December 20, 2007
Having recently gotten burned with the failure of a NAS drive serving as the backup server, I had to design a new backup system. The budget wasn’t limitless and I had to use mostly stuff which was already available. I decided to go with a cousin of the n-tier backup system.
All computers on the network are backed up to a dedicated backup server. It has Windows installed and is configured with hardware RAID 1. As all computers were using Retrospect to backup to the NAS, I decided to keep it. Instead of sending data to the NAS, they would now send data to the new server.
But one more copy was needed to make sure we had our data safe. Another Windows machine was chosen to act as the second level of backup. It was a simple one, without RAID, but loads of disk space. The main backup server would push all of its data to the second (standby) server. Instead of going with Retrospect, I chose to install SyncToy from Microsoft on the main backup server. SyncToy was a very simple setup and with Scheduled Tasks, it was configured to copy all changed files and folders to the standby during the middle of the night.
Each computer would be backed up completely once a week and highly important data would be backed up nightly to the main server. That server would then backup itself to another machine.
This system allowed the following benefits: If any of the computers fail, we have their data stored in a safe place. With RAID 1 if one drive fails we have another one. And if for some reason the main server fails completely we have another copy of the data.
One point of concern: what if there is physical disaster at the location? It would be a good idea to move this data off-site as well. Maybe another server (or similar system) can be setup at another geographic location. The main server would not only backup itself to the second machine but also transfer the data to another system maintained at another location. I did not have this luxury so it wasn’t implemented. But if I could, I would first compress all data and then FTP it. The system would be similar to the Poor Man’s Log Shipping, also on this site. But only changed data would have to be transferred to save time and bandwidth. Nightly full backups would be overkill and inefficient.
For off-site backups, Jungle Disk looks like a good idea. It uses Amazon’s S3 for storage and isn’t very expensive. I am worried about the viability of the company and the software itself. What if they shut down a couple years from now? For personal data that isn’t such a big deal. But would I want to recommend it to the boss? If the company is viable, I see this as one of the best solutions around.