Enterprise backup for a small office full of non-savvy people.
October 31, 2012 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Kinda-managed backup for a small office. Help me make a choice between several options? Challenge: broke ass non-profit.

Hi. Among other parts of my job, I manage the IT in our office. We have ~9 employees in our office plus 3 at a remote office. We have federal grants, so we absolutely are required to have fully redundant backups as part of our Continuing Operation Plan. Our internet service isn't awesome and our upstream is crap. All machines at this point are Windows 7, a few of the interns use old XP laptops.

Our current setup is as such:
1. Big office has a huge old server box setup by a sheister company in town, running windows XP. It's a dumb file dump. Drives are SATA1, no raid. I've got everyone dumping to individual folders there, as well as using dropbox for critical file backup. This system is ~7 years old and I'm amazed it hasn't failed already.

2. The remote office has 0 people who are even remotely savvy. When I upgraded their router (a d-link with DD-WRT), I plugged in a 32gb flash drive and now their critical files are backed up to that using SyncToy automatically. Clearly, 32Gb doesn't cut it for anything but text, and we generate a fair amount of media.

So here are my thoughts:
I need local hard backup because our internet goes down regularly. I need remote backup in case the building burns down or equipment is stolen. Once I have the drive space, I will image every system and then work on the backups.

Do I:
* Synology at each office?
* Take old hardware (or build a new box) and unRaid at both locations?
* I'm not much of a fan of FreeNas (because unRaid kicks its butt, imo)

Then do I:
*Sync to s3? This is what I do at home
*Sync to google drive? We use google hosted for email/etc.
*Dropbox commercial?

Complication: I intend to leave within the next year to start a full time IT company, and I don't want to get callbacks to manage it because they can't afford to pay for the service.

I feel like by the time I build a sexy unraid or freenas box I could have probably just purchased a synology, but I also would go dual gigabit in the custom box and wind up with more, faster space.
posted by TomMelee to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get the Synology, because next year they can buy support if they need it.

As for getting it to the cloud, Synology syncs to Amazon S3. S3 is cheap, and amazon offers support.

Look into Synology's "Storage Cloud" feature to get people to put files that require backing up in the appropriate places. This also simplifies recovery from the interwebs being down and distributing workgroup files between sites.

Ask Amazon for their SSAE 16 and put it on file before you put any data out there to show due diligence in evaluating the service.

And I seem to recall you being in the same region as me, so if you ever need an IT security consultant with the new IT company, let me know ;)
posted by bfranklin at 8:14 AM on October 31, 2012

Even if internet goes down sometimes, wouldn't a solution like Carbonite work okay? Incremental backups are pretty light once you get the initial thing backed up.

My parents run a very small business with two very obsolete Win XP computers in a peer-to-peer environment, and Carbonite saved their bacon when they lost their accounting computer. When users don't know from tech, the beauty of it is that it's doing it in the background. You will NEVER get non-tech users to take active steps to protect their data.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:32 AM on October 31, 2012

Wasn't Carbonites reputation terrible just a few years ago? As in, people went to restore and discovered all their backups were corrupt?

Possibly its improved over the years. But I agree with the point that it's good to have a backup that runs in the background without intervention.
posted by outlier at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: bfranklin- Thanks. I haven't had a chance to play with a Synology, only unraid and freenas in the past. They do seem to have pretty killer ratings. I'm sure I can find out more on the website, but do they do file-revision tracking, and/or can we sync files between the two offices? (Like most recent copies of forms, for example?) Can I cheat, and let the small office upload to S3 and then let the Synology pull it down to mirror?

I have not considered Carbonite because I feel that it is both a) intrusive and b)unnecessarily expensive. I'd need 12 accounts at $60/year or else have to sync all files to one location first and then upload them. (This was the original solution, and is unsatisfactory unless I'm not understanding something.)

I also actually resell JungleDisk, which is a fantastic service, and all machines can go onto the same account in different folders, but it's not intuitive for regular folks.

Thanks for the responses, my internet @ home just went down right after I posted this, so now I'm tethering my phone so I can get some work done. :)

Also, FWIW, I'm in North Central WV. :)
posted by TomMelee at 10:55 AM on October 31, 2012

Best answer: The Synology is a fine idea and probably better for what they need than a more fully-built box. You don't mention how much data they have. My guess is they're running a DSL or another slow connection. Unless they only have a couple GB of backup data, the initial seeding for online backup is going to take weeks, or possibly months. Don't take the chance that the data is lost in the meantime.

I would strongly recommend you go buy at least one external SATA drive right now and create an offsite backup of everything they have. In fact, I'd buy several SATA drives and rotate them out so that there is one off-site at all times. Unless you've got an ultra fast connection, or really low priority data, network-based backup should be the last resort for off-site backup, not the first. Once it's up and running, backup the Synology device(s) to your SATA drives for continuous, local off-site backup.

In addition, train the users to use the NAS for all their data. Local PCs generally aren't (and shouldn't be) backed up. People can store things in too many locations on a PC. Better for them to put their data in a specific place than for you to be responsible for finding and backing it up on multiple machines.

I don't see imaging the machines, unless you're going to build clean images for them. It ends up being a huge amount of data to image a machine, and chances are that a broken machine will be replaced rather than repaired. Not all image formats are easily opened to extract data, if you're counting on using images as data backups.
posted by cnc at 10:57 AM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: cnc-
Good points, thanks. We have cable, but it's notoriously unreliable and you're right that it will take some time for upload to complete on initial data. Right now there is only ~250gb of data, however this is partially because it ran of out space 6 months ago and partially because not enough stuff is being backed up. Realistically I see us keeping about 1Tb in continuous backup, especially ESPECIALLY as I move us as close to paperless as possible.

I do have everything separately backed up on my own spare drives, but this is obviously not ideal.

I will, of course, make people save to the NAS, although some users are off the network for long stretches and will need automated sync.

Images will be made for every machine in top form, because we've got unsavvy individuals and no money for replacement machines. Besides, I'm not going to drop them like a bad habit after I leave, they'll just have to pay me separately. Because we have multiple employees who are literally never in the office, I get some crazy bidness happening on those machines.
posted by TomMelee at 11:04 AM on October 31, 2012

Best answer: At the moment CrashPlan is offering a really big discount on their remote backup: 1 year unlimited free for 1 computer, 1 year unlimited $50 for multiple computers. (Any email address will work on the site form, you don't have to have a Carbonite account.)
posted by nicebookrack at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: Whoa that's a nice find. Thanks.
posted by TomMelee at 6:34 PM on October 31, 2012

Yes, their "Time Backup" feature does versioning. Don't think you can mirror S3 out of the box, but you can likely hack a solution to that (run a bare bones server in the amazon cloud that exports the files to the synology).
posted by bfranklin at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2012

Response by poster: Ok, so the final solution hasn't exactly shown itself yet. I must have looked at the wrong synology boxes before, because now I'm seeing a 4 drive unit at ~$600 w/o drives, so figure $1100-$1200 to fill it with 3 or 4tb drives.

Looks like I can throw together a 5 drive (striped/duped/parity, or just dupe/parity) unRaid system for like $700 at the outside, if I go with higher-end guts.

Now I need to figure out where to buy a ScanSnap, because our copier just doesn't cut it.
posted by TomMelee at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2012

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