When It All Goes Wrong.

As most of you know we deal solely with small business.  We are talking mostly, really small, circa less than 20 users.  However, those users are just as likely to delete an important file, and all the other risks are there, fire flood, server failure etc.  Arguably more so as a lot of small businesses are now located in massive buildings with many other small businesses all running equipment from god knows where, and hardly any of it installed in a professional way.   A great example is that I do not have one customer whose servers are located in a purpose build server room with air conditioning.  I know, I can hear all you engineers from big money businesses rolling your eyes.  The simple fact of the matter is the money is simply not there, consequently we are constantly dealing with make do and mend.

Traditionally small business backups have been a few, in some cases two, in some cases five, external hard disks, using Windows backup tools, which for the most part work perfectly.  We can restore an entire server fairly quickly.  This was a perfect solution for the SBS product line where there was a single server therefore a single image.  However, since Microsoft ditched the product line and made us install Exchange on a separate server this has caused a big issue, all of a sudden there are two servers, which need two lots of Backup devices even if they are installed in one VMWare Environment. 

Now we really did not want to have to retrain our entire customer base in how to check their backups, and we really wanted a way to keep a track of them, as windows no longer has a friendly way to e-mail a backup log to us each day.  Oh, I miss the SBS administrator e-mails.  So, we have had to get creative in finding a solution to this.  I know a lot of you are going say, oh that’s easy just use an online backup service.  Yeah, try and get a director to pay for that!  I was really impressed with the Datto solution, however selling it proved to be really, really hard.  Customers loved all the features, and the fact that it had built in Virtualisation technology so they could fire up a server if theirs failed in a few minutes.  But the E-brake went on as soon as the monthly subscription costs was uttered, bear in mind, for some of them, this was more than half of what they pay me for an entire month’s support.

So we had to get creative.  We have played with many different NAS devices over the years but the one that we really like is the Synology products as they really do offer something that is super affordable for small business.  The product line offers single drive, two drives, four drive and larger arrays and they include iSCSI.  Which gives us a great way to backup maintaining all the Windows incremental backups.  If you use traditional NAS then it has to backup the entire server each time, and deletes the old image as it goes.  iSCSI maintains all the history so you can go back a day, four days, ten days etc.

The way this system works, we place into the network (normally on the second server NIC) a Synology disk station, we provide two iSCSI Luns, one for each server (more if needed) of an appropriate size, which we then connect to directly from within Windows (effectively becoming a local disk) we then use these as the backup locations from within Windows Server.  The backup rolls onto this each night, no worries about users forgetting to plug the drives in, or change them etc.  Now we use the HyperBackup built into the Synology Disk Station to roll the LUN backups onto the external hard disks (which for the most part they already have)

This allows us to roll out really good robust proven backup systems for approximately ¼ the cost of the Datto system, and with no ongoing monthly fee.   Small business loves this.  It gives them a shiny box to point at, and say that is my backup.  They have emergency off-site backups.  Also, the Disk Station monitors and e-mails us to let us know the LUN’s are being backed up, and will let us know the second one of the external disks goes wonky.