Backup using External Hard Drives

This is a short compilation of responses from SBS consultants on how they are using external hard drives for SBS backups. Please add your thoughts and experiences

First, read Susan’s blogs on: (1) Overview: and (2) Tweaking NTBackup:

Various notes, comments, ideas:

  • One thing I have noticed – when you set it to back up to a drive, it sets it to keep 2 backup files and if it does that it will probably result in there not being enough space on the Rev – so be sure to select only one file. It will give you an alert, but you can ignore it.

  • Most of the drives I’ve seen are formatted FAT32, which has a 4GB file size limit. This means many backups will fail ( since most systems are > 4GB ).Just convert the drive to NTFS and the problem goes away.

  • For tape-based backups, we generally install an internal HDD as the staging disk. This is where we instruct the backup software to write the backup file. When the backup is completed, we have it run a command to copy the staging disk to an external USB drive. This seems to give better results for us. It reduces the number of caddies necessary.

  • We purchased a REV Drive and SBS sees it as a CD and therefore the Server will not back up to the drive. Anyone know a work around? The work around is set the backup to save to a fixed disk, find the relevant key in the registry which says e.g F:\ and change it to the drive letter of the REV.

  • We use SimpleTech external hard drives. We recommend at least two as a minimum. This has more capacity than the Rev Drive and is much cheaper. A 120GB drive retails for about $150.00, the Iomega REV 35GB/90GB** USB 2.0 external drive retails for $399 (prices from April 2005).

  • Our customers have between 2 and 5 drives they cycle through, and we set the drives to hold 3 backups before overwriting.

  • We have been using external USB drives for just over a year now, and recommend them to all of our clients. We haven’t had any issues to date – very reliable and easy to use. We always do normal full backups . . . never incremental or differential . . .

  • I’m using the SBS Backup wizard to do a full backup of the OS & Exchange, so that I get the email reports each morning. But I’ve separated the data backup, using a program called Second Copy, that does incremental backups of the data. The reason I like that solution is that Second Copy just copies the files, not putting them in a volume that you have to restor from – you just access the data files directly if you need to. You can install Second Copy as a Service so that it runs whether you’re logged on or not. It’s been very reliable.

  • I have been trialling Hot Swap IDE RAID1 recently. Details: (1) The array is used solely for the backup, nothing else. I also store the ASR backup on there as well. (2) The reason for RAID1 is that you still have a copy on site as in my experience the vast majority of problems occurred since the last backup (although Previous Version is now mitigating this) and I can find no single drive Hot Swap IDE enclosures here. (3)  Speed, speed, speed. (4) Cost is much lower than tape with the high capacity drives available. (5) Media handling and storage is an issue.

  • I am now considering internal or external RAID1 hot swap PATA/SATA options from Accusys ( and Accordance Systems ( With a couple of spare drives this system can cost approx NZ$1.5K. My problem with this system is the sensitivity of the drives to handling and environmental conditions. Also the lack of ability to hold data for long periods (although you could probably buy a new drive and caddy every month for a year to overcome this).

5 thoughts on “Backup using External Hard Drives

  1. Hi There,
    I need ASR solution when setup ask me ASR.BKF file i want to restore it from External USB or from the Network but problem is that my both solution(USB & LAN) not work. can you give me a solution.

  2. I tend to use external hard drives to provide an additional weekend backup to supplement nightly backups to tape. I use ntbackup (or Veritas in some cases) to perform a full backup of everything and then also a scheduled xcopy to copy all the shared data files.

    The drives are then stored off site, and the xcopy backup means that not only can a full restore be done, but users can access their shared files from any PC while restoration takes place.

    No reason why that couldn’t be done on a nightly basis also, backup windows allowing.

  3. Does anyone backup to a 4 or 5 bay external eSATA hotswap enclosure with SATA hard drives??? If so, is a drive letter assigned for each HD? What is your configuration in terms of the box, the drives and the controller.

    THis is a really good idea having this site.

    Thank you

  4. can any one help please…,
    I tried to do a backup using my external hard drive with windows xp backup but when I choose a destination to backup i.e my external hard drive it doesn’t appear as one of the choice drives to backup
    I would very much appreciate your help!!!

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