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Tape vs External Drives

Tape vs External Drives

Tape vs External Drives

We are getting a new server soon: Win2k3, Raid5.

Our current server backs up to a tape drive.  My employer is considering external hard drives for the new server's backup solution.  I dont like this idea, Ive always preferred tape drives.

What are your thoughts on backing up to external disk?  Do you prefer one over the other?  Pros and cons?

All comments appreciated.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

It depends on how it backs up. If it backs up to a single file, such as Backup Exec does by default, you have to either manually kill those files, or automate that process somehow, as they are named different each time (I think based on a time stamp). Otherwise, you'll fill the drive up real quick.

Pat Richard, MCSE MCSA:Messaging CNA
Want to know how email works? Read for yourself - http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2821.txt

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I always use tape. For a small business it's easier for someone to change a tape than to remove a hard disk and install another. It's also more convenient to remove a tape for off site storage. Tape is a pain though, there are more things to go wrong but i prefer it. External hard drives would be good but you have to manage the files and drives more.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

we are large system computer reseller:

For our administration office (Cathrine managed)
we have a PC with admininistrtaion programs, e-mail, ecc. From many years the backup has been don on a DAT 4mm tape.

Last month DAT has gone, and I have had a great difficult
to buy another, or the price was unaccetable.

Speaking and speaking with Cathrine (she monthly pays
our salary, then is a "important customer"), she wanted
a new DAT, and I have had difficult to explain th situation.

We reached this compromise:

1) a large disk (USB removable ih her case), fixed probably
in yours, without RAID protection, on wich:
  1.a) copy office documents with manual management
  1.b) perform Windows-NT-Backup, (the same used before)
       but writing on a file rather on a tape
  1.c) export Outlook data with appropriate procedure
       (export DB or other in your case)

2) We buyed a DVD rewritable (I sayd her: so you can write
   your Films!) on which write large backup files or full
   directory zipped or not, reading them from the big disk.

a) If you need to restore single files, it is easier a DVD than a tape: in any PC with DVD-rom, you can retrieve the file.

b) For large restore, you restore the entire bkf as you read from tape.

I think that today is the best solution for little environment, while tape library and Backup SW (Veritas...)
will be used for large or enterprise envs.


RE: Tape vs External Drives


Tape is far from dead.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Here's another option:  Look into an Iomega Rev drive. Holds up to 90GB, is SCSI-based, so it will nicely replace you're scsi tape drive. It is FAST, is accessible as an additional hard drive, it is removeable (can take it off site like a tape) and finally, it's less expensive than a tape drive. I've just installed my first one in a server at a customer's request, as I must say I am impressed. Worked fine with Arcserve Brightstor software, by the way.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

tape is really dead

George Walkey
Senior Geek in charge

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Care to explain why George? Genuinely interested.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

If you try backing up to disk you won't go back to tape.  It is faster for backups and faster for restores.

Buy a cheap NAS (Buffalo has nice ones) and perform your daily backups onto the NAS drive.  If you need to store archival data backup the files on the NAS to tape once a week or once a month.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Any scenario where data is not being taken off-site is ill-advised.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Dear lord dont use a burner for your backup... hell I would even go for the external drive before that...

We use LTO Ultrium 2 where I work 200/300gb
also we have an undelete program for quick restores during the day off the drive (like shadow copies)

and the reason we use tapes is because we have specified end of week, monthly, end of year backup sets that have to be kept off site. We also have 3 weeks of tapes we keep on site for quick backups.

*shrug* I just couldnt imagine doing it with harddrives.. eek

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I've used tape drives for years.  They seem to have pretty much become pointless these days.

People tended to use tape drives because the tapes held lots of data and could be stored easily (usually in a fire-proof cabinet or at an off-site location).  With the advent of external USB hard drives, it makes a lot more sense to use them (at least in a small business setting).  Hard drives are faster and can hold quite a bit of data for the price.  Also, they don't wear out near as often as a tape will.  If you need to store your backups in a cabinet or off-site, just unplug the drive and go.  I'd buy at least two or three drives and rotate them.  For long term archiving...  burn the data to a dvd.

Something to think about:
Two years ago, I bought a Certance auto-loading tape drive capable of holding 432GB (six 72GB tapes) for around $2000.  You can buy an external 500GB USB hard drive for an average of about $325 (based on a quick scan of Newegg.com).

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I personally do not like tape backup solutions as the drives are often quite expensive and the tape availability seems to have a relatively short lifespan.  Also, with a hard drive backup you don't need any special hardware to read the backup media.

My personal preference in a small business environment (15 PCs or less) is to use a hardware IDE RAID controller card in the computer which stores the important data.  I configure the RAID controller in mode-0 to mirror the hard drive contents on to two drives.  The second drive in the array I install in a removeable hard drive chasis, and provide the customer with a 3rd drive in the same type of chasis.  Then I configure the RAID controller's support software to automatically re-build the array in the event of a failure (which will occur when the removeable drive is removed and replaced with the other removeable drive).  This way the customer can take one drive off-site, and the entire system (OS, installed aps, customizations, and data) can be restored almost instantly simply by plugging the hard drive into a working PC.

However, this is not the only backup method I use.  I also use an external USB hard drive somewhere else in the office, and scedule a batch file to run the ROBOCOPY utility to copy the computer's contents to this external USB drive.

But that's not all.  I teach each user how to use a CD or DVD burner to copy any vital documents to CD or DVD media, label it with the user name, PC name, and date, and store it in a safe location.  (usually a safe in the office).

In my experience this has saved me from a large variety of potential data loss situations including theft, fires, virii, user file deletion stupidity, backup media failures, file system corruptions, and more.

The most important thing I have learned about backup in the last 10 years are as follows:

1)  Never rely on only 1 backup method.
2)  Make the restore procedures SIMPLE and as quick as possibble.
3)  Don't rely on the user to actually perform the backup.
4)  Always check and double-check the results of your backup to make sure that it contains what you actually expect it to contain.

- James.

  My memory is not as good as it should be, and neither is my memory.

  I have forgotten more than I can remember

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Tape drives are expensive, i'll grant you but what's your data worth??? What would it cost you to replace that data?

It costs somewhere around the $6000.00 mark for an LTO drive, backup exec and labour and clients generally don't have a problem paying for it.

I've been having nothing but problems using the dat drives, but the LTO's are awesome.

I've tried backup to external hard drives, I find they are hit and miss.

~ K.I.S.S - Don't make it any more complex than it has to be ~

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I manage a number of different networks and I absolutely prefer tape!

Don't worry about the cost so much.  What matters is that the data gets backed up, that the backup media is moved off-site, that you have accessability to restore and that you have a failover device if you have tape problems.  The problem with removeable hard drives is that they simply arent' convenient and they are way more subsceptible to damage.  If Jenny the office manager is repsonsible for backups, it's a lot easier for her to swap a tape and stick the latest tape in her purse than dealing with removeable hard drives.  If it isn't convenient, people won't do it - that's been my exprience for nearly 20 years. Of course, DVD or CD backups are a no-no.  I like the LTO drives.

What I recommend (and why):

1) Get a fast drive with high capacity tapes - enough to backup you data (or whatever you're backing up) to one tape (or use a tapeloader).  Do nightly backups to the tape drive.

2) Install an inexpensive, large capacity hard disk in a workstation or the server - workstation is better in the event of a power surge into the server.  Backup to that as well, every night.  Now you have a backup on tape and one on this extra hard disk.

3) Every morning swap out the tape.  Example: come in Thursday morning - pull out Thursday's tape and put Friday's tape in.  Have one person responsible for this and a person to back them up.  Make sure they do it as soon as they get to work; that way it becomes a habit.  

4) Keep the last two day's tapes off-site, keep the others on-site.  Example:  On Friday morning bring in Tuesday's tape.  When the person goes home Thursday night they take Thursday's tape with them.  They will already have Wednesday's tape off-site.  If you follow this rotation, you will have the last two tapes off-site and the other tapes handy for restoring.

5)  The extra hard disk is also available to have as a restore-from device for the last dataset in case you don't want to use the Restore from tape.  However, I find the Restore option on recent drives and software (last two years or so) to be fast when restoring from tape, though not as fast as simply restoring from the extra hard disk.

6) I believe someone said that your would need to erase the files on the hard disk because they are named based on a time stamp and the drive will fill up.  We use Veritas (now Symantec) Backup Exec for WIndows Server and that isn't a problem.  You can create Backup-to-disk devices and if you set the option accordingly, it will automatically delete the previous backup files for you.


RE: Tape vs External Drives

But - many clients don't replace their tapes when they should (we don't let them last more than a year).

Drives are more reliable. And, with shadow copy and deleted item retention (Exchange), you shouldn't need to go to tape very often (if ever).

Pat Richard, MCSE MCSA:Messaging CNA
Want to know how email works? Read for yourself - http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2821.txt

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I was in the same spot you are now.

Consider your needs:

1.  If the data you are backing up cannot be taken to a safe offsite location, it is pointless.  If a fire, bomb, whatever were to take out your server room or building, you need to get to the data.  This means OFFSITE OR PORTABLE is one of the most secure things to consider.

OFFSITE could mean you copy the data to some other location.  This means you need a big hard drive someplace outside of your building, OR you need to copy the data to some portable device.  If you copy to a remote location, you'd better have a lightening fast and reliable connection to that place or you jeopardize reliability for backups.

I hate it when people have MASSIVE storage right next to the servers they are backing up and they consider this "secure".  There are MANY things that can take out ALL of their servers--including the drives they are backing up to.

2.  If you want portable media, then look at the cost of the tape compared to the cost of the drives.  Cost will depend on how much backup space you need.  You may find that tape is more affordable.

3.  Tape is slower than drives.  But do not take that fact at face value.  Yes, tape is slower, but how much do you have to backup and how long do you have to back it up?  If you start backups at say midnight, and you want them to complete by 7am, who cares if it took 2 hours to complete or 4.5?  It only matters that it completed successfully within the time limit.  With an excellent tape drive, excellent tapes, I backup over a terabyte of space in less than 9 hours.  Other people will boast they do that in half the time with drives--but who cares?  It meets my needs very well.

Hope that Helps...


RE: Tape vs External Drives

Back up to both tape and hard drive in one night?  I have never been anyplace where there is a small enough amount of data that doing two seperate backups is a reasonable solution.

If you have that little data use a 3rd party and have it backed up via the internet and be done with it.

For all the people who worry about getting the data off site.  Use tapes.  You just don't have to use them every night.  Whatever your schedule is move some backups to tape on that schedule.  For day to day administering of backups/restores using a hard drive is simpler, faster and more reliable than tapes.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

hmmm... I just checked to verify the speed of the LTO drive at one client running backup exec.

105 gigs of data backed up and verified in 2 1/2 hours. Pretty much beats the snot out of anything else out there :) Money well spent.

I don't know if i'd get a hard drive backup in the 6 hours left before the office opens again.

~ K.I.S.S - Don't make it any more complex than it has to be ~

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I have answered questions like this so often (though not in this forum) that I've but together a web page discussing what you should use depending on the requirements of your business - no two or three paragraph answer is going to be correct for everyone.  Read this and if you have additional questions, I'm sure I or someone else can answer them.


In short, I GENERALLY recommend Disk based solutions for most people who need to backup under 500 GB regularly.  Tape for those who need to backup more.  And Tape for those who need to archive backups.  But you really should read through the link.

Quick note - There is almost NO CIRCUMSTANCE where I would recommend Rev Drives - my reasoning is found in the link above.

RE: Tape vs External Drives

I do backups to a 2TB NAS device which is patched to a Gigabit switch.  I do tape backups (archiving) of the NAS device to an LTO Ultrium 3 400/800GB drive.  Pretty easy stuff and very efficient...if you have the $$

RE: Tape vs External Drives

daveyd is the LTO plugged directly into the NAS or is it done by a remote backup srv?

RE: Tape vs External Drives

Its directly into the NAS via SCSI 320

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