Looking for advice on improving a very simple but critical backup situation.

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I have family members that run a non-technical business.
They depend on one Windows PC.
Many moons ago they acquired an Acer WHS 2003 box that they are backing up to (client and server are not in the same building).

I think there are four problems:
1) The WHS box is at least five years old.
2) I just realized that I don't know if they ever tested their solution, and I've read on several occasions that WHS 2003 restore can be unsuccessful. So in short: I don't trust this set-up.
3) The data is not stored in a format that I personally know how to restore manually.
4) I'm moving away. In the past I have manually restored data from drives for them but that will become more difficult.

I am thinking of the following solution because I am personally somewhat familiar with it:
1) Set up an HP N40L (or something more recent) as server
2) Set up BackupPC on the server
3) Use rsync to back up the client
4) Avoid any type of share from the server side, to avoid cryptolocker problems
5) Set up a mail alert that a backup has run, to mail me. That way I can keep track of whether backups are still being run.

In the long term I will want to replicate their data to my own device in a different part of the country. It would be quite bad if both client and server got stolen.

Thanks for reading. How does this sound so far?
 

_Gea

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For critical data, you must consider

1. Disk failures
2. Human errors (accidently deleted a file last hour or some time ago)
3. Sabotage or viruses (intentionally modified data, some time ago)
4. Disaster (fire, server stolen)

For
1. do a raid-1 on your primary system
2. for current data, a single backup helps, for older data you need many backups
or snaps as previous versions
3. for this you need revision safe storage that cannot be modified later (i.e. read-only storage)
or read-only snaps
4. for this you need a second system on a different physical location.

What I would do:
- buy two backupsystems, cheapest HP Microserver with a solid Raid-setup (2way mirror or better 3 way mirror)
- Sync your data on a hourly/ daily base from your local pc's to a SMB share on these machines
you can use the free and in Windows included tool robocopy (run as planned task) to sync data
Advantage of robocopy over rsync: They are quite similar but only robocopy takes care of Windows permissions/ACL

- do snaps on your backupsystem (these are frozen and read-only states of your data) on a hourly/ daily/ weekly/ monthly base. You can go back to these snapshots via Windows previous version.

Sync these data to the second backup system. You may use a different snap-timing there.
You can either sync your data from your PC to these machines or from backup1 -> backup2

Do regular checksum tests to prove data vailidity on these backup systems as planned task.
Setup email alerts.


Software:
use a free ZFS web-based appliance like FreeNAS (based on BSD) or my napp-it (based on Solaris).
You can setup/restore them within minutes and manage them from a PC via Browser.
 
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Thank you for your reply, very helpful!
What I've read so far about napp-it sounds very good, so I will try that out first.
I have decided to use the N54L with 8GB ECC Kingston ValueRAM KVR16E11/8I. The RAM is listed on http://n40l.wikia.com/wiki/Memory as being compatible with Gen7.
I'll install the OS on the bundled 250GB drive.
I'm not sure about the number of drives in the mirror yet because of the budget.

- do snaps on your backupsystem (these are frozen and read-only states of your data) on a hourly/ daily/ weekly/ monthly base. You can go back to these snapshots via Windows previous version.
This would be a very useful feature!
 

Quartz-1

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2) I just realized that I don't know if they ever tested their solution, and I've read on several occasions that WHS 2003 restore can be unsuccessful

I never had a problem with restores, either file or full system. Do note that WHS 2003 cannot back up GPT systems.

The up-to-date replacement for WHS is Windows Server Essentials. There is also WHS 2011 which initially could not back up GPT systems, but now can. WHS 2011 is not being developed further. I would strongly recommend WSE 2012. The backup is fast, invisible, and reliable. It can serve as a platform for other services, particularly WSUS. Having WSUS available makes building a new system so much quicker.
 

patrickdk

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I currently use backuppc on openindiana that is running napp-it.

It wasn't the simplest of things to do, but wasn't overly painful, as long as you understand perl.
 

Grimlaking

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What I do not see in your mentions is the scale of operations. If we are talking about 40+ systems at this point with critical data dispersed across all systems haphazardly. You have other concerns. + backing up the OS is almost a waste in effort depending on scale of operations.

Some things to consider.

1. control critical information. (this will limit the scope of what you actually need to back up.)
2. Establish a repository for software images and keys/licenses. (again limits what needs to actually be backed up. The work produced.)
3. Plan on redundancy at each level depending on how mission critical your systems are.


As an example in my work we have 4 levels of COMPLETE SYSTEM failure redundancy. meaning each system has components in it that can fail without taking the system down but for complete failure we are tolerant up to four levels for our most critical systems. Including replicated sites. This is very costly so it depends on the business.

So before we go into a lot more detail you need to ask yourself this about the business.

1. Do you need to consolidate and protect the created work? (something like a sharepoint solution and then protect the data/back it up as needed.)

2. Do you know where your data is. And WHAT your data is. IE is this business at risk of exposing private or trade secret level data? If so it needs to be protected.

Once you have the concerns related to the actual data that needs to be protected you will properly define the scope of how you need to back it up and how you need to secure it. As well as the legal requirements for data retention/protection.

Welcome to the world of IT engineering. ;)
 

Quartz-1

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What I do not see in your mentions is the scale of operations. If we are talking about 40+ systems at this point with critical data dispersed across all systems haphazardly.

WHS has a limit of 10 clients.
 

JoBUSH

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For these types of SMB's I prefer to use Carbonite. It's simple, constantly backs up, does versioning, and provides good tools from the web UI.
 
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For these types of SMB's I prefer to use Carbonite. It's simple, constantly backs up, does versioning, and provides good tools from the web UI.

It looks good. But I would prefer to have a local backup as well, due to low external connection speed in the area.


What I do not see in your mentions is the scale of operations.

Very informative post, brings up some good points.
This is a quite small operation actually :) As I said in my first post, it is currently just a single PC. I don't see it ever growing beyond a third. There are no software licenses in this case.


I currently use backuppc on openindiana that is running napp-it.

It wasn't the simplest of things to do, but wasn't overly painful, as long as you understand perl.

I'm also using backuppc for my own data, and I'm inclined to go this route. I'm using plain debian though, without additional redundancy. I like the idea of using napp-it or freenas to set things up properly.
But it would be really handy if they could use the 'previous versions' functionality - it is easy to explain and they can easily find it in the right-click menu.

I'm going to test napp-it and the windows backup functionality first, napp-it+backupc after that.
I can always switch to WSE if I don't like it, but I'm trying to keep costs down.
 
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WHS 2011 is around $50 / £50.

Yes, you are correct. And that isn't much. But I was looking at the Server Essentials 2012 (E330) because I was under the impression that the extended support status does not include security fixes. Further reading shows that it does so WHS 2011 should be receiving security updates until April 2021 - according to wikipedia. But this Microsoft page says that extended support is not applicable (at least it does when it loads in my language).
 

Quartz-1

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I really would recommend WHS / WSE for the simplicity of the restore. It's a godsend for the non-technical. You boot the PC off the recovery CD and follow the prompts.
 

TGK

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For these types of SMB's I prefer to use Carbonite. It's simple, constantly backs up, does versioning, and provides good tools from the web UI.

Seconded as long as its a single machine and there's enough upload bandwidth. You get all of the bases covered at a cost that is lower than all of the other options over a 3 yr period.

Cost of WHS/WSE license + PC + disks + power is guaranteed to be greater than $60/yr over the estimated lifespan of the disks (~3yr). Even better, they can expense the Carbonite fees for a tax deduction.
 

Quartz-1

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Seconded as long as its a single machine and there's enough upload bandwidth.

The downside is the time it takes to do a rebuild / restore. BTW the OP has said that bandwidth is an issue.
 

JoBUSH

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The downside is the time it takes to do a rebuild / restore. BTW the OP has said that bandwidth is an issue.

It obviously depends on the data, but I've had excellent success with Carbonite even in very low bandwidth situations. One of my remote offices backs up via satellite link. It's slow as balls, but as long as a schedule is set on Carbonite and nobody is backing up their mp3 library then it runs smooth as butter.

For recovery at slow sites I usually perform the recovery off-site (at a data centre) and then drive the data to the site. Alternatively, Carbonite provides recovery hard drives via courier if need be.
 

_Gea

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For recovery at slow sites I usually perform the recovery off-site (at a data centre) and then drive the data to the site. Alternatively, Carbonite provides recovery hard drives via courier if need be.

Backup needs versions.
Cloud backup usually do not offer versions. They are mostly ok for single stage backups (ie last state of data).

For critical data you need the state of last monday or april 1st, 2014 or may 2011
 

TGK

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Backup needs versions.
Cloud backup usually do not offer versions. They are mostly ok for single stage backups (ie last state of data).

For critical data you need the state of last monday or april 1st, 2014 or may 2011

From Carbonite's website:

With the versioning feature (available to Windows users), you can make changes to your files worry-free. Carbonite can save up to three months worth of previous versions of your files, so that you’re able to roll back if need be.​
 

_Gea

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From Carbonite's website:

With the versioning feature (available to Windows users), you can make changes to your files worry-free. Carbonite can save up to three months worth of previous versions of your files, so that you’re able to roll back if need be.​

Thats fine for a home user but not for critical data.
 
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WHS 2011 has nice features and is quite affordable, but from reading I understand that it is difficult to back up more than 2TB of your server's contents.
Can anyone with practical experience on that weigh in?
 

Quartz-1

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WHS 2011 Dashboard can only deal with partitions in 2 TB chunks, and this extends to the console backup. To get around this you need to use the WBAdmin utility directly. It's a bit of a fiddle, but it's a one-off fiddle.

See here.
 

Nate7311

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Crashplan. Best of both worlds. Unlimited cloud-based offsite backup with versioning as well as local backup location as well. Easier on the budget as well, even with the 10 PC (Family plan) at $14/mo. This is the level that I see quite often for most tight-budget small business using a peer to peer Home OS network and coupled with a 3TB or 4TB ($150) USB drive hanging off of the "Server" for the local storage. More cost effective compared to $1k worth of Microserver and drives, not counting your time for setup and install. As mentioned by another poster, Backup and DR is always a sticky proposition due to the many facets that you'll need to consider. At this level, unless you directly involved in the day to day operations of the business, point them in a safe and reliable direction and manage with advice, rather than force them to depend on you for hardware/configuration and trouble shooting. That observation is not a reflection on your skill level, but a recommendation based on being in the industry and cleaning up after scenarios like this again and again.
 
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Decisions, decisions...

The priority is file restore, not system restore. The only things that would need re-installing are the office suite, PDF writer and AV. I'll try out Crashplan for myself first - a couple years ago I was not impressed, but I have forgotten why.

I'll probably present three different options to them:

- Refresh their WHS solution by moving to WHS 2011 on new hardware. The downside being that in case of an unsuccessful restore, I won't be able to help them.

- Set up a solution using plain Debian/napp-it/FreeNAS and BackupPc on new hardware. Less consumer friendly but it is very likely that I'll be able to restore the files manually, should the automatic restore fail.

- Set up Crashplan. The downsides being the low internet speed compared with the ever-increasing volume of data (+-2TB), the fact that in some periods the internet connection simply drops away for parts of days, the rumoured low performance of the client, and that in case of an unsuccessful restore, I won't be able to help them in any way. On the plus side, an unsuccessful restore should be unlikely. A possible downside would be the Crashplan server locations - as far as I can tell in 2013 they didn't have servers in Europe.
 

Quartz-1

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A possible downside would be the Crashplan server locations - as far as I can tell in 2013 they didn't have servers in Europe.

Ah, I assumed this was in America. You will want to check the legal side of the data being stored in another country. And the NSA scandal has been very big outside America: people may be wary of trusting their data to America.
 
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Hmm, the only European service I could find that listed the required space asks E175 per month :)
Not looking good so far.
 

Xethril

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What are some good options for network attached storage that can interface with a variety of machines with different operating systems?
 
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