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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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."
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
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
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
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.