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Interchange standards for backups

Test the system before you have to do remote backup recovery.

Interchange standards for backups
Rick Cook

If your backup data may need to be read other than locally -- as in the case of disaster recovery at a remote location -- it is important to be sure that your receiving site can read your media. That requires choosing a compatible recording medium and making sure data recorded at your site can be read at the other site.

Although any two sites can be made compatible by specifying the backup media to be used, currently there are only a limited number of choices that can be considered more-or-less universal for backups. According to Overland Data (, a San Diego, CA, maker of tape backup systems, the most commonly interchangeable are CD-R recordable CDS, IBM 3480 and 3490E tape formats frequently used by large computer installations and (to a lesser extent) DLT tape drives.

Once you have determined that the media is compatible, it is important to try to read something written on your system on the system you may need to send data to. Even if the media and formatting are identical, anything from mechanical misalignments to subtle software problems can make the data unintelligible. This is much less of a problem than it was in the days of floppy disks as the primary data interchange medium, but it can still happen and it is cheap and simple enough to check.

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

Backup and Restore Practices for Sun Enterprise Servers, 1/e
Author : Stan Stringfellow, Miroslav Klivansky and Michael Barto
Publisher : Prentice Hall
Published : Jul 2000
Backup and Restore Practices for Sun Enterprise Servers is a practical guide for IT organizations that are tasked with implementing or revamping a backup/restore architecture. The book includes case studies, a methodology, and example runbooks. It addresses issues such as scalability and performance of the backup/restore architecture, criteria for selecting tools and technologies, and tradeoffs that must be considered. It provides technical guidelines for planning the architecture to meet service levels, as well as general advice and guidance.

This was last published in June 2001

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