Data Tape Backup Media Atlanta

Securing your company's data

Today, isnít data is a corporationís most important asset? Loss of data can leave a business at a competitive disadvantage. The thought of a system breach has kept many an IT manager up at night. As a matter of fact, the value of data has forced corporate America to view tape storage as a strategic business issue as opposed to just a function of the IT department. The threats to data loss are as diverse as unscrupulous data tape recycling, world politics and Mother Nature. One can only imagine the impact a major earthquake would have on businesses in the Silicon Valley region. The threats also can be as local as one faulty data tape or drive.

It can be difficult to put a precise price tag on data loss. Value can vary greatly depending on the size of the business and the importance of the lost data. Nevertheless, here are some typical benchmarks in terms of dollars:

The downtime for PC LANs would cost $18,000 per hour

The downtime for UNIX networks would cost $75,000 per hour

At prices like these, companies should make data storage security a top priority.

Fujifim,  Maxel, LOT, DTL, TN, NT, bakcup

If Disaster Strikes, Will You Be Ready?

A disaster recovery program is a companyís insurance policy in the data protection world. The value of off-site vaulting of disaster recovery media is crucial especially when one considers the damage that can be caused by fires, floods and other acts of God.

Companies that operate a backup and archive program that uses enough media for off-site rotation, have the basis for a disaster recovery system. All that is required is that full system backup media be moved off-site at least weekly. Just as redundant pieces of media are required for local backup and recovery, multiple redundant sets of full system backup media are required for off-site for disaster recovery. Backup, archive, and disaster recovery activities are closely linked. Backup media can be used for disaster recovery if it is taken off-site regularly, even daily if it is mission-critical. The backup program often generates the archive data sets, but the media is retained separately from the backup pool. Archive media, if itís a full system copy, can be used for disaster recovery.

In planning a disaster recovery program, IT professionals might consider the following recommendations:

Make sure the off-site storage facility meets the environmental storage requirements for archive defined in the media handling section.

If operations and data are vulnerable to loss, move the media off-site daily. Organizations can use a service bureau or do it themselves if they have corporate facilities.

Remote means off-campus, far enough away to not be impacted by the nature of any local disaster. For example, in an earthquake zone such as San Francisco, remote is not Oakland, but perhaps greater than 100 miles away.

There should be adequate redundancy in the off-site backup pool for disaster recovery. A single recent backup may not be enough. It is better to have several. This redundancy should be part of the media requirements.

Periodically retire media holding full backups from the backup pool and retain it for historical version recovery and archive. This retirement requirement should be part of the media plan.

In addition to developing a solid disaster recovery program, there are a variety of things IT professionals can do to ensure that a companyís purchase orders, financial records, business contracts and agreements, leases and other irreplaceable documents, as well as database files and operating software are securely stored. These involve investing in good backup, archive and storage plans. One of the most critical links in this process Ė the quality of the backup media itself.

Used or recycled tape can introduce a host of issues that can result in functionality and security problems, including:

Data loss due to low signal-to-noise ratio, shorter archival life, computer viruses, damage from mishandling or poor cartridge storage condition.

All it takes is one sector of corrupt or infected data to wreak havoc with crucial records.

But even if a tape is factory fresh, itís up to IT professionals to ensure proper care. Peter Brown, a tape analyst with International Data Corporation, reports that often the most basic, sensible handling of tapes and drives are ignored. He noted one recent example in which an IT staff person ate a donut in a tape library room, causing contamination and data loss. If handled correctly, tapes such as DLT IV have an archival life of more than 30 years. There are some basic rules of thumb that staff should follow when using storage tape media:

Take Care of Your Data

Media Acclimation Ė If tapes come from a different environment, allow them to stabilize for at least 24 hours before use.

Control the Environment Ė Maintain and observe temperature and non-condensing relative humidity for both the operating and storage environment in which you use the tapes. Also, keep the surrounding area clean.

No Magnets Ė Keep tape cartridges away from magnetic sources.

Clean the Drives Ė Many recording/reading errors are temporary and can be corrected by periodically cleaning the drive.

Backup Program

How comfortable should the typical IT manager be with making just one back-up copy of an important document? Not very.

Organizations need a solid backup program that involves the creation of multiple copies of files, allowing for short-term data protection, recovery versions and long-term archive. Everything in the backup process should be based on reliable recovery, from drive and media technology, quality and reliability of media, and care and handling of media, to read verification testing of the backed-up data. And itís important that one piece of data be backed up on more than just one piece of media. The purpose of backup is to protect against disaster, data loss, damage or deletion of the primary on-line copy. Backup also provides version history of files so that prior work can be recovered. It takes many copies of files stored on separate pieces of media to fully ensure that each of these requirements can be met reliably.

A solid backup program should also entail the following:

Off-site storage of some of the media in the backup rotation cycle. Storage of backup tapes with servers does not adequately protect a business. If the site experiences physical damage, a company risks losing everything. Later on in this article there is a discussion about the importance of establishing a disaster recovery program.

A robust backup application that streamlines management of the backup process. This is especially applicable for network environments where multiple servers and many workstations are under management. Because of the complexity and lack of automation in a manually run backup system, the responsibility for backup cannot be delegated to workgroups or an operator, but must remain with the network manager. Backup administrative labor costs can run anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars per year to hundreds of thousands depending on the size of the company. The implementation of Network Area Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) has helped to streamline the backup process, but has also fueled the need for high capacity tape.

Fara Yale, Chief Analyst, Computer Storage Service, for GartnerGroupís Dataquest, emphasizes that the key word to remember in backup is recovery. "If youíre using faulty media and the drive doesnít detect a problem with the media, itíll appear that youíve completed the entire process of backing up. Only when itís too late, can you find out it hasnít. Itís important to confirm that the drive, as well as the media, is in good working order."

Archival Program

Companies need to archive data, both for business and legal reasons. There are various state and federal laws that financial, insurance, government and other institutions must maintain copies of certain types of records. For example, business records, contracts, leases and agreements should be kept for at least seven years. There is a three-year minimum for employee and human resource records and a three-to-seven year requirement for payroll and benefit records.

If that isnít enough of an incentive for developing an archival program, then consider this: The penalties for not maintaining and recovering tax records. An individual can be legally and personally liable for any loss of computer data. A fine of up to $100,000 or a five-year prison sentence can be imposed.

When talking about archiving, it is important to distinguish between data in archive and media in archive. Multiple copies of data on a single piece of media leaves that data at risk Ė sort of like putting all of your eggs in one basket. Data security is achieved only through media redundancy on reliable media. The foremost principle is that the quality of media used should always be suitable for the data application. With its long shelf life, high capacity and durability, media such as DLTtape is an excellent choice for archiving.

Most backup applications can create media suitable for archive; either the backup tapes themselves can be retained long-term for archive, or special archive tapes can be created using an "export" function. The negative side of using a backup application for long-term archive is that the media is recorded in a proprietary logical format readable only by the originating application. True long-term archive would also require archiving the entire backup system (computer, recording hardware and software) as well as media (and in multiple copies). The alternative is to use a backup or archive application that is capable of writing in an industry standard format such as "tar," "cpio," "UDG," "MTF" or "SIDF." Even then, the recording drives need to be archived as well. A unique factor with the DLTtape system is the backward-read compatibility. New-generation drives can read media recorded on older drives.

It is also appropriate to see archive as a hierarchy of media that is generated by different processes working in concert. Backup creates short-term media. When coupled with data removed from active storage via hierarchical storage management (HSM) or explicit archive grooming, it is considered medium-term archive. Long-term archive forms a legal record.

Protecting data involves thoughtful planning and plain old common sense. Most important, never be lulled into a false sense of security when your companyís most important asset Ė its data Ė is involved.


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