This is a guest column by Jeff Mordkowitz, The Profit Coach. Jeff is the first person I’ve talked to who not only uses tape backup in a SOHO setting, but likes it. Most of what we hear about tape these days is unflattering, so I thought it was important to include the other side of the story.
None of the manufacturers listed below is paying me a commission for including them, and I don’t believe they’re paying Jeff, either.
I love the tape backup system I put together for my home office. I guess I learned about the necessity and convenience of a tape-based disaster recovery/business continuity system from my old days in the NYC world of finance (banking). It’s not hard to do and addresses the needs I have for professional protection for my small business.
I use a four week (daily, weekly and monthly) “progressive” tape backup system (only files that have changed since the last backup are copied). The tapes are labeled A, B, C and D (one for each week). Each Sunday I clean the drive and swap in the next tape. The software tells me if I’ve put in the wrong tape. Tapes B, C and D are completely overwritten with each usage. Tape A is pulled out of rotation every four weeks for approximately three months (to have a quarterly backup) and once a year (to have an annual backup).
The system is set up to read after write (compare what was written to the tape to what was on the disk, and as mentioned, it also backs up open files). When the backup is finished, it sends me a nightly email with the previous evening’s backup status.
I back up my DATA folder, a few small folders in Program Files that have key setup options, and Documents and Settings. FYI, don’t forget to run Office 2003 Save Settings Wizard every couple of weeks if you use Microsoft Office. You will lose almost all custom settings if you don’t .(Office 2007 doesn’t have this option yet.)
I also restore a few files weekly to test the system. The old cliché, “You don’t have a backup system until you’ve verified a restore,” rings true here too.
I keep my daily tapes in another room in a fire-proof, water-proof box and my “A” tapes go to a safe deposit box in a local bank periodically. Fires, floods, water main breaks, hurricanes, brush fires, gas leaks (and of course disk crashes) occur regularly in different parts of the country. How long will you have a business (or a happy spouse and family) without any or all of your data? And, without doing a rotation, you can’t retrieve multiple earlier versions of your files. (Oops!)
Equipment (Don’t let the list prices scare you off.)
Software: I use EMC’s Retrospect for Windows Single Server Edition (v7.5) with the Open File Backup add-on (a necessary add-on IMHO) Hardware: Three Dell computers (one laptop and two desktops cabled (100MB CAT 5 wire) to a Linksys WRT300N Router) Tape Drive: Seagate STT3401A 20/40GB TRAVAN Internal Tape Drive Storage Media: Imation TRAVAN 40GB TR7 20/40GB Data Tape Cartridge Drive Cleaning Media: Imation TRAVAN NS Dry Process Head Cleaning Cartridge, 30 Cleanings. Protective Storage: Sentry Safe 1 hour Fire-Safe and Waterproof Chest, 0.36 Cubic Feet
The one caveat I would add is that to make this work, you need to manage the tape rotation manually. For some people, that’s not a problem. I have a friend who’s never used backup software because she’s scrupulous about copying her data into backup folders and then transferring it into archive folders. (And she has a Mac, so creating a system image is fairly easy for her.)
Combined with the safe and the safe-deposit box, and the regular verification of backups, there’s no reason tape can’t be a workable solution. (And notice that it only takes one tape drive to back up three computers.)
Thanks again to Peter Shankman and Help A Reporter Out.
P.S. Be sure you bolt the safe to the wall or bury it in the ground if it’s small enough to be carried off by thieves.