Backup Strategies

Backups are often neglected; do you backup your computer or server, if so, how often? At any moment a computer or server may crash unexpectedly and put your critical data at risk. Are you confident that you will be able to do a full restoration within a minimal downtime? Have you done a full backup test restoration including the hard drive images? How much information do you have stored on your Server’s hard drives? Are you hosting your own email or website? Are you running any SQL databases? These are all very critical and require a good backup strategy to be enforced to be able to recover from a disaster in an efficient and effective way. You must be prepared for any calamities such as fire, earthquakes and floods. Do you have any backup plans in the event of a natural disaster? Backups are a very important factor to consider.  The risk of losing data is often unnecessary and could be avoided by implementing a simple and sometimes cost-effective backup solution.

The Strategies:

  • If you have a Domain Network, having additional Domain Controllers (DC) is something that has to be implemented so that there will be limited network downtime just in case a disaster happens.  Active Directory Users and Computers will replicate to your additional DC(s) and improve the dependability and availability of your network resources if the main DC is not up and running due to a crash or failure.
  • Storing huge amount of files and data on your network can be very risky if you don’t have a well planned and tested backup system.  Local backups can be done if you have enormous or terabytes of files stored in your file server(s).  Losing these files could cause you a major problem that you may not be able to bounce back from.  If your company has a limited IT budget then you can purchase some affordable external USB hard drives to do a local on-site backup.  These can be taken off site by a member of staff. Another affordable option would be to purchase a (Network Attached Storage) NAS Device and use a third parties backup software like Acronis or Symantec to do a full backup image of your Servers hard drives.
  • Do you have (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) RAID configured in any of your Servers? If your Employer can afford and has a budget for a RAID 10 (also known as RAID 1 + 0) system and it requires a minimum of 4 hard drives, I highly recommend this. A server with RAID 10 is amongst the most popular RAID solutions and provides a very high fault tolerance in case of hard drive failures. RAID 10 is very pricey but it is the best RAID option for any perilous applications especially databases.  If you have a limited IT budget then investing in a RAID 1 (Mirrored) solution is also acceptable. It will allow for one of your drives to fail without causing major downtime. Keep at least one spare hard drive for your RAID on site in case of a drive failure.  Newer technology servers have hot swappable drives, so expect limited downtime and rest assured that your data will be safe and intact. Some Users won’t even know if the network was down.
  • Backup as often as you want – There is no such thing as backing up too much! Having a redundancy backup is a must have. A very common backup strategy is to make daily incremental, differential, and a weekly full backup.  Another question you may want to ask is: If my first backup solution fails, what will I do then? Having multiple backups to restore from is a must.  Placing all of your eggs in one basket can be risky. If you are going to use Tapes or External Hard Disks to back up your data it is recommended that you have a daily or weekly rotation between drives.  If you have five External Hard Drives on a daily rotation then even if your most recent backup is not restorable you can fall back onto the day before – Losing 24-hours worth of data is far better than losing it forever!
  • Do not backup to a different partition on the same physical disk. You should be aware that if the disk fails then the entire disk will be corrupted and your backup will be useless!  You may lose everything.
  • The types of restore you can do with a backup are an important factor to consider. How long will it take you to restore an entire hard drive?  Can you restore your server onto other hardware?  Do you have any hard drives in stock in the event your drives fail?
  • A Cloud backup solution can be costly, but if your company can afford it, it’s a great backup solution to consider.  Hosted cloud also known as online backup is very popular nowadays.  If you are going to use a hosted backup solution find out the level of encryption that they support and remember to write down the restoration procedure, in the event of a problem you will want to access the backups quickly.  Cloud backup is safe and a secured way of backing up data on remote data storage, also accessible from anywhere. The only downside is that it requires a higher bandwidth.
  • It is a very good idea to keep your servers in a fire/flood proof location like a Vault, if your Employer can afford this type of Storage.

Backup only important documents – you will be very surprised how many gigabytes worth of Media files such as pictures, music and videos that some employees will store in their roaming profiles and local hard drives. Some are for business use but mostly are for personal use.  It is worth reviewing what you are backing up at least once a month.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Backup Software – Client and Server Operating Systems:

Client Operating Systems – Paid and Free Software:

http://data-backup-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

http://free-backup-software.net/free-backup-software-comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_backup_software

Servers – Paid Software:

http://windows-server-backup-review.toptenreviews.com/

Hosted Online and Cloud Backup Solution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_online_backup_services

http://enterprisefeatures.com/2010/09/top-25-enterprise-online-backup-solutions-for-business-cloud-data-protection/

***A special ‘Thanks’ to Dave Atkin – co  Author .***

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SBS 2011 Bare Metal Backup

Small Business Server (SBS) 2011 includes a native backup system called Windows Server Backup (WSB). To open up WSB, type “Windows Server Backup” from the Windows Start button then click on WSB on the top.

This is one of SBS 2011 (also available in SBS 2008 and SBS 2008 R2) cool features since SBS is designed for Small Businesses to help cut the IT costs.
The SBS Backup Wizard is also designed for someone who doesn’t have any previous experienced in Windows Backup or any 3rd party software backup solutions. There’s no need to buy and utilize an expensive backup system such as RAID and/or Backup software (Acronis, Symantec etc.), although they can also be considered for redundancy.  If you have an Exchange Server, SQL or SharePoint data they will be backed up as well because these are vital.

It is important to know that the Bare Metal Backup only supports up to 2TB. If you are planning to buy an External hard drive, make sure not to buy anything over 2TB because it will be a waste of money.

You will need to be aware of the compatibility list for a USB External Drive if you decide to use one:

The integrated backup (WSB) uses a VHD technology which take a snapshot of the system, and this technology is limited to a 2TB and the volume can only contain the base image and changes up to 2TB in total.

What’s going to happen if you get more than 2TB external hard drive?  You will see an “i/o error” as soon as you start the backup.

I hope that this information helps you decide and plan your next bare metal backup by utilizing your SBS 2011 native backup utility.

Note:  You may also utilize the network shares and drives for WSB, but be aware that only one backup can be maintained and it will be overwritten.