Why I ditched tape backup for a FreeNAS backup

Why I ditched Tape backup in favour of a FreeNAS backup


Several years ago when I began working with this client, they were using a tape backup system consisting of LTO -1 tapes backed up with Symantec Backup Exec  11d.

The amount of errors was astronomical, each day 1-2 hours was being spent on re-running failed backups, replacing failed tapes etc.
Doing a restore was even more painful.

The other issue was that as the company had grown, so had the data they had around 1TB of data being backed up onto LTO-1 tapes, which is several tapes worth of data.

This was not a finance business that required data archived for long periods of time, the director said they only need to keep data for 3 months, however it never formally gets destroyed until after 5 years.


Backup Solution Research


The company was aware they needed to move onto a new backup system; however the budget was restrictive so a SAN from someone like EMC or NetApp was out of the question.


Backup Solution 1 – New tape drive

A newer tape backup system with LTO-5 tapes was within budget, however I knew from working at other companies that newer tapes still have a lot of errors, and I wanted something to be less time consuming.

Backup Solution 2 – Pre made NAS

A pre made NAS system from QNap or Synology, both companies make great products, however for the more SMB type of products they can begin to get expensive.

Backup Solution 3 – DIY NAS

Create a NAS from scratch using FreeNAS and my own components of choice.
FreeNAS is a well-developed product and utilizes a File System called ZFS.
This was the solution I went with in the end and I will explain why.




I had used FreeNAS in the past to play around with it, and quite liked it.

At first I took an old workstation machine and put 3 x 2TB drives in there, with FreeNAS running off a 4th 70gig drive.

I set this up as “RAID Z1” which in normal RAID terminology is similar to RAID 5, 2 drives with 1 spare.

For 6 months I tested a similar solution to what I planned on deploying as a full production server.

After these tests were highly successful, I decided to build a production server using 6 x 3TB drives in a RAIDZ2 configuration (RAID 6).
Which is still running very well.

Symantec Backup Exec 2012 in a D2D2D (Disk to Disk to Disk) setup


In FreeNAS I created a ZFS Drive with a quota for each server, I then created shares for each ZFS drive.

So my FreeNAS file structure looks like this

These drives are setup as CIFS shares to look like this \\freenas\serverdc1 etc,

In Symantec Backup Exec 2012 I then created a new storage drive for each one of these shares.

Created a backup schedule for each server.

The reason I did this is for my sake of easily finding the right backup archives quickly, also Backup Exec 2012 also previously had a problem where not every archive was being deleted when it was supposed to, so I could easily see a drive filling up and work out which backups were not deleted when they were meant to be (this problem seems to of been resolved now though)

For the monthly backups to be off site, I have Backup Exec run them to 4TB external disks that are rotated off site.

This has saved the company a lot of time and also money, the initial cost of setting up the NAS was not exorbitantly expensive.

Considering this was several years ago when I did this project, the hardware I used is a bit old now, so in my next article I write I am going to go over some hardware that would be appropriate for various different SMB situations.


  1. Paul July 10, 2014
  2. rr August 3, 2014
  3. Gray81 December 24, 2014

Leave a Reply