SBS Backups Tape VS USB Hard Drives

Currently there is a debate raging on the yahoo small business server mailing list about what is better for servers, backing up to tape or backing up to USB Hard Drives. Like all situations there is positives and negatives to both sides.

Our views
We have been using both types of backups for our clients but lately have been making the move to USB Hard Drive most often. Lower end tape drives (Travan) have not kept up to the ever expanding size of hard drives and I have found can sometimes be unreliable. Higher end tap drives with the proper capacity are expensive and the media is very expensive (Drives cost between 1000 to 5000 dollars CAN, and media is 100.00 – 200.00 CAN per tape). The largest two advantages of a tape system however is that the media is portable and easy to store offsite and you can add additional tapes to archive data over a longer period of time.

USB Hard Drives on the other hand are very inexpensive and often you can get 4 or 5 300 GB drives in enclosures for the cost of 1 lower end tape drive. There are a couple of problems that can occur with USB hard drives. The drives are more fragile than tape media. Dropping the enclosure can result in significant damage that renders the backups on it useless. The drives are bulkier than tape media. As well if a part of a backup set get’s corrupted due to bad media, the whole backup set may be useless, whereas with a tape the corrupted part of the media could still be skipped and the rest of the backup files restored. The biggest advantages are that they are fast (USB 2), they can hold much more data than a tape and they are inexpensive!

What have we been doing for our clients? Currently for Small business we are recommending a minimum of 2 USB Hard Drives in a rotation at minimum. Ideally 3 or 4 would be better. 1 Drive backs up 1 week and is rotated out and stored off site, and then the other drive is substitued. With a 3 or 4 drive system one drive could be used for archiving monthly backups. In addition with the cost of external hard drives dropping on a regular basis a new drive could be added every 5 to 6 months to store and archive backups.

Off site storage and archiving is very important. Many things can happen to a physical location (Fires, Theft, Flooding) and if there is no backup taken off site, important company data could be lost. For companies that are publicly traded and operating in the US, Sarbannes Oxley regulations force them to maintain archives of 7 years of all their data and email. Think to yourself. What would happen to my business if all of our data was wiped out today? A well planned, maintained and tested disaster recovery plan is well worth any cost in implementing!

We would be happy to discuss backup solutions with any of our exisiting clients or new clients. Soon we will be contacting everyone for a review of their existing disaster recover plans and where shortfalls may lie.

To the same affect most home users should also implement some sort of backup system. Often we work on PCs where there is a failure of either physical components or software issues where we attempt (and are usually successful) at recovering data, however this can become very expensive and time consuming.

There is an old IT expression that states “you are only as good as your last backup!” So true!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *