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Hardware Thread, Any reason we can't use an external hard drive for back up? in Technical; Hi, we've been using a traditional tape backup for ages here now but we're thinking of getting rid of that ...
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    rpycroft's Avatar
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    Question Any reason we can't use an external hard drive for back up?

    Hi, we've been using a traditional tape backup for ages here now but we're thinking of getting rid of that and buying 10 or so 500gb external hard disk drives and using them for backup. We've been advised by the company we use here for support that this would be a bad idea as they wouldn't be reliable enough. I get the feeling they're feeding me a line here but I just wanted to check. Our servers are all fairly new and the one we'll be running backup exec to do our backup to hard disk has USB 2.0 so speed is not an issue.

    Surely if we run the "verify" option on backup exec 10 it will check if the drive is knackered or not and we can replace the drive if it doesn't verify.

    Additionally we were really thinking of doing this as a large tape drive (200/400gb capacity - probably need more than that even really) is pretty expensive and the tapes seem to cost as much as a new 500gb hard drive... more in most cases!

    Thanks for any advice offered.

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    We've just got a lovely 2TB LaCie for our backups.

    It's mounted in the switch cupboard in a building at the far end of the site from our Server and it's great!

    Our tape backups wre getting larger and larger and the tape drive failed for the second time in 12 months

    Our view is that it is unlikely that both the server and the LaCie will fail simultaneously or that both buildings will burn down together (if they do - we have considerably more to worry about than the servers!) We also no longer have the security risk of me taking the tapes off site to lock them away in my filing cabinet at home.

    I am taking monthly tape backups and storing these in a safe in a third building... It's not a fire-proof safe. Our view is that the heat would probably melt any tapes even inside a fire-proof safe.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpycroft View Post
    Any reason we can't use an external hard drive for back up?
    Nope.

    We've been advised by the company we use here for support that this would be a bad idea as they wouldn't be reliable enough. I get the feeling they're feeding me a line here
    Yep.

    I'd go for SATA 2 drives in caddies that fit in a 5.25 drive bay in your server rather than USB, faster and more future proof. You could also look at drives with eSATA connectors rather than USB. Get drives that are hot-swapable so you can switch them around without having to turn the server off.

    --
    David Hicks

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    Our view is that it is unlikely that both the server and the LaCie will fail simultaneously or that both buildings will burn down together (if they do - we have considerably more to worry about than the servers!)
    No you won't - you'll have the insurance money to build a nice new school, the un-replaceable bit is your schools data.

    We also no longer have the security risk of me taking the tapes off site to lock them away in my filing cabinet at home.
    Use encryption.

    Our view is that the heat would probably melt any tapes even inside a fire-proof safe.
    You'll need a fire safe properly rated for computer media, and someone to help you lug it in to position when it's delivered - these things have masses of insulation around them and are damned heavy!

    --
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    ICT_GUY's Avatar
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    Its what I use.

    Multiple backups though.

    Advantage, when you need to restore a file it can be done in <30seconds.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpycroft View Post
    Hi, we've been using a traditional tape backup for ages here now but we're thinking of getting rid of that and buying 10 or so 500gb external hard disk drives and using them for backup. We've been advised by the company we use here for support that this would be a bad idea as they wouldn't be reliable enough. I get the feeling they're feeding me a line here but I just wanted to check. Our servers are all fairly new and the one we'll be running backup exec to do our backup to hard disk has USB 2.0 so speed is not an issue.

    Surely if we run the "verify" option on backup exec 10 it will check if the drive is knackered or not and we can replace the drive if it doesn't verify.

    Additionally we were really thinking of doing this as a large tape drive (200/400gb capacity - probably need more than that even really) is pretty expensive and the tapes seem to cost as much as a new 500gb hard drive... more in most cases!

    Thanks for any advice offered.
    the main reason for using tapes is offsite backup and long-term archival....

    if you don't have the need to keep dozens of tapes for archiving then backing up to disk is a sensible option. But while usb hard disk as a replacement to tape sounds good and ofcourse its cheap in one sense, there may be some issues ;

    the usb connection is not very elegant, particularly with rack mount equipment and a cheap off-the-shelf usb drive sitting on top or on the side.
    Plus the usb connection can easily be dislodged, on purpose or accidentally.

    With tape media you have to eject, either in software or from the buttons on the front of the device. Ofcourse you can secure access to the server rack to prevent people pulling the usb cable out, but if you're working on an adjacent server you cold potetially disloge the cable if you're not careful

    secondly, does the backup software you plan on using work with the external usb drives you intend to use ? Can you guarantee a consistent drive letter after each eject and insertion.

    management of usb drives and the rotation of drives could prove to be awkward. Most tape drives and loaders come with barcode readers to ease tape management. What would be the equivalent process for usb ? a sticky label .

    If you absolutely can't afford to continue with tape, then usb disk is probably a cheap option that will suffice....but also look into disk-as-tape type technology such as the iomega REV (or whatever they're calling it these days)

    i personally would not use off-the-shelf usb drives or caddies as a replacement for tape, i think eventually tape will be replaced by a removeable disk method but until more sophisticated products become widespread at a cheap price point then i'm happy to continue with tape. After the initial investment in tape hardware tape media is cheaper per gigabyte than usb disks. It's just that initial hardware outlay you need to get over.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    you'll have the insurance money to build a nice new school,
    Careful there with that assumption. In some areas, insurance cover for fire, particularly arson, is prohibitively expensive. As such, some schools are not insured against burning to the ground.

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    we have a raid 5 array on a spare server holding our asr and ntbackup's. This is also backed upto a usb. Our 2 main DC's are backed upto tape daily and taken offsite weekly (8 tapes).

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    @Dhicks - points taken; however costs of fire-proof safe are prohibitive for a tiny school like ours anyway.

    The solution we have suits us and even encrypted, I prefer not to be responsible for tapes at home!

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    @Dhicks - points taken; however costs of fire-proof safe are prohibitive for a tiny school like ours anyway.

    The solution we have suits us and even encrypted, I prefer not to be responsible for tapes at home!
    I don't know we picked up ours for 200 quid and it was seen by head as something got to have and we are a small school as well.

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    Dos_Box's Avatar
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    I am currently using one of these NAS boxes with 2 300GB drives inside.

    http://dlink.co.uk/?go=jN7uAYLx/oIJa...HmJ0YVse/Qb4U=

    This is because Tanberg even after receiving a dozen calls and promising to send out a field repair request sheet to get someone on-site haven't bothered to fix our 10 bay tape library (sheet never arrived). I'll never buy Tanberg again, I'll tell you that. Thier kit is good (until it breaks) but the support is awful. Its not that you can't get through its just nothing happens afterwards.
    Anyway, the D-Link attached to a GB LAN is fantastic as a backup device.
    Last edited by Dos_Box; 29th January 2008 at 12:58 PM.

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Just thought of another advantage of External Hard drive - tapes need to be changed on a regular basis as they become less reliable with age and they're bloomin' expensive!

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    @Dhicks - points taken; however costs of fire-proof safe are prohibitive for a tiny school like ours anyway.
    Fair enough - I couldn't afford a proper data safe at home, so I just got one of those £40 document cases that you can pick up in one hand.

    The solution we have suits us and even encrypted, I prefer not to be responsible for tapes at home!
    If you use proper encryption then the data stored on the tape or disk should look like so much random data to someone without the proper key to decrypt it.

    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    Just thought of another advantage of External Hard drive - tapes need to be changed on a regular basis as they become less reliable with age and they're bloomin' expensive!
    The same goes for harddisks too, though (I don't know exactly how the two types of media compare in the longevity stakes). The eventual failure rate of all harddrives (and all read/write storage, really) is 100% - it's just a question of exactly when your harddrive will fail, not if!

    --
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    localzuk's Avatar
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    We have a 2TB Fujitsu Siemens FibreCat NAS box for our main backups and then a set of 2 500GB WD Mybook pro's with firewire connections to do offsite backups. These are then alternated and taken off-site by our bursar. (We only have about 350GB data to backup at the moment).

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    rpycroft's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    All good info here, thanks for your help everyone. I think we're going to go for it as elsiegee40 says the tapes need to be replaced regularly and I think the cost of a decent hard drive these days is less than the cost of a backup tape. We'll be doing a new full backup every day of the week with a monthly, 6 monthly etc one done regularly too which'll get put in the safe. One of them is always off site as well with the other technician here who takes them home.

    Even if half of them break every 12 months, it's still only £250 or so a year. Compared to a £1000 backup drive and 10 x £100 or so tapes every few years (which we will always be struggling to find a decent size to accomodate us to be honest). I figure if we get 10 x 500gb drives or so now, then in a couple of years get 10 x 2tb ones they'll probably be the same price as the 500gb ones are now... though I don't think we'll be filling 2tb in one backup!

    Thanks again everyone. This site is the most useful resource I have ever had to hand as a technician in schools. Wish I'd found it years ago!

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