Home Backup for the DBA
I’ve been giving a Prepare for When Disaster Strikes talk at SQL in the City this year, and it’s designed to get you to think about problems before they happen and take steps to mitigate issues. It’s important at work, but it’s also important at home.
If you read the story of the Amazon/Apple hack, you might worry about the security of your information, and you should. However I was more concerned over the data loss, specifically pictures, when I read that account. I take a lot of pictures, all of them digital these days, along with various writings and videos, and I worry about preserving those for my own memories and for my kids. I don’t trust Facebook/Google/etc, to store them, so I needed my own solution.
I installed Windows Home Server (WHS) a few years back on an old Dell Dimension E520. It was a good workstation, and plenty powerful to run the previous version of WHS (prior to WHS 2011) on its’ AMD CPU. It worked well, but across two years I had 3 boot drive failures. Each time I needed to not only replace the drive, but reinstall WHS and then copy off and back my files from the data drives. A PIA.
I’d looked at Drobo, and other NAS type solutions, but none were very automated, rather expensive. I had a desktop, a laptop, my wife’s laptop, the kid’s iMac, and sometimes another machine to back up. After my 3rd boot drive failure, and the server sitting idle for a couple months, I decided to virtualize my WHS.
I had planned on using Win7 for a host, but the older desktop didn’t seem to want to install it with my new RAID card in it. Rather than futz with it, since it wasn’t critical and isn’t connected to the Internet on my home network, I installed WinXP and then Virtual Box. Inside of Virtual Box, I installed the older WHS software, putting my data on separate virtual drives that were protected by RAID. I used 2 separate arrays, which should give me some protection if any of them fail. The host WHS drive is also on a RAID array, which should give me some protection from drive failures.
And if my boot drive fails, I replace it, install WXP, Virtual Box, and then run my VM without messing with data.
I like WHS as a central place for us all to share pictures, video and music, and for backups. I’ve recovered a few files from the system that I had accidently deleted, and I know all our machines are protected right now.
It’s not perfect, and I really need an offsite solution for a second backup since I’m a DBA. I get a little paranoid about restoring things, and I know one copy isn’t good enough.