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I am looking at setting up a small office with 8 PCs and wanted a cost effective way of securely backing up each and every one of them? I was considering setting up a 9th PC with a RAID controller but wasn't sure if the other 8 also needed controllers installed? Sorry if its a noobish question, but im just trying to ascertain if its possible to do this myself, so any advice would be great! thanks

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Hi, there isn't really a definitive answer for this. Have you decided if you want to back up the whole system or just 'data' from each pc? – Simkill Jul 25 '13 at 10:08
up vote 2 down vote accepted

You don't need to add RAID cards on the [client] PCs. Whilst RAID is made to protect you from situations such as hardware failure, it isn't a type of backup per se, i.e. it doesn't protect you from things like human-error.

Another way to accomplish this is purchasing a NAS unit. Netgear, Synology, and Buffalo are some of the brand names that comes to mind. They come typically with their own backup implementation which should be compatible with all modern operating systems.

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thanks for the reply! Based on your advice I had a quick peek at the 'Drobo 5N 12tb'. A bit confused though, I understand that with the Drobo, I would have to install the hard drives myself but do you know if the Drobo comes with storage already installed? thanks again – user240677 Jul 25 '13 at 10:31
If it says you need to install your own drives, then you will need to install your own drives. I would recommend calling Drobo pre-sales if you have any product specific questions. I would also compare against the competition, such as Buffalo. – Simkill Jul 25 '13 at 10:38
It should say on the product title/description if it already comes with hard drives pre-installed. In any case, NAS units are relatively easy to manage as some of them are hot-swappable. I don't have experience dealing with Drobos (I own a Synology unit) but I'd imagine it's a simple as popping the lid at the front, sliding out the drive caddies, and installing the hard drives. – happy_soil Jul 25 '13 at 10:39
Thanks for your advice :] you've both been very helpful. – user240677 Jul 25 '13 at 10:45

We have a small business with critical files and I have been researching for a long time. here is what I have come up with. If you think about the possible things you need a back up or RAID for, you begin to realize why you need more than just a RAID or a single backup drive. You can have HDD errors, controller and computer driven errors, software errors and user errors.

I would recommend you start with two backups on two separate drives using something like acronis true image to do automated scheduled full and incremental backups.

A backup on a RAID is a good idea but in perspective a RAID is only for HDD errors because it does not address any of the other errors; if your controller goes bad, it will write bad data to your RAID and you need a backup to save you. But switch it around and have a controller go bad. Even if it writes bad data to the backup, with a current backup and a second backup (1 week to 1 month old) you are saved no matter what! This means it is more important to have a good backup that covers ALL the errors, sacrificing RAID if you need the extra space, before you use a RAID. So first, make sure you have enough room for three copies minimum on three different mediums. Here are the three copies.

  1. The copy you use, everyone using a computer has this copy. This copy is not a backup, it's the files you use, but it is one of the three. This is on your computers hard drive
  2. The Backup most people think of; the one where you do a full backup then incremental backups for a while. This backup is outdated the length of time between incrementals. This is on the first backup drive
  3. The backup most people forget about. Think about it, you do a full back up. Then you build on that full backup for some time, a week, a month, a year, what ever you feel comfortable with. IT guys many times do a week. But you hit a point where you need to do a full backup AGAIN so you can start building again on a fresh full backup, and you need to keep the last full backup during it so you are not without if something goes wrong during the backup process. This is on the second backup drive.

This is how it works. A general IT solution is

  • Full backup sunday the 1st (backup 1), and incremental backup daily.

  • Then, another full backup (backup 2) on sunday the 7th on another drive leaving the last week's backup (backup 1) intact.

  • Do incrementals on the new full backup (backup 2) throughout the week.

  • Overwrite backup 1 on sunday the 14th leaving the recent one from the 7th (backup 2) intact. Then you rotate backup 1 and 2 ALWAYS having a backup, even when you overwrite a backup.

So point is, you need enough space for 2 full backups on two separate mediums first before RAID. Then, after you have a minimum backup scheme, I would do a RAID for my active computer, NOT for the backups. Here's why.

Think of a RAID as a single drive that gives you a chance to fix it while it is "BAD" (i.e. a drive fails). But it does not help with hardware, software, or user errors which are also highly probable if you add the chance of all three together. Two backups of different age on two drives drives in a non-RAID does help with ALL the errors.

But a RAID will do great for the files you use actively every day in case of hard drive failure; that is you want to use the RAID for the drives you store things on everyday so you have a level of protection in between backups.This means you should centeralize your business files to a RAID; people should not store the business files on their personal drives. Email, project docs and contracts, contacts, programs, etc should be on a central server with RAID. You can even move my documents and user files to the server. Then you back up the central server as often as you can Usually 1-2 times a day. The more active the folders are, the more likely something will get missed in between backups, an the more they should be located on a RAID.

Don't forget, the more diverse the storage media, the better (external drives are not good, internal drives are good, tape is better still, cloud (like amazon S3, not dropbox) is better than tape and internal drives for reliability, but not for speed)

The farther backups are from the original data, the better. A NAS or other computer is good, a drive or tape written to then stored off site is better, cloud (amazon type) is best.

A complete scenario includes different reliable mediums at diverse distances. Start with quality server with RAID 1 or 10; do not use RAID 5 or 6!. Then, backup (incremental style) to internal drive (or another RAID) daily or more often. Then copy that back up out at the end of the month to another drive, tape, or the cloud freeing up your internal drive for the next month of backups. A scenario like this is not that expensive and is near enterprise level reliability only hindered by consumer grade hardware, software, and consumer user. But START WITH BACKUPS, then RAID.

Realize though that if you go with hardware RAID and you have a controller failure, you cannot just buy any other controller and get your array working again. With software RAID on the other hand, you can!

Our setup is a Debian Linux box with 2 drives in a software RAID 10 for our server where all of our files are stored. Then we back up much like the scheme mentioned above backing up to another internal drive in the server, and second backup to another computer. Still working towards a seond medium and/or offsite backups probably to LTO Tapes a few generations old. Gotta start somewhere though. We only have about $500 invested in our server and drives. Our IT budget is low priority compared to the tools we are investing in everyday.

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