used DAT-160 tapes, capable of holding 160gb per tape, onto this server. We took snapshots every other night and rolled them onto to the tape.

Third, off-site backup to a co-location once a week. Turned out purchasing some rack space and a large data plan cost much less than 3rd-party off-site backup services. This is your disaster recovery solution, coupled with...

Fourth, If you also roll a snapshot once every two weeks and place these into a fire closet, then you have a fast disaster-revovery solution.

In our case, we had problem with the hardware RAID controller in our primary server. While we eventually recovered the data from the drives, we just swapped the primary server out for the backup server and kept on chugging with only about an hour of downtime.


I am always wary about recommendations for cloud-based backups. What are you going to do if you need to get the full 2TB back? No way is your internet link going to give you the same recovery time as a local backup would.

For that kind of storage requirement I'm going to recommend my old friend tape. You'll probably fit a single full backup onto one LTO4, so use that plus a decent tape library (not an autoloader) and build a strategy around that.

Disk can be attractive but in my opinion it's only shifting the "what if it fails?" burden back another level. With disk if your backup device fails you're screwed. With tape you can tolerate a drive failure and still be able to restore (make sure that you have arrangements with your provider to ship a replacement if so). Tapes themselves generally don't fail.

Disk also has the disadvantage that obtaining sufficient storage for a full cycle and retention of older backups can get real expensive real fast (especially if you're using a RAID setup - which you should - for fault tolerance). In Pound/Dollar/Euro/Yen per terabyte terms, nothing is cheaper than tape.

Whichever you choose, you should try to locate the backup device in a separate fire zone to your main server(s), if possible. Also ensure that you have your offsite strategy properly worked out, although specifics of this will depend on your location and situation.

If you have money to burn then adding another layer of disk (or even a third layer of cloud for getting individual files back) can give you better reassurance and more flexibility, but you should always come at it from the perspective of "what happens if I need to get the full thing back?" irrespective.


2 Tb of images which I assume don't change very often?

A monthly backup to a few LTO3 tapes, which are then stored at someone's house, is appropriate for a small firm.

If you can provide more info about what's currently in place for backups, and how the data is stored and how often it changes, we can probably generate a more specific solution.


You should probably have an offsite backup, like cloud storage, or a hard drive taken home once a week or something.

You can buy external Hard drives, or use an offsite server.


The easiest solution is to backup onto external hard drives. Have 1 drive for M/W/F and another for T/Th. A 3rd incase one dies on you. Then rotate the drives out daily with one offsite.


It all depends on what your needs actually are. The most important factor to look at, in my opinion (because it is so often overlooked), is restoration. Given the size of your data set, how quickly will you need access to all of your data again? If you can take it in dribs and drabs, picking the most important stuff first, then a network backup like Amazon S3 or a dedicated backup service is OK. If you're going to need all of it pretty quickly, then you'll need something that's capable of providing all the data in one big hit -- which means physical media. Those are:

  • A few hard drives (at 2TB, you're pushing the boundaries of current disk technology for a single disk, so either stagger what you're backing up or look at a multi-disk array)
  • Tape (not the quickest, and you'll need lots of them, but they survive shipping a lot better)
  • A network storage service that can ship you media if you need to restore everything (we do this at work as an arrangement with one of our clients, but we don't offer this as a generic service). I don't know of any network backup companies that do this, but I don't know that market particularly well -- I'd be surprised if none of them have thought about it.

Best? Another planet. Seriously, an off-site backup in the building next door leaves you vulnerable to some disasters. Off-site and more than 20 miles away gives better protection. A company I used to work for would exchange backup tapes between two of their facilities some 1500 miles apart using a common courier (FedEx). With terrabytes of data, this had better throughput than their network.


I would first find out how valuable the data is to the business, and what budget is available and then look and see if that is the financially viable option.

Anything offsite is the best way to go whether its managed through a vendor or at a remote location of your firm and managed by yourself. I would strongly suggest first figuring out what the value of that data is and then start planning around that. Because, once you know what you can spend than you can start getting a clearer idea of what is available.

Tape libraries are great but can be fairly expensive to set-up, offsite back up would be the most affordable. I wouldn't go the route of disk based back-up in terms of consumer 1Tb drives. reason being you just don't have the same capability for recovery as if you had a proper DR plan.


I still use SVN (or any other source control for that matter) to handle documents and binary data.

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