The Backup Strategy Guide

Contents:   1. Introduction to tape backups
2. Tape rotation systems
3. Implementing a backup system

3. Implementing a backup system

Pitfalls to avoid in a backup system

There are several pitfalls that can reduce the effectiveness of any tape backup system:

  • Faulty media ? if you run the same tapes for years, eventually they will wear out. However, your backup software should be able to detect faulty tapes when it verifies the data written to the tape after each backup.
  • Human error ? if you place the wrong tape in the tape drive for a backup, you'll obviously disrupt the system. There are ways of minimizing human error, which includes using software such as BackupAssist, to email your administrator/secretary daily, and instruct him/her to place a certain tape in the drive.
  • Insecure storage of tapes ? it is critical that your tapes be stored in a secure location such as a fireproof safe, and that your monthly, quarterly and yearly tapes be stored off site. Please note that if you store all your backup tapes next to your file server, and your building gets robbed or burns down, not even the best tape backup library in the world will get your data back.

The 3 steps to implementing a backup system

So now that you know the basic theory and options available, what's the fastest and most cost effective way of protecting your data? Here are the 3 steps that I recommend my clients:

Step 1 - select and purchase your backup hardware

The data of most small organizations will fit onto a single tape. Work out the amount of data that you need to back up, and select an appropriate tape drive according to these rough guidelines:

  • Up to 10 Gig ? Travan cartridge drive
  • Up to 20 Gig ? DDS tape backup drive
  • Up to 40 Gig ? DDS tape backup drive with hardware data compression

Then purchase the necessary tapes for your backup rotation strategy. A good Grandfather-Father-Child variation will require 10 tapes or 14 tapes.

Step 2 - implement backup processes, using software

The next step is to select a tape rotation strategy, devise a calendar of tapes, and to set up your tape backup software to schedule tape backups at the end of the working day. This process is time consuming, but fortunately there is software available to simplify the process.

I recommend BackupAssist ( for this purpose, as it provides a simple, inexpensive way of implementing a backup strategy, thus saving time and money. More details and a downloadable trial version can be found on the BackupAssist website.

Step 3 ? continually perform your backups!

Backups must be done every working day to be effective.

And as obvious as this sounds, the correct tape should be placed in the drive. For example, placing the ?Week 2? tape instead of the ?Week 3? tape in the tape drive will reduce the effectiveness of your tape rotation strategy!

Software such as BackupAssist will email your administrator or secretary the correct tape to place in the drive on any given day to minimise human error.

In addition, you should monitor the results of each backup to check for errors. For example, if a tape wears out and data cannot be verified, you need to take action and replace that tape.

By default, Windows Backup will not notify you of errors ? it's a manual process of opening up the backup logs and ensuring that the backup proceeded correcctly.

However, software such as BackupAssist will email you the backup logs daily, enabling you to monitor the backup results without having to manually check them.

Be sure to also follow your manufacturer's guidelines for drive cleaning and maintenance.

What level of investment is required?

Your investment in data protection will not be insignificant, but is small when compared to the costs associated with data loss.

The prices quoted (in US dollars) here are estimates of typical hardware, from the website, at 10th April 2003. In the example, 15 tapes have been purchased to implement the ?Professional? data backup rotation scheme.

Item Qty Cost
Seagate Travan 20 Gig Drive (STT220000A-RDT) 1 $269.00
Imation 20Gb data cartridges (12118) 3 pack 5 $445.90
BackupAssist software 1 $190.00
Total investment$843.90

What should I do now?

This guide should give you enough information to implement a backup system for your small business or organization. For more information, consult the resources listed in the Additional Resources section at the start of this manual.

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