non-Time Machine LTO3 backups: Incremental vs project-based
This is a long-winded post, but it’s a pretty critical issue for me and I would appreciate advice on a backup plan for my two-person office. I’m currently using a manual, sporadic, project-by-project routine to backup everything onto LTO3 tape. I’m thinking of going to a nightly incremental backup onto two series of LTO3 tapes, and keeping one set off-site at all times.
We use three PC’s, Intel MacPro and Intel MacBook Pro, connected on a 1 gigabit network. Most of the work and data reside on a small RAID attached to the Intel MacPro. I’m drastically increasing the size of the RAID in early December. Currently, for some glitchy reason the network is “one-way;” the Macs can see the PCs but the PCs cannot see the Macs. I’m planning to take the time, at last, to fix that in December. That way, the computer with the LTO3 tape drive will be able to see the Macs along with the other PCs it currently sees.
I use Retrospect software running an LTO3 external SCSI tape drive, attached to a PC. Individual tapes (or series of tapes) for each major client, plus a “misc” tape for smaller or one-off clients.
Current workflow: copy media, graphics, masters and project files, project-by-project, from the MacPro to the hard drive on the PC which hosts the LTO. (This is reasonably fast on the network. Then the PC can backup the files onto the LTO without slowing down the main work on the MacPro.) It’s a very hands-on process.
Advantages: it’s a very tactile system that enables me to see all of a client’s media sitting on the shelf, so that I can pull shots, etc., by pulling the individual LTO tape or tapes and loading them into the PC. I have a high level of confidence that the individual projects are backed up, as I’m doing it myself without ceding much control to Retrospect. Especially as more and more projects go tapeless, it’s neat to have an LTO backup of a given project.
Disadvantages: Shuttling files back and forth over the network is an extra step. Because it’s cumbersome, I tend to backup onto LTO less often than I should. Keeping separate series of tapes for clients may be wasteful in some cases, as I have many half-full tapes. And most important, with that many extra tapes, and that level of manual control, I have been discouraged about having an “A” and “B” series of tapes, so that I could have one series off-site at all times. I tend to ignore backing up important financial data on the PCs, because my focus is on the creative work on the Macs.
Alternative: improve my network, so that the PC with the LTO drive attached can “see” the Macs. Automate the backup routine, so that Retrospect “tours” the entire network on its own, nightly, and makes incremental backups of the entire system. Use an “A” and a “B” series of tapes, alternating them each week and keeping one off-site at all times.
Clearly, there are many disadvantages to my current system. But is the alternative better? I’m a little concerned about giving up all of that control to Retrospect (what if Retrospect’s database gets corrupted?), and it appears that the result might be that one client’s projects could eventually be scattered over dozens of backup tapes.
Especially with tapeless media, I’m still considering using manual backup of camera files on a client-by-client basis, even if I go to a “Series A” and “Series B” incremental system for the nightly backups.
When I replace Tiger with Snow Leopard, I'll also be using Time Machine and external hard drives to backup the Macs' system drives.
Thanks for your perspective.
Yours in paranoia,
Has anyone responded to your post? (It doesn't appear so - I am just checking.)
I have a similar situation with my client's heterogeneous mix of Windows and Mac systems, where the client wants to use LTO tapes and is asking for help to properly configure the backup.
Wondering if your backup is working anything changed in your configuration since your post, whether you are using Time Machine, and whether you were able to make Mac machines "visible" to the Windows PCs.
I am thinking along the same lines: share specific folders on the Mac, include them in the backup schedule on the PC.
No replies, Alex, and I can't be much help.
re: Making the Macs visible to the PCs - much easier than I expected; I found a how-to by Googling it. The relevant article for me (for XP on the Windows side) was at http://www.mac-connect.com/win_mac_samba1.php.
re: Time Machine - haven't been doing it, but that is simply inertia on my part. Thanks for reminding me I should be using Time Machine!
Network-wide LTO backups - I decided it was probably something I should hire out. I plan to buy an update of my LTO software (Retrospect Professional) and hire a consultant from the local Retrospect dealer to configure it. I haven't yet done that, so I can't report on how viable it is, or whether an incremental approach works.