This week, in addition to the usual reminder to back up your data and/or hard drive if you have not yet done so this week, I have a couple of links to backup-related resources for anyone who wants to pursue this subject in greater detail.
ZDNet (publisher of a variety of computer magazines) maintains a large database of news articles as well as a library of white papers, webcasts, and case studies (mostly produced by hardware and software vendors). For many of the latter you need to register not only with ZDNet but with the sponsor of the white paper or webcast, so it can take a bit of time filling out forms and answering surveys in order to be able to look at the content. There is no charge for registering either place, however.
After noticing a webcast entitled Tape Backup 101 (sponsored by HP), I spent a few moments pondering the subject of tape backups, something with which I am not intimately familiar. I remember hearing about them first when I was an undergraduate and doing all my computing (which basically amounted to e-mail and word-processing) on the IBM mainframe. If, when you graduated, you wanted a copy of your data, you had to ask for it on tape. I never did, thus leaving behind both my senior thesis and a couple of novels—but I am not sure how I would have gotten the files off of the tape and into a usable form when I arrived at my Macintosh-based grad school department anyway.
Back in those days, all of my computer documents could be kept on one floppy disk, anyway. Even at the time I left grad school in 1994, it took only a handful of disks to hold my enormous (but unfinished) dissertation, my (unpublished) novels, my Quicken data, my e-mail, and my contact databases. So I was a long way from needing to make tape backups.
The disadvantage of tape as a backup medium is obvious to anyone who has ever compared a CD to an audiocassette: you have to move through it sequentially in order to find anything. Nevertheless, for many years tape was the only conceivable medium for backup of really large quantities of data, because nothing else had the capacity. Even home offices might have them, and certainly universities and corporations did.
These days most home and home office users are more likely to use external hard drives, CDs, or DVDs for backup. They are easier to search and harder to erase accidentally than tapes. But tape is not dead: many companies use it for archiving their older backup materials even if they have network storage arrays for their shorter-term backups. So while 3.5″ diskettes seem to be going the way of their 5.25″ brethren, it appears tape will be with us for a while yet.
Send me your backup questions and I’ll do my best to answer them—but if you want a tape system installed, I’ll refer you to someone else.
More backup news next week,