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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich and my battle with backups (Backup Exec, Veeam, and SQL Oh My!!!)

I've been using Firefox for, well, a very long time - IE6 era, I think. I've been hanging on because Firefox could sync my bookmarks and passwords between all of my devices. My Samsung Galaxy S2 was on Android version 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) and I couldn't run Chrome on it. I was pretty close to rooting it, but I fix computing devices often enough, and my phone is a device that just has to work. My life is too busy to have it go down and immediately be able to sit down and fix it. Aaaanyway, I got the Ice Cream Sandwich update from Sprint this past week (which was out in, what, March?) and NOW I can run Chrome!!!! My favorite thing so far is Chrome-to-Phone, and my biggest pet peeves are the lack of a decent FTP program like FireFTP on Firefox, and the absence of any command to sort my bookmarks alphabetically. I've also installed Google Cloud Print, but haven't needed to use it yet. The extensions are pretty amazing:

  • I can post to this blog, my blog on Tumblr (The LAG), Twitter, Facebook, etc with AddThis
  • X-Notifier checks all of my email accounts on a regular basis
  • Facebook, Google Phone, and Skype all have good add-ons as well
I really like Ice Cream Sandwich, too; I'm just more excited about being able to switch the default browser on all of my computers to Chrome. My notifications are much more descriptive, and it looks like I've gotten a battery boost.

At work, I've rolled out PRTG for network monitoring. Having a good network monitoring solution in place saves the IT department A LOT of headaches, especially with software as robust and flexible as PRTG. Having the ability to see all of your problems (with some exceptions) at a glance saves a ton of time. I turn off monitoring while I run the monthly Microsoft updates, then when I'm done rebooting the servers I can flip PRTG back on and see almost immediately if anything didn't come back on correctly. The BEST thing about something like PRTG though, and the most indispensable feature, as far as I'm concerned, is the tracking of sensors over time. Now, I can look at some graphs and predict when we might need to add drive space, or if someone copies a giant 20GB file to my server I can detect it immediately and possibly head things off before they bring down the server (this has happened more than once).

Also, I'm completely redesigning the backup situation. We were using Symantec Backup Exec 2010 R3 exclusively for backups, and we weren't using it right. We needed a lot more licenses to comply with the licensing requirements for myriad SQL servers, and the backup process just wasn't working well. Backup Exec is.... difficult to use. For me, anyway. Maybe with some training.... oh never mind. So I sold the boss-man on plunking down about $14,000 for the Veeam Management Studio, which includes Veeam ONE monitoring for our VMware Infrastructure, which plays into the previous topic. So I've finally got Veeam Backup and Replication 6.1 in place and it's doing it's first backup as we speak. Well, technically it's the second, but the first backup was so slow I had to scrap it. You see, Veeam B&R can talk directly to the SAN over a Fiber Channel HBA, instead of trying to move 5 Terabytes (in my case) over a gigabit network link. I misconfigured it the first time and was in network mode. Veeam also does Reverse Incremental backups, Change-Block Tracking (only backs up things that have changed), and is really good at deduplication (REALLY good). I'm hoping to cut my storage needs in half, and shrink my backup window big time. For example, my current backup has now read 3.4 TB, and only written 1.9 TB to disk. A little over half. Monday's backup will only back up what's changed from this one, so it should run pretty fast. I'll post some more stats once I get the process going and smoothed out. When Veeam's done, it will automagically launch my Backup Exec job, which will write the Veeam backup to tape. So, here's how to launch a backup exec job with Veeam: Edit the job, select storage, click the advanced button, and click on the advanced tab. The bottom section allows you to run commands at the end of a backup job. The command to launch a backup exec job looks like this: "C:\Program Files\Symantec\Backup Exec\bemcmd.exe" -o1 -jJobName. Use the quotes in there, by the way. Here's a handy web page that outlined the rest of the details.

While I was auditing what was being backed up, I kept finding little SQL Express instances everywhere. Symantec requires a special agent to properly back these up. Instead of plunking down around $9,000 more for the appropriate licenses to back up around 15 more SQL Express servers with Backup Exec, I'm skipping the SQL instance in my backup selections, and will just run a scheduled SQL script as a scheduled task to back up the database to a .bak file before the regular file backups run. Here's the page that gave me the instructions on putting this together. It's talking about backing up your VMware vCenter database (if you store it in SQL Express), but the same technique applies to other SQL Express instances.

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