Video Screencast Help
Protect Your POS Environment Against Retail Data Breaches. Learn More.

How to rotate external harddisks

Created: 01 Mar 2011 • Updated: 02 Mar 2011 | 33 comments
Language Translations
pkh's picture
+14 14 Votes
Login to vote

With the cost of hard-disk dropping and capacity increasing, more and more installations are using them to store their backups, in place of the traditional tapes.   Inevitably, users will ask: How do you to set up a scheme to rotate these external hard-disks, so that some of them can be brought off-site for insurance against a disaster?

The way to set up such a scheme is

1) UPGRADE TO BACKUP EXEC 2010 R2

If you have not done so, you should do so before proceeding further.  I deliberately use capitals in the title because this is a crucial step if you want to automate the process.  BE 2010 R2, not BE 2010, has a lot of enhancements in the handling of removable disks.  With BE 2010 R2, when a disk is ejected from the media server, BE is able to sense this and mark the Backup-to-Disk (B2D) folder(s) on it off-line.  When a disk is plugged in to the media server, BE 2010 R2 is able to sense this and mark the B2D folders on it on-line.  These automatic status changes of the B2D folders are crucial to the successful automation of a disk swapping scheme.

For BE 2010 or older versions, there is a way to overcame this limitation, but it would require some work.  I will cover this in a later section.

2) Define your B2D folders

Plug in your disks and define your B2D folders on them.

Define them as you would define B2D folders on internal disks.  Do not use Removable B2D folders unless you are using CDR-RW, DVD-RW, ZIP or REV.  For USB or eSata drives, use normal B2D folders.

Another good thing about using BE 2010 R2, is that you do not have to worry about the drive letters of your hard-disk.  If the drive letter got changed after you have defined your B2D folders, BE 2010 R2 will handle the drive letter change automatically.  For older versions of BE, you got to make sure that the drive letter stays the same.

3) Define a device pool for your B2D folders

You need to define a device pool so that your job can target this device pool.  On the Devices tab, right-click on Device Pools to define a new pool.

Depending on which B2D folder is on-line when your job runs, your job will write to that folder.  Otherwise, you need to define one job per B2D folder and target each job to one B2D folder.

4) Define a media set to keep your .bkf files

5) Define a job

Define a job which targets the device pool and media set defined above.

Considerations when using older versions of Backup Exec

If you are using a version of BE older than BE 2010 R2, then certain things are different as they do not have the external disk handling capabilities of BE 2010 R2.

a) Fix the drive letters of your external disks

BEFORE you define your B2D folders on your external disks, make sure that they will always have the same drive letters when they are connected to the media server.  You can either user one drive letter for all your disks or one drive letter per disk.  If the drive letter changes after you have defined the B2D on the disk, then BE will not be able to recognize it even though the disk is on-line.

Windows assign drive letters to drives from the start of the alphabet and go higher accordingly.  Typically, when you plug in the drive, it would be assigned E:, F: and so on.  Let’s say, your drive was assigned as the F: drive when you plugged it in to the media server and you defined your B2D folder with this drive letter.  If there is already a F: drive when you next plug it in, it would be assigned the next higher unused drive letter.  Let’s assume that it is now the G: drive.  When BE tries to write to the B2D folder, it would not be able to find the B2D folder as the drive letter has changed and it would mark the folder either as “Low disk space” or off-line.

To fix the drive letter for an external drive, go to Start à Run à diskmgmt.msc, right-click on the drive and select Change Drive Letter and path.

I normally like to assign drive letters in the middle of the alphabet, like M, N, O, etc., where it is unlikely to clash with some other drives.  You should not use the end of the alphabet like X, Y and Z because Windows normally assign these to mapped drives.

If in the future, for whatever reason, the drive letter for the disk drive changes from what is assigned.  Use the method above to change it back the assigned drive letter.

b) Bring B2D folders on-line

When you use a device pool, BE will try to use the first available device in the pool and go down the line.  When it encountered a B2D folder whose drive is not on-line, it will mark it either “Low disk space” or off-line.

If the B2D folder is marked offline, even if you have plugged in the drive before the next job, this status will not change and BE will not be able to the B2D folder.  You must either

- go to the BE console, right-click on each of the off-line B2D folders in the Devices tab and select on-line, or

- use BEMCMD to pause and un-pause the B2D folder.

For the second method, you can use the Windows scheduler to run a batch file with the following commands.

@echo off

: pause the B2D folder

C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec\bemcmd -o60 -d:”Backup-to-Disk Folder 1”

: un-pause the B2D folder

C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec\bemcmd -o61 -d:”Backup-to-Disk Folder 1”

Put the name of your B2D folder between the quotes and repeat the above pair of commands for each B2D folder that you have.  If you are unsure what your B2D folder names are, run the following command in a command prompt window and they would be displayed.

C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec\bemcmd -o68

I have tested this method with BE 12.5, so it should be good for BE 2010.  I am not sure whether the –o60 switch exists for BE 12.0 or older versions of BE.

It is no good trying to schedule an inventory job for the B2D folder.  The job will fail if the folder is marked as off-line.

As you can see, there are quite a lot of gymnastics that needs to be done before you can rotate external disks if you are using a version of BE that is older than BE 2010 R2.  Hence, I would like to reiterate again, UPGRADE TO BE 2010 R2 if you are not already on it.

Comments 33 CommentsJump to latest comment

Dinsdale's picture

Thanks for your detailed info on this.  Will try this as soon as we upgrade.  Good reason to go to R2.

0
Login to vote
Edward Charles's picture

Thank you for this article.

However our experience is it works well even with older versions like 10d but we're not using device pools to rotate media.

We just create a removable B2D to the specific drive letter which doesn't change and BE backs up to it no problem. We then just hot swap these backup SATA drives and it'll just back up to whatever drive is in there which has been working very well. Our problem somtimes is that Windows doesn't want to swap it out as it thinks its in use somehow by something and we can't figure out what. BE hasn't been the problem.

How is this using device pools and rotating drives different compared to what we do by using just a removable B2D and swapping the hard drives daily?

Thoughts?

Thank you!

+1
Login to vote
bailye77's picture

Hey,

Great article...
I was considering going to Barracuda and Cloud storage, but it is so expensive....

Is it possible to  install R2 on a virtual server and backup using DAS?

 

Thanks for your help

0
Login to vote
bwhalon's picture

Thank you for the detailed article.  We have been using USB drives for awhile with all versions of Backup Exec. 

It appears to be working.  We have had some problems with the older versions where the drive will be maked offline.  We found if you run an inventory check it will stay online.  This is frustrating to the end user.

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

For info of anyone using 2010 R2 with it's new USB unplug detection processes - we have identified a known issue with restarting services once configured.

This known issue is documented:

http://www.symantec.com/connect/issues/backup-disk...

and

http://www.symantec.com/business/support/index?pag...

Note: this second document does contain details of a workaround (that was identified by a community member on these forums)

 

0
Login to vote
rdirkmatt's picture

I am also using the device pool method of switching between two ext. usb drives with BE11d.  It works OK, but the Exchange 2003 img folders never get deleted, so the ext. usb drives eventually fill up and need to be manually cleared of all previous img folders.  Is there a fix for that? 

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

Hi Rdiskmatt

 

IMG removal works for me - but you do have to not be using Removable B2D (on a standard USB disk you should use standard B2D)  and you must make sure your backup jobs start with an overwrite - if they start with an append it is possible that the IMG won't be removed (or reclaimed)

+1
Login to vote
haadmin's picture

Has anyone been able to restore from removable disks using a different Backup Exec server than the server that was used to create the backups?  Is there any way to contact the author of this article?

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

Hi Haadmin

 

You should be able to move the USB disk to the new server, add it as a B2D device and accept the warning that it already is one and then inventory and catalog the device.

There is a major gotcha however - if you move drives between active servers then because it is likely that you have used the same BKF file names on both servers then you will have issues - this process can really only be used to migrate to an unused server (for DR pruposes for instance)  or when you have configured a different naming convention for the BKF files on each of your media servers.

 

+1
Login to vote
Phone's picture

I've read this article and it seemed to make sense so we purchase 2010 r3. we want to rotate external usb hard drives and have had a few questions. For instance, sometime after the backup is complete we change the usb hard drive to the next one in sequence and then Backup exec show both the one we just used for backup and the one we connected for the next backup. Mind you only the second usb drive is connected at this time. Both folders show online though. Then at the next backup it figures the one is no longer there. is there a way to avoid this. I've contacted support and been given very different advice to this article.

example

Usb drives should be configured as removeable backup to disk folders

user has to deal with the switching of the usb hard drives. (receive media error when swapping requires user to handle error message)

Can anyone tell me the correct method for using USB hard drives for B2D. support says the method used in this article is not supported by symantec. 

Please if anyone can help it would be appreciate.

 

thanks

0
Login to vote
Peter Sheridan's picture

Why would you use Backup to Disk folders instead of Removable Backup to Disk folders? As the name suggests since you are using external hard drives, would Removable ones make sense?

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

"Removable Backup To Disk" was a term originally added to Backup Exec a number of years ago when USB disks as seen today were not available or if they were were not common technologies and very expensive. What was common were things like Imoga drives with removable disk cartridges where the chassis of the device remains connected, as such the current Backup Exec meaning of this terminology remains related to that type of drive and it is NOT designed for USB drives where the complete device is unplugged.

http://www.symantec.com/docs/HOWTO55855

+1
Login to vote
Peter Sheridan's picture

Ah ok that makes sense. I have actually been struggling with this for the last few months. I had been using Removable backup to disk folders in Backup Exec 2010 R3. I was getting mixed results, sometimes the backup folder would remain online for 1 week, then suddenly next time the hard drive was changed it would go offline. Where as some would only last a few days before going online.

I have just switched the clients over to the method descibed in the article above, so hopefully in a few weeks time there will be no offline backup to disk folders :)

0
Login to vote
bailye77's picture

Hey,

Great article...
I was considering going to Barracuda and Cloud storage, but it is so expensive....

Is it possible to  install R2 on a virtual server and backup using DAS?

 

Thanks for your help

0
Login to vote
brentil's picture

Of note we don't use pools of B2D folders.  Instead we use multiple folders on the same drive, each folder is for a different job type and is assigned to various jobs.  The drive swapping seems to work with 2010 R3 with this setup as well without any issues. 

The only time I've run into issues during testing was if a new drive was added and it did not have the folders on it already.  If that happens I found just making the folder and going into the properties and marking it online again fixed it.

0
Login to vote
pkh's picture

With this setup, you may encounter problems when you try to do backups.  You are going to have a bard time trying to identify on which particular disk a certain .bkf is residing on.  BE will not be able to help you because it thinks that there is only disk involved.  Also, you must make sure that all the disks are mounted with the same drive letter everytime.

0
Login to vote
brentil's picture

We already mount the drives to the same letters every time.  What we've been doing up until now is shutdown the services, replace the drive, and then start them back up on a weekly basis.  For this weeks rotation so far it succesfully picked up the drive swap and did the backups to the correct drives for their related jobs without cycling services to do it.

 

This new ability is nice but it's still lacking.  I don't understand why MS & Symantec products are so lacking in robust USB drive backup features.  Not every user of their software has 100 slot LTO loaders doing their storage.  The Symantec System Recovery products have been doing robust drive tagging for years now but still Backup Exec is pretty lacking in support.

0
Login to vote
pkh's picture

Opps! My mistake!  I should have said restore rather than backup in my previous post.

I don't understand your comment about drive tagging.  If you use different B2D folder names, then BE would have no problem locating which disk they are on.

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

The drive pools stop you needing separate jobs for each day for your backups. Yes you don't have to have a drive pool but you will need separate jobs or templates if you don't (unless you are using the default All Devices Pool, but this adds other complications if you also have DeDup and Tape on the same media server)

0
Login to vote
gatwtal's picture

Hello,

we recently purchased Symantec System Recovery 2011 Sever Edition. I was under the assumption that System Recovery 2011 is the successor of the Backup Exec 2010. Our goal was to have a disk rotation for our backups (external usb hard disks).

There seems to be no way to create B2D folders in this version. Am I wrong in this or is this feature really missing in System Recovery 2011?

Is there maybe another way to do disk rotation with System Recovery 2011?

0
Login to vote
Colin Weaver's picture

System Recovery and Backup Exec are two completely different products (one is not a sucessor to the other)

BE is predominently file based backups (with the exception of VMware backups anyway)

SSR is block / image based

 

As such their USB handling is different so do not use this article against SSR (or BESR the older name for it)

 

EDIT: System Recovery has it's own forum please ask questions about USB handling in that forum

0
Login to vote
Lange G's picture

I have setup rotation of USB HDDs as described in this very helpful article but I am still having problems with the devices going offline even though they are showing as online.

I want to confirm that the BEMCMD -o60 (pause device) and -o61 (unpause device) switches DO work in Backup Exec 10d, however, this solution is not bringing the devices online for me. Could someone provide more detail regarding timing that has worked?

The problem is that the B2D Folder device is not recognised as offline until the job has run and the Error alert for Media Error "The Backup-to-Disk device is offline" comes up. Pausing and Unpausing prior to this doe not bring the device online. Pausing and Unpausing after the error does bring the device online.

If there is no better solution, I will try creating a scheduled task to run a batch file which starts and stops all the BE services using the bemcmd.exe switches of -o503 (stop all BE services) then -o502 (start all BE services).

Example BackupExec10dRestart.bat:

@echo off

REM Stop all Backup Exec 10d services

"C:\Program Files\VERITAS\Backup Exec\NT\bemcmd -o503"

REM Start all Backup Exec 10d services

"C:\Program Files\VERITAS\Backup Exec\NT\bemcmd -o502"

Any further ideas or recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks folks

0
Login to vote
SimonJonesHC's picture

Nowadays, most companies prefer to rely on third party providers for cloud solutions like backup as a service and even disaster recovery. It takes the pain out of having to feel jittery every time something goes wrong with the server in the office.

Simon Jones - Cloud Solutions Sydney

0
Login to vote
shabbaranks's picture

Is there an updated version of this for Backup Exec 2012?

+2
Login to vote
SebastianW's picture

...need this article for Backup Exec 2012 also!

 

Thanks a lot.

0
Login to vote
Birddog's picture

Need this for Backup Exec 2012 too!

0
Login to vote
Gary Karasik's picture

Thanks for this.

I haven't tried this yet, so maybe the answer will become obvious, but for restore purposes how does BE know which of these disks it wants and how does it tell you to put that one in if the wrong one's currently online? With tape I label the different tapes Monday1, Monday2, etc., and if I need Monday1 but Monday2 is in the drive, BE tells me to replace Monday2 with Monday1. How does this work with USB drives?

GaryK

kshaetaa's picture

http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbdlm_e.html

The above program is a great help.

You can setup drives with names like MONTHLY, DAILY, WEEKLY, or whatever, and when you connect the drive, the software gives it a drive letter based on the Volume name.  So it if was MONTHLY, it would assign it to drive G: for example.  And any usb drive you have named MONTHLY, would be assigned to G:.  Or you could have all drives with MONTHLY, DAILY, or WEEKLY as the volume name, assigned to G:.

This way, your drive letter that you backup to does not change, simplifying things.

 

0
Login to vote
pkh's picture

There is no need to fix the drive letter.  BE is able to handle the change in drive letter.  It tracks the disks by their diskids

0
Login to vote
pkh's picture

There is no need to fix the drive letter.  BE is able to handle the change in drive letter.  It tracks the disks by their diskids

0
Login to vote
kshaetaa's picture

I found that I disliked having changing drives letters, and I also think I had issues with it not backing up when I started.  However, that may have been Backup Exec prior to 2010. 

I also had a program that would run to clean out extraneious IMG directories that BE would leave behind, and when this would run, I needed to know where the drive was connected to.

 

0
Login to vote
Philix Support's picture

We're using BE 2010 R2. We just purchased 6 identical USB external drives. 2 for DAILY and 4 for WEEKLY. One DAILY and one WEEKLY drive plugged in every week and they're rotated weekly. We created 2 drive pools: DAILY POOL (includes DailyDrive1, DailyDrive2) & WEEKLY POOL (includes WkDrive1,2,3,4). For some reason BE detects DailyDrive1 and added it under WEEKLY POOL. We're using B2D Folder. What would be the way to set these drives accordingly. Any advice would be much appreciated? Thanks.