A Better Way to Backup Your Data

ManageOps has been building and supporting networks for a long time. And during most of that time we’ve had a real love-hate relationship with most of the backup technologies we’ve implemented and/or recommended.

Tape backups – although they are arguably the best technology for long-term archival storage – are a pain to manage. Tapes wear out. Tape drives get dirty. People just don’t do test restores as often as they should. As a result, all too often, the first time you realize that you’ve got a problem with your backups is when you have a data loss, try to restore from your backups, and find out that they’re no good.

Add to that the astronomical growth in storage capacity, meaning that all the data you need to back up often won’t fit on one tape any more. So, unless you have someone working the night shift who can swap out the tape when it gets full, you’re faced with…

  • Buying multiple tape drives, which typically means you’re going to spend more on your backup software. And if your servers are virtualized, where are you going to install those tape drives?
  • Buying a tape library (a.k.a. autoloader), which can also get expensive.
  • Changing the tape when you come in the next morning, which means that your network performance suffers because you’re trying to finish the backup job(s) while people are trying to get work done.

Then there’s the issue of getting a copy of your data out of the building. Typically, that’s done by having multiple sets of tapes, and a designated employee who takes one set home every Friday and brings the other set in. If s/he remembers. Or isn’t sick or on vacation.

Backing up to external hard drives is a reasonable alternative for some. It solves the capacity issue in most cases. But over the years, we’ve seen reliability issues with some manufacturers’ units. We’ve uncovered nagging little issues like some units that don’t automatically come back on line after a power interruption. And they’re not necessarily the best for long-term archival storage, unless you keep them powered on – or at least power them on once in a while – because hard disks that just sit for long periods of time may develop issues with the lubrication in their bearings and not want to spin back up.

But we’ve finally found an approach that we really, really like. One that, as one of our engineers said in an internal email thread, we actually enjoy managing. In fact, we like it so much we built a backup appliance around it. It’s Microsoft’s System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM).

In this installment of the ManageOps Video Series, our own Scott Gorcester gives you a quick overview of SCDPM 2010:

For more detail on how it works, check out the description of our MooseSentryTM backup appliance.

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