Tape vs RDX backup

Yann Shukor
Yann Shukor used Ask the Experts™

One on my clients is hellbent on purchasing an LTO drive to run his backups.

His site is composed of five workstations, and no server; overkill you say ?

The reason he prefers the tape medium is because of  the security this appliance offers; the stored data isn't
directly accessible, therefore safe from infection or  manipulation by malevolant sources.

Any disk based backup medium is physically and easily accessible therefore not secure.

Unfortunately, today's tape backup solutions seem to have a single contender, LTO.

I was wandering whether RDX devices share the same vulnerabilities as regular disk based backup options ?

If I can control the workstation that is hooked to the RDX device, can I also access the data that is on the currently
inserted RDX disk ?

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I've another approach for you to consider:
Connect an additional computer to the network.  It doesn't have to be very powerful and XP would even be tolerable.

Attach an internal or external drive to it for backup.

Set up robocopy (or any other copy/backup program) to copy the files from the shares on the network to the backup hard drive.  I'm assuming that these shared files are what you want to back up.

Since nothing is shared on the backup computer and it is never used for anything else, there is no reason it should ever get infected unless someone does it intentionally.

With better backup programs (for example, SyncBack SE) you can have it keep a history of older versions of the files.  Alternatively, you can swap out the external drive on a regular basis.

If you set up this computer with a newer version of Windows you can use Carbonite, for example, to make a cloud backup.

I realize that this doesn't address your question directly, but may prove to be a better solution.
Use the old tiered storage approach.
Have a NAS for local backups and use tape for off site backup storage.

The problem with spinning disk is it is subject to bit rot if not powered on(about 3 to 5 years).
With tape ,you have 25 year shelf life.

So the best of both worlds.

RDX is just another disk.


Thank you both for your responses

The other issue of course is price: an LTO is usually destined to run off a server with a server OS
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Principal Software Engineer
There are three things about tape:  it's slow, it's not dense, and it's prone to errors because both the heads and the tape wear out.

When a CDC 9766 was 300 MB and cost $20,000, backup was to 10 MB 9 channel tape at $20 a reel because a spare drive wasn't affordable.  And it was prudent to make three backups, because tape 12 of the backup set would always throw a read error on restore otherwise.

LTO is more dense, but it's still prone to errors even with error correction.

A terabyte drive now costs around $100 and it'll back up just about any workstation.  The price of an LTO will buy two dozen such drives.

In this situation I'd buy two (or three) NAS devices, stuff 'em full of disk, set them up identically, and rotate the NAS devices.  It'll back up faster, safer, and you don't have to deal with tapes.  And if you ever need the backups, it'll be a lot easier and a lot faster to restore.
Most modern tape is so fast that it has to wait for data to stream ,so slower is pretty much a myth.
Tape is still cheaper per meg that disk.
Tape ECC is just as good, if not better than disk (SAS vs SATA interface)

Where disk outshines disk is the restoring of random files ,which is much easier than dealing with tape which is sequential.

For long term archival purposes ,tape is the superior medium.


Thanks for these reponses

Tape is what the client wants, so that's what I'm going to put in my offer

The remaining issue is finding a device that will run off a Windows 7 workstation

I suppose an LTO5 from Tandberg would suffice, together with BackupAssist to keep the overall cost down; just need to find a solid SAS controller with Win7 drivers

Any recommendations for PC based SAS controller boards  ?

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