The final presentation at last night’s Tapeless Workflow seminar at the Editors Guild was a discussion of tape backup. Yes, there were chuckles about the irony of a “tapeless workflow” which still requires tape media.
Unfortunately, it’s not.
Don’t Bet Your Life On It
During the course of my 17-year career building and managing server networks for large and small organizations I have implemented high-capacity backup systems on Windows and NetWare servers (remember them?) using many tape formats: DAT, 8mm, DLT, and the latest LTO.
Despite the lifespan claims of tape media, practical experience has shown me that tape backups are unreliable.
Any time I needed to restore data (for real) the tape backup system didn’t perform. Backup software would complain the catalog was corrupt. Tape media would become unreadable despite previous use.
A few weeks ago I attempted to restore data from an LTO-3 tape which was used 18 months ago – no luck – ARCserve informed me the tape was unreadable. This is what occurs most often despite the vendor, quality, price, format or tape media being used.
I’m guessing the LTO tape (which was created in a different [and defunct] drive) wasn’t readable in the newer unit – so much for standards. Considering that equipment is constantly changing you can’t risk unreadable media when equipment is upgraded.
Regardless, tape is critically important to your backup strategy but is only one component. Suggestions:
- Create at least two copies on tape and external hard drive using media/device from different vendors.
- Fully restore them once a year and create new backup media.
- Rotate your media using a Grandfather, Father, Son scheme.
- Never be without multiple full and incremental backups spanning weeks, months, years.
- Securely store the media in different buildings, campuses, even cities.
This is my experience and, of course, your mileage may vary.
Melrose Mac recommended a system from Cache-A which is plug-and-play and writes data in TAR (tape archive) format. Using TAR may eliminate software glitches such as corrupted backup catalogs due to software version differences (i.e.: ARCserve, Retrospect, etc.).