Travan technology reliabilty

I work with small legal practices (2-10 people).  The principals of these firms have money to spend, but they are still concerned about managing costs.  Recently, one of my clients attended a conference where someone made a presentation about back office technology for legal practices.  The presenter dismissed Travan tape technology as unreliable and strongly recommended external/removable hard drives for backups.

Depending upon your backup needs and your risk profile, there are certainly situations where the hard drive backup may be the best solution.  However, it seems to me that if you want/need say a 6-media rotation (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri/Week1, Week 2), then the removable hard drive is impractical and where imho a tape-based solution is the most practical.

The comments about Travan reliability aren't consistent with my personal experience and are not consistent with the fact that there are something like 14 million drives and 200 million tapes in circulation.

This question is focussed specifically on Travan technology, its reliability, and its suitability for small back office backups.  Is it a good, dependable solution or should it be dimissed in light of better, equivalent cost technology?  While anecdotes are interesting, I am more interested in authoritative accounts for or against this technology and points will be awarded accordingly.  Please do not quote vendor literature unless it cites a less-biased source.
LVL 11
Who is Participating?
My opinion is this:

Travan can be reliable in a sense that we all know in the computer world there are some things that just go bad faster than others for no apparent reason.  So there are going to be some bad tapes at some point in the life cycle of using them. If you maintain the drive, make sure the settings in the backup software verify the data on the tapes, and you place the tapes in an area that is not too hot/cold/muggy or near somthing that will destroy them (magent) then you should be fine. I have setup several clients with Travan tapes. Only a few picked DAT (due to high price). But the ones that did use Travan worked great. I had 1 client that had a few issues with the tapes but that was due to lack of running a cleaning job and using a tape drive cleaner which eventually was the problem with the tapes going bad. So I would say Travan is fine IF you clean the drive as recommended. Also the tapes we had were lifetime warranty so the bad got sent back while the good were still being used in rotation and the backups were not interupted. (You obviously want more than 1 tape) I'd recommended to have 1 tape per day and 1 backup tape in case somthing happens to 1 of the others. The backups ended up working great. They bought Veritas's $400 software (Backup Exec i forget what ver) and used it every now and then because people would accidently delete needed files. I think they work fine, even though I love the new Server 2003 shadow copy technology much better with a raid system to backup the data ;)
Its a good question... But I think you should ask whether the architecture the Travan is using reliable... and the answer for that is Yes... the architecture is reliable and good... not as good as the LTO but it all sums up in price, worthability and qualified manufacturer. Also, a big important facture to take in mind is that the Travan technology is common.. this makes it accessable in terms of support, drivers and human knowledge resources.

Simple and short answer...

If you wish to learn more about the technology and its quality (though not that new... but than again, there are a few who uses AS400 and are very happy):

QuetzalAuthor Commented:
Cyber, you raise an interesting point....architecture of the technology versus its specific implementation by a manufacterer.  I would be interested in hearing about differences along these lines.

The issue that I have have references such as the one you supplied is that it does not seem authoritative; it's the kind of thing you could put together by blending the marketing materials of the top 4 vendors.

Perhaps another angle on my question is: Does the presenter to whom I referred have a solid basis go out of his way to knock this technology and present it in a manner as to suggest that his information is authoritative and understood by those "in the know".
Ultimate Tool Kit for Technology Solution Provider

Broken down into practical pointers and step-by-step instructions, the IT Service Excellence Tool Kit delivers expert advice for technology solution providers. Get your free copy now.

Its a very open question... to dismiss such a technology in such wide maner is wrong. there are many business institues and there are many technologies... I would disqualifies the Taravan technology if you would mention a large scale operation... But for a small biz who wishes to save mony, it is a great technology and just disqualifing it says somthing about the presenter (funded or knowledgeless)..

In short:
Each technology is right for a purpose... it is wrong to just mark it as un-safe... I would say inapropiate to... A. B. C... but it is good for A. B. C...

Hope that clears the case...

1- travan technology is slower then other technologies like dat, or dlt.
2- Travan tape cost ALOT more then dat tape, and fail regulary. They are often as expensive as DLT tape wich can store ALOT MORE data.
3-Travan is obsolete

If you want something REALLY reliable, get a DLT Drive. you can't go wront with that.
If you want to save cost, go with a Dat drive.. (tapes cost around 8$)

Yes, both of these drives cost more initially, but after, you'll save on the total cost for the Dat Drive
and you'll be able to store ALOT more stuff on a DLT drive.. think of the future.

Travan is a solid technology. It's foundation is from the old QIC02 drives from years ago. Tapes are more expensive than 4mm DAT tapes but that is because the tape is not pulled out and into the drive.

I have not seen Travan tapes to have more defects, from what I have seen it is up to the quality of the tape. A good tape is a good tape and all the different types have better and poorer quality tapes.

Speed in restore and appending to tape is the disadvantage. I have been using travan, 4mm DAT, 8mm, and DLT drives for years and have found them all good and reliable.

The most important thing is to follow the manufacture's instructions.
If they recommend cleaning the drive then do it as per their recommendations.
Buy only brand tapes that they recommend (it really does make a difference).
Make sure the environment is within the specs for the drive.

QuetzalAuthor Commented:
Yan, wrt to #2 that Travan tapes fail regulary.  *This* would be a big point of concern.  What point is there in have tape backups if you can't read them.  However, the vendor hype is that they can be used daily for 5 years.

So, do you have any personal, statisitcal data or any authoritative references to back this point?
QuetzalAuthor Commented:
BTW, I like DLT drives...but...they and their tapes are really expensive, as much as another workstation.

The focus of this question is Travan tape drives.  I want to be confident if I recommend them.  If they are reliable, then we can talk about cost, speed, etc.  If they are not reliable, I can't recommend them, period.  If I make a backup, I need to know it will be usable.
We have 2 persons in my corp using travan tape, (Seagate), and we tried using tape from 2 different company. one of the tape drive broke 3 weeks after we bought it, the second one, died after 1 year.. we got both of them replaced (with the warranty), and I just had another one of them fail me 3 weeks ago.  About once per 3-4 month, a tape die on me.. so it's lost, gotta replace it. I have something against travan tape. Maybe I wasnt very lucky with them..  I always tell my users to clean them with their cleaning kit, wich I hate. On our server I had a DAT drive, and on my 2 newest one, I have 2 DLT drives. the dat drive always worked perfectly in 5 year of use. And i've been using the DLT tapes for 2 years on both machine, and I never got any problems at all with them.

If you wish to implement a technology that does not fail, you may think on purchasing a tape libary along with LTO ultrium which may be connected along with FC to a SAN, connected to a remote RDP site via 10mbps line. But the price tag for that one is high, very high.

I have lots of experience in all levels of backup and believe me... DAT (DDS4) is not THAT reliable... in-fact it is requiring big time maintenance and the replacement of tapes periodically (nearly every two to three months) if you DO commit maintenance to that system it will work fine... but than again... every system will work fine as long as you maintane it. DLT or Super DLT are great technologies but you need to take in-mind the capacity that you backup and the MEDIA's total price.

Travan is old!!!

Im not so sure about it being in-reliable because all my implementations of that tape ware sussessful and did not caused that much trouble... But than again, as I said aerlier; it depens from whom you buy the equiptment rather the architecture... There are high quality manufactureres and there are very low quality manufactureres - such as like in most cases and products. You can buy a high quality DLT solution, but you might as well buy a very low quality. The ONLY architecture that is allowed to ONLY high quality manufacturers is LTO... thus, makes it is expansive (media and tape).

If you want to be so sure about your desigion, provide us with the specific model(s) you maintane and we'll be able to provide you with a better view (I guess).

Vitually all backup technologies have a verify capability. Travan does, as dos DAT, DLT etc. If you successfully verify the backup, then you can be reasonably confident in it.

In my experience, the biggest cause of problems has been that the user fails to do the backup....because it is too much hassle etc?.....or that they fail to check the logs for failings in the backup process.

Remember that data is the life-blood of the company - losing it often puts the company out of business!

Therefore my guidelines are:

1.    Choose a mainstream technology that will cope with your requirements for data backup for the next 5 years. Travan is ok..but perhaps go for something a little more modern - I currently go for DDS, DLT, and LTO depending on my customer.

2.     Check that your backup software can verify the backup, AND that it copes correctly with open files, or files that are in use. This is a major issue for applications like MSExchange/Lotus Notes, or other software that is running permanently.

3.     Avoid bleeding edge. You don't know whether it will be supported long term.

4.     Make sure that you have more than 1 person capable of carrying out the whole backup process (cover for illness/holiday etc)

2-10 people? How much data are we talking about?

The reason people use tapes is that the just isnt any other good ways of storing large amounts of data. As your clients are in the 2-10 people range you could maybe even do with a dvd burner as backup. The DVD technology has many advantages over tape however is limited to 4.3gb. The duallayer format that takes over 8gb is still in its early stages. Another advantage of the DVD burner technology is that its cheap.

For backups its important to cycle media. The most common approach is 6 tape setup going from monday to friday where you cycle the friday tapes every other week. The spare friday tape should be locked in a fireproof safe or be deposited in a bank box to make sure recovery after fire. Also remember to replace the tapes often as they wear out.
QuetzalAuthor Commented:
We seem to be straying from my original, specific question.  Let me try to summarize a couple of key points and then reiterate my purpose.

Backups can be used for simple data recovery, disaster recovery, or for data archive.  

For simple data recovery, utilities such as Undelete or backups of any sort (tape, cd, dvd, hard drive), are handy.   The nmber of versions back you wish to recover will determine your rotation scheme.

For disaster recovery, RAID arrays provide a very basic and simple drive failure recovery.  In order to protect from damage to the physical premises, it is important to create a rotation cycle that permits off site storage of backup media.

For data archive, the most critical feature is the ability to actually recovery the data weeks, months or even years later.  These schemes typcially need a rotation scheme that allows the archived media to be stored offisite and not subjected to any use that would jeopardize the data contents that can no longer be replaced.

[The Win XP and Win 2003 shadow copy service is important and useful in protecting data files that are likely to be open at the time of backup.  This service provides an inexpensive alternative to such features as the Backup Exec Open File Option.  But the backup program or service needs to be running on the same machine as the service in order to take advantage of it.  For purpose of this discussion, shadow copy is not a critical factor.]

When you blend the simple recovery, disaster recovery, and archive needs, you may end up with a strategy that calls for multiple media that can be rotated off-site.  Schemes involving CD and DVD can work, provided that users are dedicated to getting the backups done.  Schemes involving external hard drives generally start to become expensive when the number of separate offsite media starts to exceed 2-3.  DVD technology is still not completely standardized.  Questions have arisen as to the longevity of CD dyes.  Tape still emerges as a viable, economical, and reliable alternative.

The reliability and simplicity of getting the backups in the first place is step 1.  Being able to count on reading the backup media later is step 2.  Cheap drives and/or cheap media mean nothing if the data aren't there or can't be read when you need it.
This question is simply and specifically directed toward Travan technology and it's suitability to this purpose.  I've heard ancecdotal storeis of Travan gone bad....but then I'll bet we can gather anecdotes about every technology.  This question was spurred by the remarks of someone presenting, as accepted knowledge, that Travan technology (and to some extent all tape technology) is unreliable and inferior to external drives without any qualification of needs as I have described above.

The answer I seek is relatively straightforward.  If there is "general knowledge" about the reliability of Travan technology that makes it unsuitable for the uses I have outlined above, I would like to see authoritative sources.  Lacking those sources, I am also seeking a consensus on whether people would bet on this technology for the uses I outlined above...and why.
QuetzalAuthor Commented:
Last sentence should be augmented with "...or why not".
You get what you pay for. The cost of replacing the lost data is astronimical - so why stuff around? Get something like an LTO Ultrium - rated at 250,000 hours mean time between failure - I've had lots of Trevan types units fail - some went OK - some didn't - do you feel lucky today? If you're in charge of protecting the data then you're the one who will get it in the neck if you lose the lot - on the other hand if you get something more upmarket, will it be coming out of your pay check? No.

You also need to compliment with other strategies ...

1. Whatever you go with, TEST IT REGULARLY - if I had a $1 for every restore that has failed I'd be a rich man

2. Have many backup sets and rotate them regularly

3. Keep some backup sets off site

4. Know that a fire-proof safe is NOT the same as a Data Safe safe.

5. Consider a mirrored drive array

Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
Travan's - I hate them.  My last environment had 60 odd servers with DLT 4000's 7000s 8000s, 1 with DDS3, and 4 with Travans.  In a 2 year period, 3 of the 4 travan drives failed.  The IBM hardware engineers that came to the site always hated them too.  

The only problem I had with the DLTs was the tape leaders detaching - a 5 minute fix.  If the main aim is accessing data in the future, you need a device with an extensive road map.  Either SDLT or LTO offer this.  
Thanks for the accept, I only meantioned shadow copy to bring up open files but yet failed to explain it or even meantion it with the backup software(after I read what I wrote) Good luck with your backups!
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.