SAS Data Backup System for Faculty and Staff

  • Faculty & Staff

SAS Computing supports a service to provide automated backup of critical data for all SAS faculty and to eligible SAS staff.

This service is intended to allow individual users to store their critical data on a server operated by SAS Computing so that it can be stored reliably and backed up to tape on a nightly basis. This will provide a much more reliable storage location than the commonly used local hard drive of a desktop or laptop computer. This system is not intended to provide back up service for large research projects nor should it be used to store large amounts of personal use data (such a music or other non-critical personal data).

The information below is designed to provide general information and answer common questions about this service.  For more detailed information, or to discuss how to take advantage of it, please contact your SAS Computing Local Support Provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this service?

Many SAS faculty and staff have not had access to any mechanism that would provide for backup of their critical data and many have important data stored on their own desktop or laptop computer, where it may be unprotected against loss due to system failure or mistaken deletion. Others have had to try to implement their own solution for backing up their critical data. The expansion of this service is designed to ensure that all SAS faculty and eligible staff have the ability to store critical data on a system where it can be better protected against system failures and other causes of lost data.

Who is eligible for this service?

All SAS standing faculty and lecturers are eligible for this service. SAS staff who are eligible for a desktop computer form the SAS Desktop Computer Allocations program are also eligible for this data backup service

How do I take advantage of this service?

In order for your data to be protected, it will have to be stored on a file server maintained by SAS Computing designed for this purpose. Access to the server will be controlled based on each user having an account in our Active Directory system  Your SAS Computing local support provider (LSP) will be able to help you determine the best way for you to take advantage of this service.

How do I store my data on the backup server?

A number of methods are available to place data on the backup server.

  • Working "live" from the server:  Using your Active Directory acount, your individual backup location on the server can be mapped as a drive on your local computer (e.g. as the U: drive on a Windows machine or as another accessible volume on a Mac).  Many users choose to work "live" from this location, storing most of their critical data (e.g. MS Office documents, email files, etc) on this location and opening and making changes to files from this location directly.  Applications can be configured to store files on the network drive as a default location. Windows users can choose to have there "My Documents" folder located on the network drive.
  • Periodically copying files to the server: In some cases, the size of files or other factors may make working live from the network drive less effective than storing files on the local machine, and copying them up to the network drive on a periodic basis. There are a number of ways that data can be copied to the network drive in an automatic fashion, such as use of a variety of backup utilities or scripts. Your LSP can help you implement a system that will work well for you. 

Of course, the above approaches can be combined in a number of ways, with some data being worked with directly on the network drive and other files being copied there periodically.  Your LSP can help you decide on and implement a solution that best meets your needs.

How is my data protected?

The backup server currently protects the data of several hundred SAS faculty and staff in central and departmental administrative offices.  The data stored on the server is protected in a number of ways, including:

  • Redundant hard disks so that data is not lost even if a hard disk failure occurs
  • UPS system and redundant power supplies to keep the server running in the event of a power outage or power supply failure
  • Data is backed up to tape on a nightly basis and one copy of the tapes made on a monthly basis will be kept offsite for one year. The tape backup system is designed to protect against widespread system failures such as those that could result from an environmental problem (e.g. fire or water damage) in the building or a natural disaster.
  • Use of the "Shadow Copies" utility that is part of the Window Server operating system allows changes made to files during the day to be backup up two times per day.  For instance, if changes to a file are saved between 9:00 and 11:00 AM and then the file is accidentally deleted at 2:00 PM, it may be possible to retrieve the file from a backup as of 12:00 noon.  This system is primarily designed to protect against accidental deletion or corruption of recently changed files and allow for quick retrieval of the most recent backed up copy of such files.

What type of data can I backup with this system?

Apart from any content that would be disallowed by any applicable University policy, there are no restrictions on the type of data that can be stored on the backup server.

The main purpose of this system, however, is to allow for important data that has changed in the past year to be backed up.  Older data that is not going to change should be archived to CDs or DVDs.  If needed, users may be offered assistance in moving any such data off of the system to conserve space.

How much data can I backup with this system?

This system is primarily designed to meet the data storage needs of individual faculty and staff members, not those of large research groups which may generate very large amounts of data. Initially, each eligible user will be allocated 10-15 gigabytes (GB) of space on the backup server. This may be expanded in the future, but the immediate purpose is to ensure that all SAS faculty and eligible staff have at least this minimum amount of space available for storing important data.  Many users do not generate more than this amount of critical data during the course of a year, especially if files are compressed on the server.  Those that need more space often already have funding for a backup system capable of handling the amount of data they generate.  SAS Computing staff are always available to assist SAS faculty and staff develop and implement a backup plan that suits their needs.

What about the rest of the data stored on my desktop/laptop computer?

This service is not intended to provide a complete backup of desktop or laptop systems, but rather to provide a highly reliable backup system for critical data.  If a complete backup system for a desktop or laptop is desired, SAS Computing staff can provide information regarding implementing cost-effective solutions for this purpose, such as the use of an external hard drive. Note, however, that many such systems will not provide protection in the event of physical damage (e.g. from water or fire damage) to the location where the equipment is stored. It is thus important to be able to store critical data off site and this service is intended to provide that.

When can I access the data stored on the server?

With the exception of planned downtime for maintenance, the backup server is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Brief maintenance periods of 1-2 hours are often scheduled on a monthly basis, to allow any relevant security patches or other udpates to be applied. Longer maintenance periods take place approximately 2-3 times per year.  Such planned downtime is announced in advance and takes place during weekends or other times outside the normal 9-5 business hours.

Since backups to tape take place between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM each night, performance may be slower during that period. Those who will copy data up to the server on a periodic basis, rather than working “live” from the network drive, will be encouraged to copy large amounts of data between 5:00 PM and 12:00 AM for best performance.

In order to ensure that data can be properly backed up to tape overnight, it is also best to close any open files that are stored on the server each night so that they are not open when the backup process takes place.

In the event of data loss or corruption, how do I retrieve files from the backups that have been made?

If data is no longer available on the network drive, your LSP will be able to help you with retrieving files from the backups. In some cases, they will be able to retrieve it on your behalf, if you choose to allow this. In others, they will coordinate with the Network Services group in SAS Computing to retrieve the data. Data that can be retrieved via the Shadow Copies backups can generally be retrieved within one business day. If data has to be restored from backup tapes, more turnaround time may be required. In the future, systems may be implemented to allow users to retrieve their own data.

How do I access my data from off campus?

To provide the best security for the important data stored on the backup server, it is protected by a hardware firewall which blocks access from off-campus locations. However, users may connect to their own desktop computer from off-campus (e.g. using Remote Desktop for Windows machines), and through that connection gain access to the backup server. SAS Computing staff can assist with configuring your computer for remote access. Additional methods for secure access from off campus location may be developed in the future.

How can I keep my data private?

Data stored on the network drives will by default only be available to the individual user. Access can be given to your LSP if you would like. System adminstrators have access so as to be able to maintain the system. If you would like to ensure an even higher amount of privacy, it is possible to use data encryption techniques. Consult with your LSP if you want to pursue use of encryption.

How can I share my data with others?

The primary purpose of this expanded service is to ensure that critical data can be backed easily and reliably.  The system can also be used to allow multiple users to share data and this usage of the backup server will be expanded over time.  SAS Computing staff can assist with planning and implementing file sharing systems.

How can I get more information?

Contact your local support provider (LSP).