Seeking Experience With Backup Solutions (Mid-Size Enterprise)

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Hi All.

We are a medium sized company running a host of different software solutions:




Windows File servers


Vmware ESXi 4.1

also some Oracle hosted on Linux.

we are sort of considering insourcing our backup solution again, and are now in the market for a backup solution including storage, that would allow us to do around 5TB of backup of different systems in a full backup.

Currently our backup is done as an Outsourced TSM solution, and it works great, but the size of our data is making it a bit costly.

I have used Backup exec 10 before, and always felt it was prone to unstability and that you could not be sure that backups had completed successfully, something we generally do not see in our TSM solution. Are there similar priced solutions you could recommend?

Do any of you have any recommendations to Storage of backup.. is Disk an ok solution to keep data "forever" (backups should be kept 5 years in a grandfather-father-son kind of rotation) or is the safe solution to go with some LTO-5 tapes in an library, and is it safe to keep tapes forever in a library or should the be vaulted to somewhere other than the backup location?

Both in the disk or tape solution the backup would be performed over a 1gbit fiber connection, to a remote site, away from the primary site of the live data.



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However you play it, 5 TB is going to take a while to back up over a 1 Gbit connection. Half a day at best. You'll definitely want to be using incrementals (or even differentials) for the nightly backups, with full backups running just once a week. Probably over a weekend (starting Friday or Saturday night), so that it won't impact many people if some backups are still running during the day. If you can find a solution that will compress the data before it travels over the fibre link, that may be worthwhile, though you could always start off by doing some testing without that and see how it goes. You may need to do a fair bit of optimising and experimentation to make sure you saturate that Gbit link, since you can't afford to have it only running at half its potential.

We use PHD esXpress for our VMs, because it gave us much better throughput than esxRanger. Things may have changed in the few years since we did those tests, though. Why run a paid for agent inside every VM to back up over the live network interface when you can back up the entire VM disk, just licensing each host and backing up over a separate backup network that doesn't impact on the live network throughput? To restore individual files, we just restore the whole VMDK, mount it to a spare VM, and copy the files across to the relevant server in Windows.

Disk based backups are A Good Thing. For our VMs, we keep a weeks worth of backups on SAN, and archive those backups (via NetBackup, just because that's what we use for our physical servers) to tape once a week. So the archival can happen in daytime, since it's all static files with no impact on live systems. And it backs up really quickly, because most of the other tape backups happen at night. It's so useful to have backups instantly available, without having to go grab a tape from a safe (or drag one back from off site storage). It's great that you'll be able to back up directly off site, over the network. That'll save so much hassle. It's probably not necessary to take the tapes off-site from the backup location, since you are already storing data in two locations (the original data on the servers, and the backups).

SAN storage may not be cost effective to keep 5 years worth of backups, but you do the maths - how many copies of that 5 TB of backups are you going to need at any one time (once you've got a full 5 year back catalogue)? Will that 5 TB environment have grown to 10 TB by then? Can you buy half the storage now, half in a year or more's time when it's cheaper? How much would it cost to keep everything on SAN, vs. on tape? You could just keep the latest stuff on SAN, but it might not cost much less to have a SAN with a week's worth of storage than with a month's worth, or more. You won't keep all your dailies for 5 years, so there won't be many copies of the older backups. Tape's handy for archive purposes, and for off-siting, but in your case you might get away with just using one big SAN, since you're "only" backing up 5 TB. You don't need to use the fastest disks, since the whole lot will be limited by your WAN bandwidth anyway. So a SAN of 2 TB FATA drives ought to suffice. However, it's not like you need instant access to your older backups, so you could just put the last month or so on SAN, and keep the rest on tape.

As for the apps, SharePoint 2010 doesn't really need separate backup software, since it has pretty good built in restore tools, as long as you can back up the databases somewhere, but MS DPM still makes the job of restoring a bit simpler. Exchange needs its own agent, as does SQL, Oracle and other major databases. It's not wise to rely on a purely file or disk level backup for those. We use Redgate to back up our biggest SQL systems; it compresses the backups before they leave the server (and SQL backups compress a lot, the standard .bak files are really inefficient).

I guess at the end of the day it comes down to budget - how much capital outlay can you afford to make now, if it might take years to recoup the costs through savings on monthly fees? It's all very well talking about 500 TB SANs (or indeed 500 TB tape libraries), but if you can only afford a 12 TB RAID array or a 20 tape library, then maybe you're better off paying the monthly fees until you can save up enough for something better.

Got to go now, but feel free to respond and direct my ramblings at what specific questions you want answered!

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