Small business server backup

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Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 3:41 pm

Hey everyone,

I've never done this before, but my friend wanted me to look into creating a server that would backup their data every night. They don't have a lot of it, it's no more than 100gb, but they want redundant automated storage. I'm think it'd be prudent to have it keep several weeks worth of copies, made every night. Do any of you have experience with a small scale setup like this? Is this possible with just a home built computer with a decent RAID setup?

To give you some more specifics, my budget would be =<$1000. For future proofing it I'd want to make sure they have ~300gb they could backup. It needs to be automated. It needs to have nightly copies. It only needs to backup 7 days worth of copies. There is already a server that stores the 100gb of data. So it'd be easier to just pull the data via the network during the middle of the night (they run normal 9-6 business hours).
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:48 pm

What form factor? Desktop or rackmount?

If desktop, maybe 3 drives. 1 for the OS, 2 as a mirror for the storage. What OS for the server? Can you set a cron job to copy stuff to something like a FreeNAS share? Or is it in the Windows ecosystem? Do they have backup software already that you can leverage or will you need software as well?
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 6:08 pm

Actually, you could also just add more drives (or an external USB drive) to the existing server and just duplicate the data there. If external, maybe alternate weeks between 2 drives. The only real info you've given is "cheap" without any hints of the environment or existing server setup, if they want a wholely separate machine for the data to be available immediately, if they just want the data stored, etc. If it's *nix I assume some nerd can talk about using rsync with cron or whatever the kids are using nowadays. If Windows, maybe that software that Damage used a few months ago is appropriate. I mean, Windows Server costs like $800 right there if that's the intention which leaves $200 for hardware, so you really need to nail down some of the specifics.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:20 pm

Remember that it's not a backup if it needs less than a nuclear warhead to destroy all copies. Look into something like CrashPlan for offsite storage.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:29 pm

OK, if you are *only* worried about local backup then an easy solution is this: Get a 1TB (maybe 2TB for future growth) drive that is big enough to hold 7 copies of the contents of whatever you are trying to backup. Hook it up to the system using a USB3 enclosure or a networked NAS appliance might work too. Then schedule an incremental backup utility (e.g. rsync) to 7 different directories on the drive, one for each day of the week.

Another option would be to partition the drive into 7 partitions and mount one partition each day for the backup process. It's more complex but here's the advantage: you only mount a partition during a backup operation and the partition is completely unaccessable the rest of the time to avoid inadvertent/malicious corruption of files in a backup partition. Even for a single partition, I would recommend unmounting the external drive whenever you aren't doing a backup operation to reduce the likelihood of a malware/fatfinger deletion event occurring.

Everything I described above can be done for a one-time hardware purchase fee plus the time or optionally money to setup the system. If you want network backup, that adds another layer of complexity (and likely ongoing cost) to the equation.
Last edited by chuckula on Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:06 pm

What kind of data is this?

Edit: Also, what kind of restoration is needed? A bare metal restore is different from just data.
Last edited by Flatland_Spider on Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:54 pm

RAID is used for uptime, not backups (unless you rotate disks out of a RAID 1 and do off-site storage).

Working under the premise of simple files (documents, photo's, etc.), I would suggest a RAID 1 and an off-site storage solution like bthylafh said. Files that are constatnly accessed/open (like DB's) get to be a little bit more tricky.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:11 pm

bthylafh wrote:Remember that it's not a backup if it needs less than a nuclear warhead to destroy all copies. Look into something like CrashPlan for offsite storage.


Offsite is good idea to compliment an onsite solution for back up and not your only backup. Local backups are still needed (and will usually be called upon to recover data before any cloud solution). There are just too many things that can go wrong depending on a cloud based solution for all of your backups such as the internet connection.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:21 pm

I have a very small scale setup going in my folks' home. There is a Windows Home Server with a couple of 2TB drives. All the other computers they have run Windows 8. It has this nifty feature called FileHistory - basically does incremental backups and versioning just like MacOS X with Time Machine. So I've set up the backup "drive" as a share on the WHS. The shares map to folders on the 2TB drives. The folders themselves are backed up by Crashplan with their $6/month unlimited backup plan.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:27 pm

So I checked out their setup last night...

Form factor would be desktop. This is a ~10-12 person business. They have an original desktop server that's about 10 years old. It's running windows server 2000. It has a 250gb drive partitioned three times. 50-100-100 is the rough partition breakdown. They only need the two large drives (document data drive and PoS data drive).

They aren't excited about a cloud service. They want something small, no monthly charge and on site. They aren't worried about "acts of god" disasters. If they were to use a cloud service, they'd probably want something really inexpensive and low key, like quarterly backups. Sid, you mentioned Crashplan. I checked it out, looks like that might be viable for their needs (pricewise). Was it easy to setup? Was there a size constraint?

Apparently they have Nova Backup running to backup one of their random computers and some of the PoS data. So I may just be able to build a NAS and have it backup to that. Any thoughts on that?

In any case, I really appreciate all your input, we were up till 3:30am working on recovering data. Cryptolocker is a hater.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:06 pm

For such a small operation with no IT staff, a cloud solution is going to be the most reliable and automated way to get good backups. I can vouch for Backblaze. It works as advertised and is very cheap.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:34 pm

shaq_mobile wrote:So I checked out their setup last night...

Form factor would be desktop. This is a ~10-12 person business. They have an original desktop server that's about 10 years old. It's running windows server 2000. It has a 250gb drive partitioned three times. 50-100-100 is the rough partition breakdown. They only need the two large drives (document data drive and PoS data drive).

They aren't excited about a cloud service. They want something small, no monthly charge and on site. They aren't worried about "acts of god" disasters. If they were to use a cloud service, they'd probably want something really inexpensive and low key, like quarterly backups. Sid, you mentioned Crashplan. I checked it out, looks like that might be viable for their needs (pricewise). Was it easy to setup? Was there a size constraint?

Apparently they have Nova Backup running to backup one of their random computers and some of the PoS data. So I may just be able to build a NAS and have it backup to that. Any thoughts on that?

In any case, I really appreciate all your input, we were up till 3:30am working on recovering data. Cryptolocker is a hater.


I would be concerned about the original file server running an OS that is 13 years old. I would seriously begin looking into replacing that. Maybe read this thread: viewtopic.php?f=33&t=87234

It described a similar low-cost desktop server. Though again, cost of an updated server OS would be like $850. I don't know how old the Nova Backup is, but you might have to update that too if it's an old Win2K version: http://www.novastor.com/en/software/windows-backup

I think a NAS or external USB drive(s) would be appropriate price/performance for you, then, and just have Nova dump the data there. And of course an offsite backup is also excellent to have. Are they running gigabit or 100mbps on their LAN? Is it that old?

Is this for a restaurant? Maybe the server runs PoS software and it's nontrivial (or cheap) to replace it, then. Hmmm.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:26 pm

I can get more information tonight. Last night was mostly assessing what data we could rescue and trying to make sure all the other machines were clean.

They can't get a hold of their original tech who set everything up. I don't know enough about their setup to feel comfortable recommending replacing the server (like you said, it may be running the PoS software, I need to look into it). It is old and definitely could use an overhaul. I want to give them a chance to get a hold of their original tech before I start playing with anything serious.

Nova Backup is installed on a secondary machine, not backing up server info, but backing up one user's documents to an external USB drive.

Their PoS data is being backed up onto a thumbdrive from the server network share by Nova Backup. So I guess the entire time they could have just duplicated that setup for the other server drive to their USB. Lol. Owned. Oh well.

I'll read the thread you linked.

BTW this isn't for a restaurant, it's for a high end home furniture store. While we were waiting for data recovery to finish, I got to drink a few brews on a $12,000 sectional and later a $4,000 recliner. It was nice to be rich for an evening. I'll get a six of High Life tonight for round two and then I'll be living up to the beer's name.


Sounds like so far I need to do some more research on what runs on their server, if they are interested in a new one or just a NAS, a small cloud service option for those backups of backups :D and what type of hard drives I need.

Anyone have a recommendation for very reliable hard drives? Would SSD's be a legit option with storage amounts this low? I guess my logic behind that would be less power, less moving parts and excessive potential storage isn't needed. The main downside would be price, I think...
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:55 pm

Yeah, PoS and multiple terminals, first thing I thought of was a food place. Makes sense, retail.

You can use SSDs but a 256 GB Samsung 840 Pro is like $250. I doubt they need the speed and a furniture store is big enough that I bet any hard drive sound will be lost to ambient noise. I put 8 of these into a RAID so I'm not hatin' on them, just don't think it'd give you any real benefit versus the price.

As a counter, I am deploying the heck out of these to new workstations in my business and it definitely makes things feel snappy. And, at the very least, it cuts down on IT time spent on installing updates and whatnot when servicing the workstations. That's like 75% of the reason I'm deploying them company-wide.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Mon Dec 02, 2013 5:48 pm

Yeah SSD's are still a tad gimmicky in some respects but I'd definitely like to see them in the business place a little more often. We are still in the weird thought process of buying new machines every three years (how much more power does word 2013 need than 2010?) Seems a bit inefficient when you could just pop an SSD in and resolve the most office tangible issues with computer speed. Oh well.
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Re: Small business server backup

Postposted on Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:24 pm

shaq_mobile wrote:Yeah SSD's are still a tad gimmicky in some respects but I'd definitely like to see them in the business place a little more often. We are still in the weird thought process of buying new machines every three years (how much more power does word 2013 need than 2010?) Seems a bit inefficient when you could just pop an SSD in and resolve the most office tangible issues with computer speed. Oh well.


Yeah, I'm rolling it into the costs of new workstations and when we replace those eventually, reuse the SSD and the replacement cost looks smaller. DOUBLE HERO TIME FOR IT. :D
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