Thursday, 7 November 2013

The best of the best of the best in backup solutions

I work for a school who had no ICT operations manager for almost a year. Now that I've joined, I've managed to get them up to a decent standard in terms of network performance and usability. Out of my long list of things to do when I joined, one was to find a good back up solution as up until now there was none! Scary, I know!

As the servers are running on Windows Server 2008, the most straightforward way or so I thought would be to use Windows Backup to make full and incremental backups to an external hard drive. Therefore I went ahead and ordered an external 3TB hard drive. This was a Samsung 3TB D3 Station. It was cheap and I thought it shouldn't cause any issues as it was just for backup purposes.

Once it arrived, I attempted to connect it. As we run virtual servers, the hard drive was connected to the host server. I then used direct pass through to allow the virtual server that was going to run the backups take complete control of it. The host detected it fine and showed the 3TB partition. When I went ahead and attached it to the virtual server, it failed to recognize the partition. It only reported about 300GB in drive management. Eventually I found out that it was due to the hard drive not having 512k emulation and also some other compatibility issues. I eventually gave up with this hard drive.

At this point we were no closer to a backup solution. I then started looking into cloud backup solutions. I came across Amazon S3 and their ridiculously cheap Amazon Glacier storage. The difference between those services is that Amazon Glacier doesn't have fast access to your backed up files. If you need access, you need to request it then wait a certain amount of time, usually 4 hours, before you can restore it. But since I was going to be using it for backup anyway, this didn't seem to be a problem. All looked good until I started to look into how to perform the actual backups. It turns out that Amazons interface is very messy and very difficult to use for backup purposes.

I was about to give up on that when I discovered Cloudberry. Their Cloud backup software appears to tick all the boxes for my needs. They can backup to several cloud services including Amazon, HP, Google, Microsoft and Rackspace. The interface is pretty straight forward and offered all the options that Windows Backup offered and then some. It was also very reasonably priced compared to other backup solutions like Norton Ghost.

Cloudberry allows you to backup network shares so you can backup multiple servers to one location. It also allows you to encrypt backups before being sent to the cloud. This will allow you to protect your data and ensure that even if someone manages to intercept your backup data on route or even hack into your Amazon account, they cannot get access to your data.

I must say this is the all in one solution I have been after and would wholeheartedly recommend it to other schools. Just for comparison, I asked my local authority's ICT department what sort of backup solution they could provide. They came back with a ridiculous price of £2500 per year for 1TB of cloud storage backup. Compare that to using Cloudberry and Amazon Glacier which costs only £80 a year, you can take a guess which solution I'd be choosing.

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