Tao Of Backup Wailing Wall Story

Of Best, and Worst, Laid Plans

This type of event is not for the "faint-hearted" or those who stress over the safest way of driving to the super market; I qualify for both and am pretty sure it has taken decades off of my lifespan.

I had been working a "temporary" position at a US university for 3 years and had finally earned the right for a permanent position. After nearly loosing the position to a meteorologist (that is another story altogether,) I finally had a permanent position. That is when the worst possible thing happened.

My co-worker and boss had been actively providing network, server, and customer service support for about 2 years before I arrived at the job. The backup device had also been in service for about the same amount of time (that is about 4 years.) It was a 4mm DAT drive that was cleaned "whenever" and had probably expired about 3 years before the fatefull event. To make a long story short, the non-mirrored and striped hard drives of our newly commissioned NT 3.51 server took a dump on Friday and I was low man on the totem.

It wasn't that the tapes were bad, just that there was no data properly recorded on them; if a new tape drive can't read six tapes recorded by another device, then it is probably the recorder that is bad. The seventh tape took...kinda. So, we were stuck with six business days of data lost. Thankfully, I was not held accountable for this incident, I was just "the messenger."

The drives were summarily sent to a data recovery firm that was not too happy about informing us of the fact that Microsoft was not willing to provide them with the necessary information to recover the raw data from the plates of the hd's we had sent them. Recovery from this event took 2 weeks and untold overtime hours of work for those that had to re-enter the information from printed copies.

After the fall-out, the 4mm tape drive was replaced by an 8mm tape drive (go figure) that strangely enough is still in use today. An additional drive of the same make and model was purched 2 years later and another drive of a different model was summarily purchased later that year. The administrators determined that the previous failure was not due to the age of the equipment but the age of the media. Their solution was buying one tape for each week, archiving each one, and spending over $10,000 in the process.

It has fallen on my shoulders to take over responsibility for backups with these 3 tape drives, 2 of which are older than the original one that had failed. I've spent a week attempting to re-use some of the 1000+ "used only once" tapes and have experienced a success ratio of 50%; quel suprise!

I'm currently shopping for new tape drives...

Best wishes

    Tampa, USA, Mon 19-Jul-2004 5:22pm

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