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NAS and disk-to-disk backup

My company has an opportunity to buy a Promise SX8000 disk array for under $1000. I have proposed that we could use this disk array for disk-to-disk backup and then back up those backups to tape. We currently have seven Windows-based servers and 1 SCO Unix server.

The total disk usage on those servers is about 150 GB and we expect that to double in the next year or two. I have a few questions that I hope you may be able to help me with:

  1. The SX8000 works only with ATA drives. What is the difference between an ATA drive and a SATA drive, and should I avoid use of ATA drives?
  2. In using this disk array for backup, do I need a high-performance NAS server, or can I simply use it as attached storage to a standard Windows server with an attached tape drive for backup?
  3. Lastly, would this be an acceptable configuration, using a disk array as intermediate storage for backup, as well as online storage for seldom used (archival) type files?

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User: The SX8000 works only with ATA drives. What is the difference between an ATA drive and a SATA drive and should I avoid use of ATA drives?

Kerns: ATA is the generic name meaning Advanced Technology Attachment which comes from the PC-AT offered by IBM in 1985. The ATA interface is really the same as IDE. SATA is a serial implementation of ATA rather than the basic parallel. A serial implementation with ATA gives you a higher data rate and better reliability as well as greater distance for the connection (1m vs. 18in). I wouldn't avoid ATA drives if they were parallel ones, but I would favor SATA given the choice.

User: In using this disk array for backup, do I need a high-performance NAS server, or can I simply use it as attached storage to a standard Windows server with an attached tape drive for backup?

Kerns: You can use it attached to a regular server (it will be called the backup server in this case). A NAS device would not be necessary for what you doing here.

User: Lastly, would this be an acceptable configuration, using a disk array as intermediate storage for backup, as well as online storage for seldom used (archival) type files?

Kerns: Absolutely. This is part of the growing usage of disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) solutions to improve the backup reliability and reduce the time.

This was first published in March 2005

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