RFP Showdown: October 22, 2001

A small insurance office wants to back up its two servers every day, and 20 Windows 98 laptops once per week.

The Problem

A small insurance office wants to back up its two servers every day, and 20 Windows 98 laptops once per week. The two servers are Pentium 4 Compaq Proliants with Windows NT Server 4.0. One server runs SQL Server and a custom insurance application; the other system runs Exchange Server. Please recommend a backup and restore solution for both servers and the laptops.

My Solution: Ron Boyd

Senior Network Support Specialist
NW Computer Support Inc.
www.nwcomputersupport. com

Boyd is a Windows 2000 MCSE and Compaq ASE/CAP

Option 1: Storage-management software that has backup and recovery agents for Exchange Server and SQL Server. (Sample options include CAs ARCserve and Veritas Backup Exec.)

Option 2: NAS or SAN storage solution

Option 3: Outsource to a storage service provider that offers networking monitoring, backup and disaster-recovery services.

Project Cost: $6K+ to $12K+ for option 1; Option 2 would be more expensive; Option 3 would involve recurring charges.

Heres my professional opinion, divided into three deployment and configuration scenarios: centralized, NAS/SAN or decentralized.

In the centralized scenario, I would recommend and deploy storage-management software that has backup and disaster-recovery agents for Exchange Server and SQL Server.

(Sample products in this area include CAs ARCserve and Veritas Backup Exec.)

I would use the unattended scheduler for the static PCs. I would use either (1) an Open Files agent (which can be expensive) to backup the laptops at a strategic time or (2) off-line folder storage policies (a better choice) to ensure that mission critical client data is captured.

I would develop models to standardize the desktop installations and an image to CDRs for quick desktop OS recovery. Of course, I would also develop, document and test a disaster-recovery policy.

The backup data would be stored on a DLT, AIT or similar device and I would recommend hiring an off-site storage company to retrieve the backup tapes daily.

The backup storage solution would be best installed on one or both servers and would require minor downtime to install and test. We could perform the installation after hours, if needed, for the customers convenience.

Ideally, the backup system would be maintained by a knowledgeable in-house staff member. If necessary training for fundamental storage-management skills (Backup/ Restore/Error Log Review, and so on) would be provided at least to two key people in the office to ensure smooth operation.

By training in-house personnel and documenting the system, this customer could retain an IT support company on an as-needed basis—thereby avoiding costly maintenance fees.

In the second scenario, I would recommend NAS (network-attached storage) or SAN (storage-area network) technology. However, I assume that this scenario is too expensive for such a small project.

In the third scenario, I would recommend a decentralized outsourced solution. Specifically, the customer could hire an outside company to provide support, off-site backup, storage and monitoring via a high-speed Internet connection.

At first glance Scenario 1 would be my recommended solution. Scenario 1s cost, including additional backup hardware and software, would be approximately $6,000-plus to $12,000-plus, depending on options and environmental/operational considerations/limitations.

Scenarios 2 and 3 would be presented as options and made available if necessary.