Thursday, October 7, 2010

Create a Policy-based Grandfather-Father-Son backup set using Backup Exec 2010

1. You are not an idiot
2. You already have BE2010 installed, and backup media configured
3. You are somewhat familiar with Backup Exec - i.e. Job Setup, Job Monitor, Media, Devices

Now we have that out the way, I will do my best to run through how to set up a good backup configuration from my experience. If you have suggestions, comments or criticisms, please leave them in the comments section. I am always happy to take these on board ad adjust this post where necessary.

With Backups, I like to employ the teachings of my Year 6 teacher, Mr Scott, ie:
WHAT - What will be backed up?
HOW - How is the data to be stored?
WHERE - Where will the backups be stored?
WHEN - When will backups be run?
WHO - Who will be responsible for maintaining the backups?

There are three MAJOR types of backups:

1. Full Backups - They backup every file on the system (in theory). Disk images, such as those created by Symantec's Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image, can be considered full backups. You might also do a full backup of only a drive or a folder.
2. Differential Backups - They backup everything that has changed since the last full backup. Expect that each night a differential is run and there hasn't been a full, the differential will grow larger and larger.
3. Incremental - Backs up everything that's changed since the LAST full OR incremental backup. These backups are often fairly small and consistent in size (assuming your work habits don't change much).

Grandfather-father-son backup refers to the most common rotation scheme for rotating backup media. Originally designed for tape backup, it works well for any hierarchical backup strategy. The basic method is to define three sets of backups, such as daily, weekly and monthly. The daily, or son, backups are rotated on a daily basis with one graduating to father status each week. The weekly or father backups are rotated on a weekly basis with one graduating to grandfather status each month. Often one or more of the graduated backups is removed from the site for safekeeping and disaster recovery purposes.

Selection Lists (WHAT)

I have created several Selection Lists; Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Master(Annual). Each Selection List varies slightly, but all have a basic selection of our key information - in my case it is a single folder on the file server and the System State settings for the Domain Controller.

So, my Daily Selection List is just that, the bare minimum - Crucial files and settings that change DAILY; The Weekly Selection List builds on this to add my MS Exchange Information Store; Monthly again builds on that to add a few more folders that aren't hugely important, but enough that it would be annoying to lose them; Master can vary, but usually is fairly similar to the Monthly - however I try to get as much data as possibly onto this backup.

Storage (HOW)

A standard GFS usually just backs up onto Tape (or other removable media). I go one step further and add a Hard Drive backup, for several reasons:
1. Adds another layer of protection
2. Much quicker to back up to.
3. Much quicker and easier to restore from

So, when I set up my jobs, I direct the backup to Hard Drive initially, then Duplicate the backup job to Tape. This way, the initial backup is done much faster than if it were direct to tape, and frees up the file server to be ready for normal use.

Location, Location, Location (WHERE)

The Hard Drive backups are located on a seperate server from my file server, in case the file server dies, and the Tapes are taken each day to another office and stored in the fireproof safe.

If you do not have access to an offsite fireproof safe, look around for companies that handle sensitive data storage for a reasonable cost. I especially recommend this for the Monthly backups AT LEAST.

Schedule (WHEN)

GFS Backup Calendar

September 2010

The Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) backup system allows an organisation to restore data from the previous day, week, month or year. A full GFS system uses 20 tapes for over the course of a year.
Daily tapes are used Monday-Thursday: these tapes are labelled Monday, Tuesday, etc., and each tape is used once per week.
Weekly tapes are used each Friday, with a different tape for each week of the month. These tapes are labelled Week1, Week2, etc., and are each used once per month.
Monthly tapes are used on the last Friday of the month, rather than a weekly tape. This tape is labelled with the name of the month. Many organisations also use a yearly tape at the end of each year.

Me or You? (WHO)

Not only does the person in charge of the backups have to change tapes, but also check DAILY on the status of the backups. If a single Daily backup fails, probably not a huge deal. What is a big deal is that the next day runs properly. On the same note, make sure the Weekly and Monthly's run. If they don't, run them the next night, hell run them over two nights if necessary. You can always pause the backup under Devices.

The Setup

Now you have gone through the theory, I will now run through step-by-step (somewhat) on how I set up my GFS backup system, making an awesome backup system.

Step 1

Create your Devices. You first need to add the devices you will use for your backups. I usually start with adding the Tape drive first. In my experience, it is better to use the Symantec drivers for whatever tape drive you have, rather than the proprietary drivers. Once you have added the Tape drive, add a B2D (Backup 2 Disk) folder for each policy you will create. I.e. A B2D folder for Daily, another for Weekly, Monthly etc. This will allow for easier manipulation of overwrite/append protection periods etc later on.

Step 2

Label your Tape Media. Labelling your Tapes before doing any backups allows you to have everything ready to go when it's needed. To start with, you should have 22 tapes at least, 20 for normal use, and 2 spares. The labels should be: Monday - Thursday, Week 1 - Week 4, and 12 Monthly tapes. An ideal situation would be to keep all Monthly tapes (offsite of course!) and purchase all new tapes for the following year, but as a minimum purchase new tapes for the Monthly set instead of overwriting the previous year's Monthly tape.

Step 3

Create Media Sets. Now you have labelled your Tape media, you will notice under the Media section, they are all listed under the Scratch Media Set. While this is ok for now, you will eventually need to move them to their applicable Media Set for protection purposes, so it's best set them up now. Like with creating B2D Devices, I create the hard drive Media Sets in a similar fashion - a different Set for each policy, one for each hard drive backup policy, and again for each tape policy. For example, I have "HDD Daily", "HDD Weekly" etc plus "Tape Daily", "Tape Weekly" etc. As a general rule, I keep a 1 week overwrite protection period and a 1 day append protection period for Daily backups, 4 week overwite and 1 week append for Weekly's, and Infinite (Do not allow) protection period for Monthly backups.

Step 4

Create Selection Lists. As I said earlier, I create individual Selection Lists for each set of backups. My Daily Selection List only includes critical information - I.e. our main network folder that all of our data gets saved to. The Weekly Selection List expands on that to include the System State information for the Domain Controller and Exchange Server(s), plus all of the Exchange Information Store. The Monthly Selection List is usually not too dissimilar from the Weekly, but should contain as much as possible. Any Master/Annual Selection Lists you may want to add should be similar again to the Monthly - as much data as possible. Also, once you have decided what to include on each Selection List, you can then rearrange what order in which to backup the data under Resource Order. I would suggest too, testing everything under Recource Credentials. This is usually a good indication as to whether you will run into Access Denied issues when your backups are running. If necessary, change the Logon Account to a user with full access to the specified section, however the System Logon Account as default usually has full access.

Step 5

Create Policies. You have now done all the prep work required, so creating the Policies should be quite easy. Give them an applicable name, for example, Daily Backup Policy and Weekly Backup Policy, etc. Inside each Policy, you first need to create the Hard Drive template. Under Device and Media, choose the appropriate Device and Media Set; Append to Media , Overwrite if no appendable media is available. Under General, choose an appropriate name for the Template and a Description, eg HDD Daily; choose Differential for the Daily template and Full for all others; Tick the Verify after backup completes; Use Hardware compresssion if available, otherwise none. Under Advanced Open File, Tick the Use Advanced Open File Option and Automatically Select; I also suggest ticking the Process Logical Volumes for backup one at a time. Under Schedule, choose Run according to schedule and run according to rules for this template, then Edit Schedule Details. The Daily template should be run on all Monday - Thursdays, with the Time Window set after normal work hours. For me, I start all backups to start between 8:30 and 9pm. Weekly should have the 1st - 4th Friday ticked. Monthly should only have the Last Friday. I would suggest keeping an eye on this when it comes to Monthly backup time, as sometimes when this lands on the 4th Friday, a Weekly and Monthly will want to run. In these cases, manually edit the schedule to stop the weekly running. All other sections for the template can be left as default in most cases.

Step 6

Create Alerts. For each person who is to receive a notification in relation to Backup Exec, you need to create a recipient for them. This is under Tools, Recipients. In most cases you want to go New, Person, and fill in the SMTP address for said person, but I'm sure you already figured that out. Once all the Ricipients are filled out, you need to assign them to an applicable alert category. This is under Tools, then Assign Ricipients to Alert Categories. For me, as the "backup manager" I have set myself to receive an email notification for the following: Device Error, Job Cancellation, Job Failed, LiveUpdate Error, Media Error, Tape Alert Error, [All Green Section], [All Yellow Section except Library Insert (as I dont have a Media Library)], Job Success, Media Information, Service Start, Service Stop, and finally Tape Alert Information. You can tweak this over time as you will undoubtedly get spammed from all of the messages.

Thats It!

You're done. You should now have a pretty good Backup Policy, and dont forget to check the Alerts category every few days (or more), run a Cleaning Tape every few months, and check out the Reports category if you need some outputs for IT reports.

Thanks for checking this out, and feel free to share with collegues, or link to me. Any questions, comments or other feedback can be done through the Comments section below.


  1. Thanks for this guide, definitely useful!

  2. Glad it has helped! Stay tuned, more guides are on their way.

  3. Thanks for the post. I really helped with the Backup project I am presently working on.

  4. I liked your guide overall, but I am wondering about the weekly backup of Exchange as opposed to daily? What do you do if you have to do a restoration due to a catastrophe? Exchange could be up to a week ou of date as far as e-mails received?


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