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Tape Backup Solutions

We also looked for support for full-system restores, sometimes called bare-metal restores. This is the process of restoring not only the data, but also the base-bootable OS underneath, to bring back the entire system from a blank disk set. This kind of restore is not essential for every machine on the network, but is critical for systems that must be loaded rapidly at a disaster-recovery hotsite, for example.

Tape, which harks back to the days of mainframes and centralized backups, has had disadvantages that stem from their use at outlying IT departments. One person may remove a tape without replacing it, losing the entire backup. Satellite offices also tend to have unfavorable physical conditions, such as excessive heat, humidity and dust, that can damage delicate tape drives, causing backups to fail.

Tape-backup software makers may be the least standardized bunch in networking. No two packages use the same terminology or even remotely similar methods of setup and operation; each product sports a complex list of compatibilities.

Before you start shopping, figure out which OSs require support. Know which OSs need only tape drives or libraries hooked to them, which need network clients, and which will function as your centralized server. Make a master list of hardware, software and OSs, including configurations and version numbers. Decide which OS platform will run your management console. In addition, note which platforms run your libraries, as well as which libraries are "server-free" SAN units or users of third-party data movers, such as NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol). The more complete this inventory, the more likely you'll get the software you need.

Also, find out where the tape-backup software indexes its files. Indexes can become cumbersome, especially if tracked in a flat text file. Some products come with full database applications; for instance, CommVault's Galaxy includes Microsoft SQL Server. Others come with their own databases or with a third-party database option.

Finally, get to know your data. If your applications use thousands of tiny files, you may experience excessive tape thrashing and low throughput. Media files, such as sound, video and still pictures, tend to be precompressed, so your backup won't benefit from additional compression. You also need to anticipate your data-growth rate, not only in terms of size, but in servers added. Maintaining a thorough inventory will remind you which apps require a special software package or module for backups.

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