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How do you do....it? Thread, Backup strategies in Technical; Hi there - this is my first post so I hope that it is (a) appropriate and (b) in the ...
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    Backup strategies

    Hi there - this is my first post so I hope that it is (a) appropriate and (b) in the correct place!

    I am a governor looking at ICT in a large primary, and have a background in school technology. I've recently been approached by a cloud based data archiving company which has prompted me to query schools' backup strategy - and I was wondering what is considered best practice - Becta prioduced some guidance, but is now obviously defunct. My questions are:
    1. Who supplies backup solutions to schools - is it the support company or bought independently?
    2. What data is backed up - all data, or just management data?
    3. Do schools usually run incremental backups of their networks internally?
    4. And how is off site backup achieved?
    5. How are the data protection implications of off-site backup managed?


    Thanks in advance...

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    jamesfed's Avatar
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    1. Lots of people in both cloud and on prem (we have a on prem backup system)
    2. Backup EVERYTHING - that includes user data but also your servers operating systems that way you can restore quickly (and remember the whole idea of backup is to be able to restore)
    3. We do full backups of everything over the weekends with daily incremental, user data and the likes gets a incremental 'backup' using volume snap shot every 2 hours during the school day
    4. Software sends (over the internet) to your backup provider, bear in mind if you have a large amount of data and a slow internet connection so called 'cloud backup' wouldn't be ideal
    5. All data offsite should be encrypted (your provider will usaly do this for you) others will pipe in on here with more details

    Personally we spent about £340 on a QNAP NAS box (TS-212) to handle the backups for a primary we take care of, it does daily backups of everything (full/incremental) and are quite happy with that.
    One off cost, I know where the data is kept and have used it in a disaster recovery scenario not so long ago when their server melted. They only lost 2 hours worth of work and the restore took about 3 hours to have everything back to 100% once the new server had arrived.

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    JonWill (28th June 2012)

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    OK Secondary School experience outlined below

    1. Product selected to best meet the requirements - the systems in use, the size of the data sets and the required recovery times play a part. I have always worked closely with suppliers to design the server and storage systems, out of this process the backup system is produced.
    2. All of it. Though not all of it goes off site - approaching double digit Terrabytes of photos and Videos make this impracticaly either in the cloud or physically. Though with a product like VEEAM and a 1GB/s internet feed you could pre-seed a NAS and send it off to a datacentre to act as a remote store.
    3. 'Forever Incremental' with the magic of Virtual Machine snapshots and VEEAM sent to a Disk Storage box. Weekly Full backups of the backup storage to tape. Previously to having VMWare and VEEAM it would vary by the size and imporatnace of the service dataset.
      • 'My Documents' and shared Folders were done on a daily differential from the last full backup - which due to the data set size could be half a term ago.
      • MIS data full daily. Twice. Both as SQL Dump and an application aware direct to tape.
      • Other Services - for small quick data sets we'd do a daily full (40Gb is insignificant when the daily incremental of the fileserver could be 200GB+)
    4. Never really been that happy with what we have in place, but someone gets to take the tapes home. The Business Manager gets to know who it is in the event we need them and IT Services are not arround.
    5. Encrypted this functionality is built into all enterprise grade solutions. They decryption keys were stored on the encrypted USB that also contains the a copy of the MIS and genral Emergency Event Procedures. There were three copies of this USB. Two held by two individuals on SLT off site, and one onsite that was updated and then swapped out for one of the two.



    Now that said - how would I do it for a primary?

    Assuming that you had a server and all user data was on that server....
    Use Windows Server Backup to backup to a daily rotated 'BitLocker To Go' encrypted external hard disk. This disk needs to be several times the size of the server disk since rotating them forces a full backup. Store the decryption keys on the USB containing the disaster response plan. Once a week a HDD goes home with a trusted person. Any server based applications should have their own automated 'backup to file' systems to give you a belt and braces chance for recover in the event of a disaster.

    If you were to go cloudy with the backup then you may need to develop a strong understanding of where your data is and how it works (as per a Secondary - see above), becuase these services are not geared for schools where the bulk of the data is jpg mov and ppt all mixed up with critical xls and the odd sql database on the same server. You would need to develop a multi teired approach depending on the recover requirements and data set size - this may be too complex to manage - but I expect it is an area that some Cloud vendors using to differentiate themselves.
    Last edited by psydii; 27th June 2012 at 05:44 PM.

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    JonWill (28th June 2012)

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Primary experience here. I agree... backup EVERYTHING!

    Firstly, most primaries have few servers. Many have only 1. We have 2.

    We looked into cloud backups, but it was expensive and our broadband speed too slow to make it sensible.

    We backed up to tape, but it's slow and our tape devices proved unreliable.

    The layout of my school is such that we have buildings a significant distance from each other... we decided that the chance of our other building going up in flames should the main one burn down was very small.

    We do a full backup of both servers to NAS every night. The servers are in the main building, the 2 NAS devices are in the other building and the buildings have fiber between them.

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    JonWill (28th June 2012)

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    Thanks for all the responses - very interesting. I will continue my investigations!

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Have you contacted your local High School to see if they are able to offer any support/help/advice/services? We offer maintenance contract for all our feeder schools that includes managinf backups. Most of our Primaries backup using a rotation of three usb hard drives. One off which we offer to keep at our premises so it is off site. Usually the amount of data means we can do daily full backups, but I think the larger schools do a full backups once a week and then incrementals after that.

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    JonWill (28th June 2012)

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    How have your investigations gone?

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    I am going to schedule a conversation in the next couple of weeks - I just wanted to be fore-armed with some ideas about best practice - thanks all!

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