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Backup Advice from the School of Hard Knocks

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Posted: 23 Sep 2003

We found this excellent thread in the Support forums, and thought it was article-worthy. Providing reliable server backup is one of the cornerstone services you perform for your company, and if you don't attend to it with proper diligence (and paranoia), it can be a career buster for you and your boss.

Come see what some experts had to say about backup procedures, and then add your two bits.

The Question

Well, I just started work at a new company and they have a NetWare 6 server that I'm responsible for. The last guy set up a procedure for backing the server up, but I don't think it's right. Maybe someone here could advise.

  • On a monthly basis a full server backup takes place.
  • On a weekly basis a 'full' backup of certain folders is done
  • On a daily Basis a 'differential' of the full server is done.

So, the way I work things out, in order to do a restore of anything other than the 1st week of a month I would have to use three tapes (monthy + weekly + diff). In the first week of the month it would be two tapes (monthly + diff).

Does this make sense?

The notes in the procedure say that the weekly was cut down to a few directories to save a half hour of time when actually doing the backup as we have to be onsite late in the evening to do it. If this is the only reason, then I'm going to change the weeklies to a full server backup as well. Then I'm only looking at two tapes for a restore.


Dave Lunn

What you explained makes sense, but I don't like it as a backup scheme in today's world. It is, however, just about the cheapest way to do it.

Maybe your business is static enough that it's not critical to do any more frequently, but if there is enough change to warrant a daily backup then it ought to be a full backup of the files affected by daily changes in the business data. Much of the rest might well be done once a month.

Mike R

Do the full backups weekly. You won't be sorry if you ever need to restore.

I backup as much as I can in my nightly window (6PM - 7AM). We also dump GroupWise to disk, then back it up during the day.

Then we get all the rest every weekend.

Anders Gustafsson

I agree with the rest of the posters. I generally run full backups on six tapes:

  • Mon through Thurs
  • Friday odd
  • Friday even

That way, I can roll back one week, day by day plus one additional week if needed. Add monthly tapes for archiving if needed.

Mark Steele

The ideal solution is to do a full backup every night so you only need one set of tapes for Disaster Recovery. If the company's data is quite static then use a weekly full backup with differentials daily. Try to avoid incrementals as they need so much time in a DR situation. Don't let budgetary constraints hit your disaster recovery capability. If your company needs to spend money to assure its survival, then it's up to you to persuade them to spend it.

Mike Silverman

As you have already seen from others, while the previous individual's scheme makes sense, it is not one of the more common methodologies. However you need to ask yourself a few things:

  • What is the company's disaster recovery policy and strategy? (BTW, if they don't have one, make one!)
  • How long does a full backup take AND how long does a full restore take?
  • Does the company have any SLA's for its users on file restoration?

Your predecessor may have had some very solid reasons for doing it the way he did but now that you are there you need to make a choice.

Validate the existing methodology and see that it still fits within the organization's overall business processes or change it as you see fit.

Personally, I always strive for full backups when possible. You just never know when Suzie is going to want her 1988 spreadsheet back.

Richard Molenkamp

I find it easy to work with day-numbered tapesets. Therefore I have 15 daily tapesets and labeled them 1/16 to 15/30.

I.E. on the 7th of the month I use tapeset 7/22 etc.

This way I have backups of every weekday for two weeks. In the weekend we don't make backups, therefore these tapesets provide older backups than 15 days. Every last weekday of the month I make the monthly backup on a separate tapeset.

NOTE: Working with this day-numbered tapeset is only advisable if you make full-backups every day. Otherwise your 'weekend tapesets', the tapesets which are NOT overwritten in the weekend and therefore provide older backupdata, would be worthless.

If you have any questions you may contact Richard at

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