Place your tapes on schedule

"How-to" advice on putting rhyme and reason to your tape backups

Place your tapes on schedule
Rick Cook

Backup tapes are about the cheapest part of a backup system. Lost data is by far the most expensive, with backup problems which must be diagnosed and fixed coming a fairly close second. One simple precaution to help prevent both problems is to replace your backup tapes at least as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Modern tapes are high-precision devices that work in very stressful environments. Although today's tapes have much longer life spans than those of say, 20 years ago, they are not immortal. For example Ultrabac recommends replacing 4 and 8mm tapes after no more than 50 uses. Exabyte says its Mammoth 2 8mm tape is good for 1500 passes. Quantum measures its DLT tape's durability in passes but provides a method of converting that into uses.

Unfortunately many people take an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude toward their tapes. Often the tapes aren't replaced until they start to give trouble--or worse yet, after a failed restore.

The easiest way to keep a replacement schedule is by calendar date rather than hours of use or numbers of backups. With a little calculation you can convert hours or backup numbers into a date when your tape will need replacement. Remember to be conservative in making the calculation.


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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Related Book

Unix Backup and Recovery
Author : W. Curtis Preston
Publisher : O'Reilly & Associates
Published : Nov 1999
Summary :
Unix Backup and Recovery provides a complete overview of all facets of Unix backup and recovery, and offers practical, affordable backup and recovery solutions for environments of all sizes and budgets. The book begins with detailed explanations of the native backup utilities available to the Unix administrator, and ends with practical advice on choosing a commercial backup utility.


This was first published in April 2001

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