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Tape backup replacement

We have a D2D2T solution for backup currently. The tape backup runs only for offsite storage and it keeps data for up to 3 months. The backup runs on a Dell TL 2000 PowerVault with LTO3 tapes. Considering that it's pretty old, the performance degraded significantly, failing quite a bit lately. My first option would be to remove the tape backup all together but from my research, it still looks like the most feasible option out there. Is this accurate? Could the cloud be a solution yet? How about some kind of removable drives that can be stored somewhere? As of now, there are around 5TB that need to be stored. Internet connection is at 20Mb but it might go up to 50 in the near future.

Thank you for your help!
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Alan Dala
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Alan Dala
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4 Solutions
 
MacleanSystem EngineerCommented:
Cloud is always an option. Usually what a cloud backup platform does is use a seeder system which collects the initial backup onsite.

The seeder is then delivered to the cloud managed backup provider who will add the backup to their repository, using reverse or incremental changes (Sometimes simple block level backups) to replicate day to day bits and pieces to their hourly or nightly backup.

You would need to weight out the cost of an online solution vs keeping it local.
Local you would pay for external storage, tape pickup & delivery, server, server license, backups software license, backup tapes, cleaning tape, tape loaders & maintenance etc etc. Online you just pay a monthly fee if via a managed provider, which with a 20Mb link should be fine.

Many online storage providers also provide DR in which they can spin up your environment at their end in case of emergency such as company burned down. and you need an infrastructure for your environment.

So yep, cloud backups are an option in my opinion.

Removable drives can get expensive, and due to higher risk of faults on mechanical drives I am not a huge fan of this solution. Encryption of them can also considerably add to the backup times.

So if not going for the cloud, tape might still be preferred.
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Rob_JeffreyIT/ProgrammingCommented:
Cloud storage is not an viable option for me - the data transfer rate and bandwidth limitations on site are too restrictive for our data needs.

We currently use hot swapped SATA 3.5" drives  - for $80/2Tb they are fast, cheap and just as sensitive to their environment as tapes have been in my experience.  They don't handle shock as well as tape, but have a better lifespan.  Just like tape, though, I don't expect the backup medium to survive for longer than a year.

Hell, if your data will fit comfortably on 4Gb, a bunch of thumb drives would work.  Just my 2 cents.
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Alan DalaITAuthor Commented:
Hello and thank you for your answers!

As mentioned above, the tape backup is used for archiving purposes. We keep 2-weeks worth of data on HD backups on site. Tape is currently used for offsite storage in case of a major disaster. As specified, we have around 5TB worth of data that needs to be backed up.

Thank you!
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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
Rob, disks have a better lifespan than tape, what are you using dat?

The latest LTO-6 tapes hold 2.5 TB, and have a lifespan of 10+ years designed in, hdd's might be able to hold twice as much but are not designed to store data for extended periods powered down, probably 5 years max may be a lot less.

Having LTO-3 tapes now means that if you want to be able to have access to your archive you cannot go above an LTO-5.
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Carlos IjalbaIT Systems CoordinatorCommented:
For daily backups Cloud storage is a cheap and available option, but for archive is a different thing, as nobody can guarantee that cloud storage company XX will be there in 10 years time.

There is one big issue with long term archives, and that is that unless you keep an old server with a old version of your backup software and an old tape drive, you will have a problem trying to restore an old backup kept there.

So what it's needed is to migrate archived data every 4 or 5 years to newer media. If you have LTO3, you would need to buy an LTO5 and migrate the data to LTO5, then destroy all the LTO3.

Note that LTO generations are backwards compatible for read on 2 generations and for read/write on 1 generation: basically LTO5 will only read LTO3 and read/write on LTO4 and LTO5.

The latest generation out is LTO6.
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Alan DalaITAuthor Commented:
Rob_Jeffrey:

Could you please give me some more details on the solution you're using? Do you have a specific server with hot-swappable drives used only for backup? Are the drives part of a RAID? If they are, how do you tell the backup software to backup to a specific HD?

Thank you!
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Rob_JeffreyIT/ProgrammingCommented:
We have a Dell poweredge running Centos which we use the hot swap SATA drives in.

There is a cron job that just mounts the drives each minute so inserted drives get picked up pretty quick and there are cron jobs that run the backup jobs to the drives.

We just sync files to the drive and use the drives on daily and weekly cycles.  We have a set of 5 dailies which we rotate through each day.  At the end of the month we grab the oldest drive and store it as the monthly and throw in a new drive to the cycle.

We don't expect long term storage out of these - as Gerald mentioned  - tape is better for that.   We are just looking for off site recovery in case the building burns.  As it gets older, the data is less valuable to us anyway.

Hope this helps.
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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
Rob, you need to be aware of the insertion cycle limit on the connectors of your backup drives and mobo. It's all down to the thickness of the gold on the connector, which gets worn away with every insertion. SAS & SATA are not typically very highly rated, USB much more so
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NVITCommented:
...insertion cycle limit on the connectors of your backup drives and mobo
Would adding an adapter at the server end and leaving it there help? Of course, he still needs to consider wear on the external end. I don't know if it's feasible to have and adapter there, too.
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Rob_JeffreyIT/ProgrammingCommented:
Gerald is right.  We are using hardware in a manner is was not designed for and this is something that should be considered.  My setup is definitely ad hoc but has been operating for almost two years now.

That being said, of course the connector is due to fail next Thursday ;)
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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
The easiest way to protect the device connectors is to use a short fly lead on each device, permantly connected to the device. Then the only connectors at risk are the external end of the fly lead and the connecting cable. These can easily and cheaply be replaced e.g. Annually
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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
Rob or failed subtly yesterday and you haven't noticed yet!   :-)
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NVITCommented:
On the external end, prevent the adapter from accidental removal during transport or otherwise by securing it with a whole roll of duct tape. ;)
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