[Nottingham] Tape Backup Systems

Jim Moore jmthelostpacket at googlemail.com
Sun Apr 13 11:58:53 BST 2008

Consider for a moment:

Magnetic backup such as tape is pretty much the most robust method, 
evidenced by the fact that people still do it (also the fact that I 
still use a DC300 after twenty years - and still have original 
cartridges. Heck, I have audio cassettes that're still in perfectly 
playable condition after nearly thirty years). Only problem I find with 
tape is the drives are now pretty difficult to get a hold of. I'm the 
only person I know who has a DC300 (I have two) or an HP Colorado (I 
have the 8GB model). Tape recovery can also be a very expensive 
proposition in this respect, as like me, people who possess tape drives 
won't be so willing to part with them once they find out just how much 
they're potentially worth to a technician.
Optical media has thus far proved unreliable, in that the media 
delaminates after a while*, and drives fail on a regular basis (can 
anyone still get hold of a 2GB Jaz? 250MB or even 100MB Zip? Thought 
not...); I guess we're lucky DVD/BD/CDR are all backwardly compatible as 
far as the drives go.
Hard drives... well, these have their advantages (pseudorandom access, 
short seek times, pricepoint) but they also have massive disadvantages 
(many moving parts, spinning platters) failure of any one of which could 
spell doom for the data.

The bottom line is, how much do you value your data, and how long do you 
intend on keeping it? If the answer is "as long as possible", then 
magnetic tape might be the way to go for you. And a fireproof Faraday 
cage. And a couple spare drives still in their shipping boxes. If all 
you want is to move the data from point A to point B then depending on 
the chunk size, CDR/DVDR or HDD would do the trick nicely. For that 
matter, small files can be squirted over the 'Net via email or any one 
of the huge number of filedumps. If you need random access and/or as 
fast as possible, then you'll need a hard disk. The price of flash is 
coming down like a lead balloon now, so that might be something to 
consider if you need random access to large files. It's all about 
balancing need against what's available. I do lots of video work. I 
can't use DVD to transport files, they're too big (raw DV is huge), so I 
have to use external HDD. Cue, 320GB unit that fits in my pocket. It's 
even fast enough to capture raw DV streams. Failure of that unit 
wouldn't bother me too much, as it only holds a working copy of the raw 
capture that I need to work on. By the end of the day I've got either a 
working drive and a finished video or two, or a dead drive and an 
allnighter to catch up on the day's encoding.

*by "a while", I'll give an example: certain brands of burnable media I 
have used have delaminated in the /drive/. Others have delaminated after 
five years or so. On saying that, I won't knock stamped media; I have 
audio CDs that're better than twenty years old. Still in perfect condition.

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