The Institute for Backup Trauma

This is an editorial reprinted from April 27, 2005.

It’s viral marketing, but it’s not bad. Livevault produced a short video starring John Cleese as the director for this institute that seeks to counsel those that have had problems with tape backups. “Such an unreliable medium”, this one is straight out there. An advertisement for Livevault, a little silly, satirical, but not that bad.

It’s an interesting concept and one that I’ve debated with various colleagues over the years. Tape v disk. Which one is better for securing and ensuring the integrity of your data, which one is better for business continuity, which one works for your budget.

When I started in this business, it was a no brainer. Disk was way more expensive than tape and there wasn’t even a choice. Nowhere I worked could afford to backup their data to disk. On top of that, the technology for managing disk backups wasn’t great. I remember working for a small company and we couldn’t afford a VCS system. At least, I couldn’t pry money out of my boss for one, despite the fact that the business lived and died based on the code that was written. So we setup 5 folders on the network: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and you guessed it, Friday. Under each one, the other developer and I each had our own folder and a batch job that would copy data off our desktops to the appropriate folder on the appropriate day. We erased everything older than 5 days, though we still had tapes if we needed them.

Today, with disk being nearly as cheap and much, much faster than tape, and the need to go back more than one version in a business environment being fairly rare, it makes some sense to use disk. Microsoft released their own software, that helps with data recovery on disk, so there must be either some growth or a very high profit margin in this area đŸ™‚

Personally, I think that the idea is a good one, but like many new technologies that change the way a user works, this one will take some time to get used to. I’m all for users being able to recover their own data without calling an admin, especially when the admin is me, but I’m sure that there will be lots of calls on how to find the files, which version, I forgot to save it, but my machine crashed and I want to go back 3 versions, annoyed calls when the last version on disk rolls off, etc.

But I wouldn’t give up my tape. At J.D. Edwards, we backed up the databases to disk, then to tape that night, with two copies of the tapes being made. One went offsite and one was in a rotation on site. The triple protection served me well and we never had issues getting data off disk or one of the two tapes.

Of course, that was expensive, so it’d not an option I’ve had often. Still, one disk and one tape worked out well and these days having disk be so cheap, a second copy on disk is something I’d shoot for.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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