We can help with old Backup Systems

Backup Tape Technology was introduced very early in the history of Computing. The spinning wheels in the old movies are backup tapes running. Technology has evolved over time, and backup tape systems progressed to cartridge type formats to increase the protection of the actual data tape.

By the time that the First Home Computers were released, the music cassette tape format was also briefly used as a data storage device, to read information from. Although it worked, it was somewhat slow and unreliable. For those young enough, not to know what a music cassette tape is, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassette_tape

Various proprietary tape formats have been implemented over the years, however the LTO Tape format has now become a standard, having been developed by a consortium of BIG IT Vendors, for common usage.

The following are the issues and practices to be aware of in using Backup Tape.

Tape Version Tracking

It is very easy to inadvertently overwrite the wrong tape, thereby losing a recent data backup. Various methodologies have been developed to prevent this from happening, however, the most effective way to prevent this is implementing control on your backup environment.

Some systems will write a catalogue and date to a Tape, which will prevent the tape from being written to if inserted out of sequence.

Another simpler method to track tape usage is by the colour of the tape cartridge, a coded tape label, and a tape rotation scheme. The Grandfather, Father, Son method basically defines tape categories as Grandfather being Monthly, Father Being Weekly and Son being Daily.

Tape Storage

Backup Tape needs to be stored in a secure environment that has humidity and temperature control.

All tapes should be rotated offsite on a schedule once a backup is completed. Tapes Should be transported in Tape Transport boxes that are locked but more importantly, will protect the tapes from physical shocks and bumps while being transported.

Having tapes offsite in a secure and controlled storage facility will ensure that backup tapes will survive a complete catastrophic operational Site Loss due to events like fire and civil strife.

Backup Tape Wear

An issue with Tape drive technology is that the tape heads wear due to long term usage, and error rates on the tapes increase. Unfortunately, this normally becomes apparent when a restore is required, and the tape drive’s display errors when restoring data.

It is therefore important that a test restore schedule is implemented with regular test restores being conducted, to validate the usage of the backup tapes in storage.

Where an individual Tape displays errors, the tape contents should be copied to a new tape, with the old tape being securely wiped and destroyed.

Where a set of tapes display errors, the tape drives should be cleaned using tape cleaning kits. However, where this does not work consideration should be given to replacing the tape heads or the tape drive itself.

Backup Tape System optimisation.

Do you have a legacy backup system that is not running as expected. We can help you to optimise your backup system and processes, ensuring that your information is protected.

  • Check your backup system to ensure that it is still working
  • Can it still handle the workload
  • Do you have offsite backup copies daily
  • Is your tape rotation system a manual process?
  • What happens when the person who runs your backups is no longer available
  • When last was a restore test done
  • How are your backups monitored
  • Do you have access to an organisation that can physically repair your Tape Drive System.