Sick of Backup Exec, is there a better way to back up servers?

Discussion in 'Windows Networking' started by google, Aug 13, 2005.

  1. google

    google Guest


    I'm sure many of you share my frustration with current backup
    technology, and are looking for a better way.
    But what's the better way?

    First, let me explain my problem:
    My company provides IT services to small businesses.

    Our typical client has:
    -One Windows 2000 or 2003 server (domain controller, file and print
    server) or sometimes SBS
    -Most have a few files that stay open at night
    -Many have Exchange
    -Some have SQL
    -A few have extra servers

    Most servers have DAT drives (20/40GB or 36/72GB) or AIT, with 10 tapes
    for 2-week rotation (1 week stored offsite,) and Backup Exec 9.1 or
    10.0 with the appropriate modules (for Exchange, SQL, open files,
    remote agents etc.) Usually a full backup is performed every weeknight,
    except for clients with a lot of data where it's full on weekends and
    differential on other days. The servers are set up to email or FTP
    their backup logs to a central location we monitor every morning.

    We manage about 30 such clients, and growing fast.

    Our responsibilities include checking all backup logs every morning and
    resolving any issues, preferably remotely, or go onsite if repairs are

    IN AN IDEAL WORLD, here is what would happen:
    -We assign one technician to check the backup logs from those 30
    -He quickly scans each log (30 seconds each) and verifies that each
    backup is a success.
    -In 15 minutes, he is done.
    -Every month, we go onsite, clean the drive, run a test backup/restore.
    -We are confident that at any time, we can restore any data files,
    databases, or mailboxes remotely within minutes.
    -We are confident that if a server crashes and burns, we can repair it
    and restore all functionality within 24 hours.
    -We are confident that if a client's server room is destroyed, there is
    a good set of tapes offsite and we can build a replacement server and
    reload all data, losing no more than 1 week of work.
    -The clients are confident.
    -We can sleep at night.

    IN THE REAL WORLD, unfortunately, here is how it goes:
    -Our technician repeatedly finds obscure errors in the Backup Exec
    logs, and has to remote in to attempt to fix them.
    -Sometimes the user who was supposed to change the tape did not. We
    have clients who cannot be educated to do this reliably.
    -Some of the hardware is just not reliable. Sony AIT drives have been
    giving us frequent issues with tapes getting stuck. Tapes don't last.
    -A lot of the issues require extensive research to resolve, as there
    are numerous bugs in Backup Exec.
    -If our tech is lucky, he's done in about 1 hour, but there is no
    guarantee that all backups are working 100% at that time.
    -When we go onsite, we often have to patch or update Backup Exec,
    usually requiring a reboot that's disruptive to the clients. This is
    however necessary to fix major bugs. The new version usually has even
    more bugs!
    -The clients cannot understand why, almost every year, they have to pay
    more money for an upgrade to their Backup Exec software.
    -We are confident that at any time, we can restore some version of a
    data file remotely within minutes.
    -When it comes to SQL databases or Exchange, we're not really
    -As for the prospect of a bare metal restore, we can only pray. Will it
    really work with the various RAID configurations, dynamic disks, and
    other non-standard partitioning schemes? More likely than not, we'll
    have to rebuild the server from scratch, reload all software, and it
    will be a 3-day job rather than 1 day.
    -Offsite storage is OK for most clients except those who don't change
    the tapes, but they have been told in writing that this is
    irresponsible, so it's not our problem anymore. Let them lose data and
    go out of business, they've signed it away!
    -The clients are kind of confident (because they don't know better,)
    but they question why the backup software costs so much and why a major
    restore should take so long.
    -I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat imagining a client who loses
    critical data and cannot get it back. Hasn't happened so far, but I'm

    -Disk capacity has outgrown tape capacity. Some of our clients have
    large CAD files that don't fit on tape anymore. We want something that
    scales up, and I'm not talking about swapping tapes in the middle of
    the night.
    -External USB hard drives are cheap, big and reliable. We're thinking
    of going that way.
    -Backup Exec's management of disk-based backup is horrendous and
    counterintuitive. For instance, if the disk location is unavailable at
    any time, the drive goes offline forever and future backups just don't
    -$1,500 is about as high as most small business clients will pay for a
    backup solution (between hardware and software) so most autoloaders are
    out. The cost of Backup Exec already often exceeds the hardware cost,
    and that's hard for clients to swallow.
    -We'd like to find a "one size fits most" solution so we can
    standardize backup procedures. This will make our internal training and
    management easier.

    We are thinking of dumping Backup Exec altogether. ArcServe is probably
    worse, and Retrospect's interface is weird. So we're exploring outside
    the box.
    I've been looking at a product like Paragon Drive Backup, which is more
    like a disk imaging program. It appeals to me because:
    -It apparently works fine with open files, databases, Exchange etc. Any
    real-world experiences about how this really works?
    -It can supposedly do a bare metal restore on most SCSI, RAID, dynamic
    disk configurations. This would cut downtime by many hours in a major
    disaster. Again, any experiences?
    -It can be used to restore individual files if desired.
    We're thinking of combining Paragon Drive Backup (perhaps a weekly
    backup to USB HDD) with daily backups of all data using good old
    NTBACKUP, because it's so darn simple!

    Are we crazy or what? Do the challenges we face seem familiar? Have you
    found a solution that really works and lets you sleep at night?

    Thanks for the input!

    google, Aug 13, 2005
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  2. Hi Yves

    I will get a lot of argument on this but here goes my opinion. ALL of my
    clients are small business with 30 or fewer WS. I support 15 SBS installs at
    this time most remote. About 3/4 of the customers are still on tape and one
    is using Veritas. The best solutions I have are USB 2.0 Hard drives running
    SBS Wizard Total Backup daily with the drives rotated daily. My Church had a
    Perc4 Array controller failure which wiped the Data on both SCSI drives on
    the Dell server. After the controller was replaced I restored the server in
    1:15 from the USB drive and all was well.

    The only USB Backup failus I have had in two years have been when the
    customer failed to turn on the USB drive when replacing. I get this in my
    morning email and a call to customer fixes this :>)

    I have had more problems with the tape customers than I care to talk
    about!!! The conventional wisdom is Tape. I no longer believe this. Educate
    the customer to handle the USB drives carefully and you can sleep.

    As far as Paragon is concerned that is a superb product and I have used
    images to replace drives with larger ones expanding on the fly with no
    problems. The advantage over Ghost is that Paragon works within Windows and
    doesn't require boot floppy.

    My recommendation is 3 USB drives in rotation so that one is ALLWAYS off
    site and use Ntbackup.
    Frank McCallister SBS MVP, Aug 13, 2005
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  3. Software:
    SBSBackup daily, and Paragon live image scheduled weekly.

    Mix of DDS4, DLT, USB 2. One system backs up to internal IDE (dedicated)
    weekdays, except thursday - backup is re-directed to DDS4 for off-site.
    Automatically switches backup destination using method on Sean Daniel's

    The DLT is the most convenient and reliable long term, but is more expensive
    than the other options. USB works quite well, but when a USB drive fails
    during backup, it can cause the sbs to become unresponsive requiring a site
    visit. I've seen a number of USB drives from various manufacurers fail
    shortly after a year of daily use.

    Disaster recovery is well documented when using SBSBackup, and works well.
    The Paragon image restore process boots from CD, and greatly reduces the
    time required for a complete system recovery.

    Using SBSBackup ensures you get immediate notification of a backup failure
    by email alert.
    Les Connor [SBS Community Member - SBS MVP], Aug 13, 2005
  4. In
    Got a link for that?
    Also would be nice to have a link...
    Yep...but it's worth it. SDLT/Ultrium more often nowadays. It's expensive,
    but it works.
    Me, too. I'm not a fan for anything other than small/home offices.
    Lanwench [MVP - Exchange], Aug 13, 2005
  5. Frank McCallister SBS MVP, Aug 13, 2005
  6. In
    Thanks, Frank. I love this:

    "Imagine all your hard disks living so safe! "

    Not sure that I'd want to rely on this for a DC running Exchange....I tend
    to be cautious with servers.
    Have you tried the Acronis server imaging stuff?

    Also, I strongly recommend that everyone check out and take a
    look at Recovery Manager for Exchange (formerly Aelita's product). It is
    truly fantastic, and not expensive.

    Lanwench [MVP - Exchange], Aug 13, 2005
  7. google

    Leythos Guest

    If you've had more problems with tape than with external USB drives,
    then one of the two is the only reason:

    1) User fails to change tape on schedule
    2) You bought unreliable tape system (travan)

    I've never had a problem with tape on more than 400 servers across the
    US, even when the user forgets to change the tape - we don't auto-eject
    the tapes any more in case they forget to change it once or on a

    With external drives you run the same risk as with the internal drives,
    power issues, normal always spinning faults, etc....

    I should also point out that we've experienced no problems with USB
    drive backups, but I trust them less due to their specific environment
    and nature of the media.
    Leythos, Aug 13, 2005
  8. In
    I agree w/r/t tape. I use it all the time - I just make my clients buy good
    kit. Haven't had a disaster with one yet. They've saved my __ on a number of
    occasions, as well.
    Lanwench [MVP - Exchange], Aug 13, 2005
  9. Actually, I've been presently surprised at the speed and ease of a bare
    metal restore with Paragon. The second best thing is the price - for $50 or
    $100 US (depending on what version you get). Considering what you can pay
    from other manufacturers for similar functionality it's huge value.

    Their tech support people are accessible as well, and they only seem to have
    1 level ;-).
    Les Connor [SBS Community Member - SBS MVP], Aug 13, 2005
  10. In
    Nice. But what about online backups of Exchange, AD, whatnot?
    Lanwench [MVP - Exchange], Aug 13, 2005
  11. google

    Steve Guest

    Steve, Aug 13, 2005
  12. google

    Russ Grover Guest

    Bravo, Frank, another guy who's sick of TAPES like me.. UGH!...

    Russ Grover
    Small Business IT Support
    16086 SW Melinda St.
    Beaverton OR 97007-6303 USA
    Email: Sales at

    Russ Grover, Aug 14, 2005
  13. It's a real time snapshot, all or nothing (allthough you can do file level
    restores from the image). It doesn't replace NTbackup (or, in this case

    If the the server goes kaupt - you boot from the Paragon Recovery CD, plop
    down your partitions - resizing is a sidenote - and data, boot up, fix a
    couple of minor things (event logs give you the resolution) - and you're
    back up to where you were at the point of image. You expend about 20-30
    minutes on this piece. Then use your backup to get current.

    Les Connor [SBS Community Member - SBS MVP]
    SBS Rocks !

    "Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
    Les Connor [SBS Community Member - SBS MVP], Aug 14, 2005
  14. google

    Joe Rom King Guest

    Hello Lanwench

    You can install DataMills Relative Rev Backup ( ) on
    each of your servers. Then with the guide of the backup wizard, select what
    folders/files/partitions you want to backup, and select the disk that you
    want to backup your data into.

    Then based on your configured schedule, this software will initiate
    incremental backups, and will keep your desired number of
    daily/weekly/monthly backup versions. The end-result is a fast backup
    system, which uses very low backup space to give you many backup versions to
    restore from.

    Joe Rom King -

    Hassle Free Eternal Incremental Backup to Disk Software

    Slashing backup time & space; minimizing attention.

    Extending data restore-reach beyond days and weeks.

    "Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
    Joe Rom King, Aug 14, 2005
  15. google

    google Guest

    Thanks everyone for the input.
    This Firestreamer sounds like another NTBackup helper app, like Backup
    Assist, right?
    We have experimented with Backup Assist and it only added another layer
    of unreliability to the system. We no longer use it because it just
    didn't work. Anyone care to share their experiences with Firestreamer?
    google, Aug 14, 2005
  16. google

    google Guest

    A stupid question on this Paragon software: it's $50 or $100 indeed,
    but that's not for the "server" edition which costs $399. Does the $100
    "professional" edition run on a server OS? What are its limitations?
    The publisher's web site is not very clear on that.
    google, Aug 14, 2005
  17. It seems to me that server 2003 is supported in all versions - I think
    there's a comparison of the versions on the site.
    Les Connor [SBS Community Member - SBS MVP], Aug 14, 2005
  18. google

    Kerry Brown Guest

    I evaluated Firestreamer for a customer about six months ago. There was a
    problem with error reprting so they went with another product. Their
    technical support was very good. They have since emailed me saying they have
    fixed the problem. I haven't had time to take another look.

    Kerry Brown, Aug 14, 2005
  19. google

    Simon Guest


    What a STUPID thing to do!

    Sending out the WRONG message here....

    The failure rate of USB drives is fairly high.

    There are LOTS of company's offering Remote Site Backup via the Internet for
    the clue less.

    DAT drives are cheap - almost throw away items @ £ 365 ( one soxding pound a
    day !!)
    tape cost < £ 8 cheap enough to buy one for each day of the week (or month!)

    ah... I give up :)
    Simon, Aug 15, 2005
  20. google

    Ted Guest

    One method of backup is not enough.
    You should use at least two types of backups.

    1) I use Casper XP to mirror the main drive
    2) I use a backup program that backup my important
    data to a Network drive and a network USB drive.
    3) I put these backups on DVDs.

    USB are OK, but never relied on them too much, I had two
    freeze up on me, because they don't have adequate cooling.
    The USB drives should have a fan in them.
    My internal hard drives proved to be the best for backups.
    Ted, Aug 16, 2005
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