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Backing Up A Small Office Computer Network


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I'm looking for a sane, reliable and cheap way to backup a small office network of about 20 computers. Just wondering how other people do theirs:

* Do you use tapes, hard disks, network storage systems etc?

* What kinds of backups do you keep? (full, incremental etc)

* How many versions do you keep?

I've read about rotation strategies, ie. maintaining a copy of the last seven days, plus one snapshot for each of the last for weeks, one from each of the last few months etc. But even though disk space has become huge and relatively cheap, such a strategy sounds like it would still require a massive amount of space.

So what do you do? And how do you cope with file 'bloat'?

Edited by Crushdepth
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There's a lot of variables. I've never had to back up that many, but here's my thoughts on it. First, assuming the computers are running XP Pro and the users don't have administrative rights, enable disk quota. Why would a business user need multi-gigabytes worth of space? If you are forced to allow them to keep personal stuff (music/videos/etc), put it on a shared drive. This will cut down on multiple copies. Don't know if the computers are on a domain, but that sure makes administration much easier.

Tape's obviously the medium of choice simply due to its lifespan. But as you mentioned, hard drives have become ridiculously cheap. That's what I've been using, along with the rotation method. I realise that coming from a Linux guy the exact same idea won't apply, but you can pick through it and take out what you need/can do on Windows. A cron job starts rsync (also runs on Windows) which creates incremental back ups to another machine on my network (it's actually my gateway/media server/file server). Worth pointing out that the packets are NOT encrypted when sent to the back up server. There's a /back_up folder on my 'server' that also has a cron job to rsync to any external drive connected (basically tells it to search for a device with the default being /dev/sdg, and if not found to search for /dev/sdh etc--there's gotta be a better way of doing that but so far it's worked for me and I'm usually too busy doing other things to research it). The USB drive is pulled once a week and swapped for the one that's in the safe. Have also thought about going to esata, but already have USB drives so what the hel_l....

And yes it takes up quite a bit of space. I haven't had a drive fail yet, but I'm assuming that should one go down the system will be up and running quite quickly by simply reinstalling SuSE and copying the /home partition from the hard drive that's connected to the 'server'. The 'server' is backed up on the same hard drives and that's what takes up the majority of the space, but I run fdupes which will create and compare md5 sums for files in a directory and allow you to delete duplicates even if the name is different.

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Set up your own server (thats the most important step) or use an Iomaga solution. http://store.iomega.com/section?secid=76752

Use Storagecraft, http://www.storagecraft.com/products/ShadowProtectServer/

Novastor, http://www1.novastor.com/products/novaback...comparison.html

Trueinmage http://www.acronis.com.sg/smb/

for daily backups. (Expect to pay a few hundred $ + for these programs as you need a professional solution).

Here you can find an open source solution: http://www.bacula.org/en/

A daily or weekly backup of a network requires a lot of space, even if you use incremental backups. Expect a few TB (check for Iomage or Buffalo solutions)

Edited by webfact
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Thanks for your feedback. Our office network dates back to telex machines, and it has never been developed according to any kind of plan or budget. It is a dog's breakfast of randomly selected PCs and laptops that has mutated into being over the past 20 years.

Staff have traditionally bought their own equipment out of their own budgets without consulting the nominal IT guy who has no effective authority at all. This has lead to all kinds of stupidity - for example we have *FOURTEEN* laser printers in an office with only 20 PCs! Staff traditionally have admin rights to their computers and install anything they like. They also happen to like these freedoms and don't want to give them up.

In terms of file space, they've never faced any quota other than what they can fit on their hard drives, and they never delete anything (until the disk dies). Most of them have 100 gigs plus of accumulated rubbish, photos are the worst problem. I guess the way to deal with it is to give them a fixed quota on the file server and let them decide what they want to put there. I suspect most of them will continue to work off their own hard disk anyway, except for the odd collaborative written document.

I would love to centralise and standardise things, but it is quite difficult to change 'the system'. I'm making a bit of progress on a file server but taking away those admin rights is going to be a bit of a battle.

Ok I'll try to stop bitching now.

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In terms of file space, they've never faced any quota other than what they can fit on their hard drives, and they never delete anything (until the disk dies).

Coincidentally, the boss's hard drive died yesterday. Trying to recover it with Spinrite but it's looking pretty ugly. Last back up...3 months ago!

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I've been in similar nightmare situations where a small business with no IT competency has grown rapidly and then brought me in to sort out the mess. I'd definitely start with trying to consolidate things centrally. Active Directory & a windows Domain is a good suggestion if you're ok with being locked into Windows. If you're dealing with a mix of OS's (Mac, Windows, unix flavours) a NAS or Linux w / samba is a cheaper alternative but it will take longer to implement and it's not as easy to administer.

After that then I'd deal with the backup issue. I've never seen the point of complete backups of desktop PC's. I prefer making an image after install for DR purposes .Redirect My Documents to a network drive & teach staff to keep all their work in My Documents. As for server backups I use rdiff-backup on a linux server onto 2 external USB drives. Simple to use , the incrementals only keep diffs and don't take up much space and it's pretty simple to restore a file to any put in time.

My other advice for Thai offices is not to be a cheapskate and use AVG or other free antivirus. They are poor at detecing any of the Thai variant viruses & trojans that every 2nd Thai office worker has on their thumbdrive. NOD 32 is good and reasonably priced for business

If they scoff at spending the money then just get out of there - its less headaches in the long term & not worth your time.

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  • 2 months later...

After much looking around I eventually decided to go with rsnapshot, which is excellent. It's basically a package for automating and rotating rsync jobs. It uses hard links to provide versioning capability and minimise use of disk space (each unique version of a file is only stored on the backup disk once, other snapshots refer to the same file via hard link). Can run jobs to remote servers over SSH. If you have Linux machines or servers to backup its well worth a look.

By default it keeps a snapshot of the filesystem taken every 4 hours for the past 24 hours, every day for the last week, weekly for the last 4 weeks and monthly for the last 3 months. So you end up with a nice time series where you can go back and retrieve particular versions of a file if you want.

Edited by Crushdepth
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