In the computer tech and IT forums that I frequent, it seems there is always discussion about backups. What works best, or someone asking the questino to the community on how they personally handle backups; do you use onsite backups or offsite, tapes or disk. The list goes on and on.
While the backup market is huge with a number of players in the game including extremely large companies like Symantec down to really small open source guys like duplicati. It’s an ocean out there in regards to this topic and each backup solution is a fish. Each varying in characteristics and abilities but one thing remains the same; you need to catch a fish.
When I started my IT business, one of the first items on my todo list was to find a backup solution. One that fit my pricing model while also giving my clients peace of mind but more importantly, covering my ass. I tell all of my techs this, you can replace hardware and software but you can NEVER replace data.
Coming from a higher ed organization we had some resources to throw at problems but never enough to do it right. So we had duct tapped together some open source apps along with some in-house scripts to achevie our backups. We used the 3-2-1 backup strategy, 3 copies, 2 formats, and 1 copy offsite, and while that’s a great rule to go by if you have the resources, a lot of small businesses will not have the funds to do something like this. The strategy that I use is similar to the 3-2-1, but it would be more of a 2-1-1. It works for us.
I knew that I wanted to keep a copy of the data on-site and one off-site. I knew that I wanted to keep an image of the servers if the server went belly up but I also wanted to ensure that I had the data. Ideally, I’d take the server image offsite but the problem was most of the businesses we dealt did not have large connections, typically a 10×1. Uploading 30-100GB would take a while. I realize that some companies do offer an image differational backup solution but for our market, I could never justify it to the client.
When I initially started testing solutions, some of solutions I tested included ToDo Backup, Redo Backup, StorageCraft, Disk2VHD, Macrium Reflect and some others. I actually used StorageCraft for some time but it never felt right to me. A lot of companies swear by it and that’s great if it fits your needs but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get behind it. One thing that did turn me off to them however is when they changed their MSP pricing model. We were just starting out, with no capital, and StorageCraft implemented a minimum monthly charge which we just couldn’t make.
In any case, I settled on Macrium’s Reflect product for on-site images. When we bring on a new client, we just simply purchase a license for that company and off we go. No recurring fees and the product just works. I especially like the fact I can mount the image and extract files if needed. The way I do backups is just simply full backups every night. Some may frown upon this but we have a full nuts to bolts backup every night for the past four or five days depending on the size of the server.
The next piece to my puzzle was off-site backups. I had toyed with the idea of using duplicati to push data to Amazon’s S3 service and did that for a while but the current version (1.3.x) is a userland process and not a service. This could cause some backups to just not happen. I then moved to LogMeIn’s backup product and ran into several issues with it in regards to not being able to backup some files. Their support was very unhelpful and in all honesty, I feel that their backup product is a second class citizen in their organization. Very rarely do they update it and like I said, their support was lacking.
I eventually found and started using CrashPlan’s Enterprise solution which has got to be one of the best file based backup solutions I’ve found. Their monthly fees are reasonable and they give unlimited storage. Like every off-site solution, you must do the inital sync which takes a while depending on storage usage but the app has the ability to adjust when it runs. It also can limit the amount of bandwidth it uses and so on.
One last area that I want to touch on. Above, we make the assumption that there is a server invovled. For instances that has no server but more something along the lines of a NAS unit, such as where I replaced an aging 2003 server with a Synology NAS, I’ve used the built-in Synology Glacier app to do file based backups. This has worked very well and the cost is relatively small.
So, there you have it. This is how we, as a small IT provider dealing with small businesses and small non-profits handle backups. I hope this helps give you some insight.