13 Replies - 1245 Views - Last Post: 30 July 2008 - 03:33 PM

#1 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:46 PM

This may sound a little weird, but I hate losing data when hard drives die. I have too much data to effectively store backups, and I don't like spending money when I don't have to.

That said, I don't want to burn several thousand DVD disks every time I "backup" one of my computers.

I've done a bit of browsing, and it seems magnetic tapes are cheap and hold a lot of data. Drives might be a bit more expensive, but I think I could reasonably justify the cost if I could do something like store images of all of my hard drives on a single tape.

Anyone have any experience with this? Is this a stupid idea?

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Replies To: Magnetic Tape Backups

#2 girasquid  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 02:31 PM

I may be over-simplifying your issue here, but..why not just use RAID?

Something like RAID 5 + hot swappable drives will let you make sure that no data is lost in the event of a drive failure, and you won't have anything you're not using lying around.

Are you looking for redundancy, or backups? Your first sentence sounds like you're looking for redundancy, but the next one sounds like backups.

This post has been edited by girasquid: 22 July 2008 - 02:33 PM

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#3 aj32  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 02:36 PM

Yeah, I would go with RAID, I use RAID 3 on my File Servers, and RAID 5 on one of my Web Servers. Although it does get kind of expensive sometimes. But It definitely will make sure you don't lose data, well, at least not easily! ;)

EDIT: as of using mag. tape backups, I don't know, if they hold a lot and are safe (e.g. they don't fail like floppies...), I'd say its a safe bet!

This post has been edited by aj32: 22 July 2008 - 02:37 PM

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#4 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 03:00 PM

Tape drives are s.....l......o.......w.......

plus at the cost of HD's at the moment you would do better to back up to another HD (thus RAID).

Another thing is to know what to back up... I tend to keep a back up of my most important work on a network drive (actually its just the external drive hooked up to my server). I don't back up all the software and OS config crap because as irritating as a reinstall is -- all of that crap is available on other media.

Generally the stuff that you really NEED to back up (code/documents/images etc) can be backed up using a few Gigs. They sell 2-4Gb thumb drives for a reasonable price.

As for you MP3 Collection and videos... well... the best bet there is a RAID array.

Tapes are good for cron jobs at midnight on the weekends for organizations... they are just irritating on a PC.
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#5 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 03:29 PM

I'm talking disk image backups. I don't need to be able to access them on a whim.

Was thinking about RAID, but that would require me to buy a bunch of harddrives. I'll do that if I have to, but I was hoping there was a cheaper solution and tape drives presented themselves.

Plus I've gotta admit, after reading several consecutive books on UNIX, I kind of really just want to play with one. :)
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#6 girasquid  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 03:37 PM

Are you sure that tape drives are cheaper? I know in my area, I can get 500GB SATA drives for $80 - and you'd only need 3 to set up 500GB's in RAID 5.
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#7 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 22 July 2008 - 04:26 PM

View Postgirasquid, on 22 Jul, 2008 - 06:37 PM, said:

Are you sure that tape drives are cheaper? I know in my area, I can get 500GB SATA drives for $80 - and you'd only need 3 to set up 500GB's in RAID 5.

Well I found some 800gb tapes for $45, I'm not sure about the drive itself though. Will have to do some more research I suppose. :^:

Playing around with operating systems on my laptop atm. OS X is...interesting. :P
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#8 1lacca  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 23 July 2008 - 01:27 AM

If you would use HDs for backup, it is better to just copy things onto them than RAID, because RAIDs can die due to memory or CPU failure quite spectacularly (especially soft RAIDs, but hardware RAIDs are not invulnerable either) I admit it is not that likely, but I sucked once or twice...)
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#9 josiahb  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 23 July 2008 - 02:08 AM

As NickD said, tape drives are slow. We run a nightly backup to tape drive were I work and it takes somewhere in the region of 5/6 hours to backup about 230gb of data.

The other thing worth noting with magnetic tape is although the tape may have a quoted 800gb capacity you may hit problems if you actually use all of it. We run 400gb tapes here but I wouldn't be comfortable having them reach more than 300gb full.
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#10 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 23 July 2008 - 05:18 AM

Well I don't mind the speed, I'm only intending to back things up maybe once a month.

I can do incremental backups, but I'd rather just backup entire disk images. Saves (my) time when I need to restore something.

I usually have some kind of code management system setup when I'm working on a project (ie. externally hosted Subversion server), so up-to-date backups isn't the main point. I just do a lot of little "tweaks" to an operating system after I've been running it for some time, and it's easier to just mirror the disk (I'm lazy). :)
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#11 penguin2  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 23 July 2008 - 03:13 PM

Tapes are very slow and loud. If you bump your computer while backing up, it ruins data, since the computer would have to look at a catalog to do incremental backups, it will have to wind through the whole thing, they are terribly unreliable.

Go with external HDs, that way if lightning strikes a power pole near your house it won't hurt anything. (unless you left it plugged in.....)

Tell us what you think if you actually try this.
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#12 DeCompile  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 30 July 2008 - 01:56 PM

This information is all depending on a few elements of your data:

1. How important your data is - If it is 'corporate' data then there should already be a backup plan in place. I'm guessing this is personal data and 'offsite backups' aren't relevant to you.

2. The amount of data that you're backing up. You've previously said that burning a few dvd's is just annoying. So then there has to be more than 20 gig of data.

If you need to backup huge amounts of data that aren't going to be used on a daily basis or if it's just for archival purposes, go with a tape. They, on average, last longer than a hard drive. They're cheaper per gig to buy.

Disadvantages are: They take longer to backup data too.

Tape drives aren't noisy, if there is one out there that is making some noise I would see that it get serviced before your find out that the backups that have been taken aren't working properly.

One important thing - When you take a backup, restore some data from it. That will test the integrity of the backup to make sure that it worked successfully, too many times do people rely on backups to find out they weren't backing up the right data or just system state, or worse, the tape drive itself wasn't working correctly.

Food for thought.
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#13 Tom9729  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:25 PM

Well I have about 6 hard drives I want to image (most are more-or-less full), I'm talking maybe around 400gb, less if I use compression (which I don't really want to deal with).

I'm not too concerned about having recent backups, the amount of data I have that regularly changes is relatively small.

I try to arrange access to some kind of code repository system whenever I'm working on a project, so that's not an issue either.
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#14 DeCompile  Icon User is offline

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Re: Magnetic Tape Backups

Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:33 PM

If you really want that "Backup but access the files" then you should be looking at a RAID array.

Raid 5 is good for large amounts of data and has very good throughput.
Raid 5 should also be made with a minimum of 4 drives just in case a hard drive fails.

If on the other hand, you only want to backup your data as it's not changing that much, just in the case of a catastrophic failure. A tape would be the option of choice.

If you're looking at purchasing a tape backup drive, you'll notice there are many different types of tapes and backup drives. To state the obvious, you should purchase tapes that will be compatible with that backup drive.

Then just standard handling procedures apply:-

Keep the tapes out of direct sunlight etc. Basically, if you put the backup in an air tight container somewhere that isn't moist or gets direct sunlight they'll last for years.

Tape backups do suffer from data rot, not as much as DVD's do. So they should be periodically checked (if you're only taking one backup a year) just to make sure the data is Ok.
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