GFS backup scheme in Symantec Backup Exec

Grandfather-Father-Son is an industry standard backup scheme, where you have 5 daily backups, 5 weekly backups and as many monthly as you need. Symantec Backup Exec has prebuilt policy for GFS, but before going into configuring backup scheme itself, lets talk a little bit about general backup job configuration in Backup Exec.

Basic Terminology

Inside user interface you see Jobs, Policies, Selection Lists and Media Sets. First of all you need to create Selection List, which describes what you want to backup. There you select files and folders from your Windows, Unix or NDMP servers. Then you create Media Set, which is a collection of tapes with particular append and retention periods. Append period specifies how long data can be added to the same tape and retention period tells for how long data cannot be overwritten. Retention period starts form the time of last append to the tape. Then you create Policy. Policy, by means of templates, defines when backup jobs are run, where backups are stored and what is the type of backup – incremental, differential or full. One policy can consist of several templates. In template you specify backup date and time, as well as target tape library.

GFS Implementation

Backup Exec has a template for GFS backup rotation scheme. Click “New policy using wizard”, choose GFS scheme and then select schedule, target backup device and media sets for daily, weekly and monthly backups. By default Backup Exec suggests the following configuration.

Three tape media sets:

  • Daily Media Set – 1 week overwrite, 1 week append
  • Weekly Media Set – 5 weeks overwrite, 5 weeks append
  • Monthly Media Set – 1 year overwrite, 1 year append

Policy with three templates:

  • Daily Backup – Monday to Friday, Incremental
  • Weekly Backup – every Friday, Full
  • Monthly Backup – first Saturday of each month, Full

Also Backup Exec automatically creates rules to resolve conflicts. For example when both Daily and Weekly backups try to run on Friday, jobs do not conflict, because weekly backups always supersede daily. Same for monthly.

I personally prefer another schedule. First of all, if you run your jobs after midnight, you will need to shift your schedules from Mon – Fri to Tue – Sat. Additionally, I run monthly backup on the first Saturday of the month. Backup Exec by default (taking into consideration my one day shift) would suggest first Sunday for the monthly backup. However, it doesn’t make much sense to have weekly on Saturday and then monthly next day on Sunday. You would just consume more space without any benefit. Also, you can schedule monthly on the last Saturday of the month, but if the last day is Thursday, for example, then you will loose four business days from your monthly backup.

After the policy is created, you need to create backup jobs using this policy by clicking on New jobs using policy. All three jobs will be created automatically according to Selection List, as well as Policy Schedule, Target, and Backup Type parameters.

I’d also recommend everyone to configure notifications. There are general Alerts properties as well as inside each job.


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6 Responses to “GFS backup scheme in Symantec Backup Exec”

  1. moodjbow Says:

    Nice article. Thanks for the information. I presume it is for SBE 2012? Because I have a 2010 and there are no policies, only media groups, devices and job setup. Any idea if this is still feasible under such circumstances? Especially the part “weekly backups always supersede daily” is not clear for me. How’s that: the ones are full the others incremental.

    • niktips Says:

      It was for an ancient BackupExec 11d. If I’m not mistaken policies were removed in BackupExec 2012 and should exist in 2010.

      What about second question, it just means that if two jobs conflict (daily and weekly on the same day), then
      the weekly has a priority. If you have full, you don’t need the same incremental on that day.

      You can create Daily template with Mon-Thu jobs and Weekly on Fri. Then there won’t be any conflict. Original schema is just more clear and intuitive.

  2. moodjbow Says:

    Hi Nik, in 2010 there are no policies as well. As for the last question, I think that GFS will still work with different media sets as you described above. I am writing to tape .TIB backups and my wrong thought was doing full on Mo and incremental on Tu-Fr. Although on the same media set, the two jobs were configured differently: the full with “overwrite media” the incremental (because of excessive precaution) with “append to media, overwrite if no appendable media”. Strangely enough the incremental would never “continue” on the rest empty space of the full backup if there was additional tape free. So I presume that I have to keep incremental from Mo to Fr for the weekly routines only and define another media sets with full backup jobs as appropriate.
    Do you know by any chance, if a media set is defined as 5 weeks overwrite, 5 weeks append and on week 6 I run a job defined as “append to media, overwrite if no appendable media” – will it start from zero with the old stuff being overwritten (as I want it to be) or will the new data be appended to the 6-weeks old?

  3. moodjbow Says:

    Oh I see, the retention period you mentioned above. Thanks for the clarifications!

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