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RAID: What it is and how it works

RAID is a method of creating one or more stores of data storage space from several hard drives. It can offer fault tolerance and higher throughput levels than a single hard drive or group of independent hard drives. You can build a RAID configuration with IDE (parallel ATA), SATA (Serial ATA) or SCSI hard disks. Dell is shipping computers pre-configured with RAID 0 arrays for high output gaming and video applications. The problem with RAID 0 is if one drives goes, that’s it! The data is lost. RAID 0 data recovery is the absolute toughest data recovery situation.

The exact meaning of RAID has been much debated and much argued. The use of “Redundant” is, in itself, a contentious point. That several manufacturers have deviated from accepted RAID terminology, created new levels of disk arrangements, called them RAID, and christened them with a number has not helped. There are even some single disk RAID configurations! Double parity, RAID 1.5, Matrix RAID etc., are examples of proprietary RAID configurations. One of the key players in NAS devices – SNAP has a very proprietary system of RAID. SNAP OS is also a unique operating system. While based on Free BSD, it is still a very complex recovery.

Data can be distributed across a RAID “array” using either hardware, software or a combination of the two. Hardware RAID is usually achieved either on-board on some server class motherboards or via an add-on card, using an ISA/PCI slot. Newer motherboards that use SATA technology have RAID controllers “on board”.

A RAID 0 (also known as a stripe set or striped volume) splits data evenly across two or more disks (striped) with no parity information for redundancy. It is important to note that RAID 0 was not one of the original RAID levels and provides zero data redundancy. RAID 0 is normally used to increase performance, although it can also be used as a way to create a small number of large virtual disks out of a large number of small physical ones.

A RAID 1 creates an exact copy (or mirror) of a set of data on two or more disks. This is useful when read performance or reliability are more important than data storage capacity. Such an array can only be as big as the smallest member disk. A classic RAID 1 mirrored pair contains two disks (see diagram), which increases reliability exponentially over a single disk. Since each member contains a complete copy of the data, and can be addressed independently, ordinary wear-and-tear reliability is raised by the power of the number of self-contained copies.

A RAID 5 uses block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks. RAID 5 has achieved popularity due to its low cost of redundancy. Generally, RAID 5 is implemented with hardware support for parity calculations. A minimum of 3 disks is generally required for a complete RAID 5 configuration (A RAID 5 two disk set is possible, but many implementations do not allow for this. In some implementations a degraded disk set can be made (3 disk set of which 2 are online). When it comes to RAID 5 Data Recovery, DTI only needs to recover 2 of the 3 drives (if it is a 3 disk set) to get the files back!

Many storage controllers allow RAID levels to be nested.

Common nested RAID levels:

RAID 01: A mirror of stripes
RAID 10: A stripe of mirrors
RAID 50: A stripe across dedicated parity RAID systems
RAID 51: A mirror striped set with distributed parity (some manufacturers label this as RAID 53)
RAID 100: A stripe of a stripe of mirrors

RAID Data Recovery – How it Works

RAID data recovery is probably one of the most complex processes any data recovery firm can perform. More often than not, the problems are compounded by the actions of the client prior to sending the drives in for recovery. Many users feel that it is important to try and recover the data themselves or repair the array through various system utilities, and this may be fine if the data is not critical. However, it has been our experience that when you have a RAID failure that has resulted in substantial data loss, more often than not, somebody’s job is on the line if that data is not recovered. The biggest piece of advise this article can provide in the event of a RAID failure: LEAVE IT ALONE.

IT professionals have a lot of pressure placed on them when a catastrophic system failure occurs. It is their job to make sure that all systems are up and running. Many times, out of panic, troubleshooting processes are initiated in order to correct the problem. Often times these processes only make a bad situation even worse, and in many instances they can render the data unrecoverable. Let’s keep in mind what this data can consist of in an average corporate environment. You are probably dealing with information that cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor and resources to create. Much of the data probably can’t be duplicated. The intellectual value alone could be in the many millions of dollars. Corporate executives really don’t care to hear about how the failure occurred, or what unbelievable string of events led up to the server crashing. They don’t care to hear the technical jargon as you try to explain to them what happened, and hope they understand that it wasn’t your fault. They only want to know one thing…”why was this data not backed up, and how can we get it back?”

Instead of taking chances on your own, call a data recovery professional. RAID data recovery can be expensive, but in most cases it is much less costly than trying to recreate the data that has been lost. There is a set procedure that most data recovery professionals follow when it comes to performing any recovery work. These procedures are followed and expanded upon when dealing with a RAID recovery. The first step of any RAID recovery is to make sure all of the drives are functional. In order to properly complete the recovery it is essential that all drives are fully functional (this is especially true with a RAID 0). This may involve taking any physically damaged drives into the clean room, in order to make the necessary repairs so that they function normally again. Once that is completed the next step is to make complete, sector-by-sector clones of every drive. This is not “Ghosting”, but a very low-level process that allows the recovery technician to work around bad sectors, and have complete control over how the drive functions. During the cloning process, the original source drive that you sent in, is generally put in a “write protect” mode so that no data can be written to the drive. This insures that the original source data is not altered in any way.

Once the cloning process is complete, the original drives you sent in are set off to the side and are no longer touched. The actual recovery process is performed on the cloned copies, so nothing that is done during recovery can make the situation worse. After the drives are cloned, they will be loaded into an emmulator and destriped. Destriping is like taking the scattered pieces of a puzzle and putting them together neatly. Simply stated, destriping is taking the data scattered among the multiple drives that make up array and placing it onto a single destination drive. From there we have a single drive in which we can complete what we would consider to be a “normal” recovery. We can complete this process even at the multi-terrabyte level. If the damage to the stripe is not too severe, in most cases a complete rebuild of the directory structure and all associated data can be completed.

As mentioned earlier, RAID data recovery can be expensive. Depending on the company you contact the prices can vary considerably. Typically a RAID recovery can be priced anywhere from R15000-00 upwards. A number of factors influence the cost, such as RAID type, file system, total size, situation of failure, etc. Many times attempt fees and evaluation fees are charged if the data is unrecoverable. Data Detect does not charge for an evaluation. This service is provide free of charge.

If you are reading this article and you haven’t suffered a RAID failure, what are you waiting for? Back up your data NOW.

Data Recovery For Laptops – An Emerging Need

With today’s mobility in the business world, people are traveling all over the world and taking their work with them. To keep in touch with their business, people carry their laptops so that they can access the internet, teleconferences, and any other feature that their desktop computer can do back at the office. As a consequence of this mobility, laptop data recovery has become extremely important.

Since people are taking their laptops with them everywhere, we see that this handy device has become an integral part of our society, just like the cell phone. You will find laptops and services for those laptops almost anywhere ranging from coffee shops to airports. With this widespread use of laptops, laptop data recovery needs to offer the same high quality recovery service as other data recovery services. Losing data on the road can be just as detrimental to your business, if not more so since you are probably traveling to a work site or business meeting related to the much-needed information.

Taking a Spill

Laptops will be found in many situations that desktop computers would never be exposed to. The traveling laptop user can take work to the local coffee shop to relax over a cup of coffee and discuss business in a more social setting. The laptop will be open in order to share the information with the customer/associate leaving it open to a variety of accidents.

What if the user or someone just passing by the open laptop accidentally spilled that tasty white chocolate mocha drenching the laptop in damage? All of the important files for the business project are at risk of damage and loss. Laptop data recovery can assist in such an unexpected situation. Simply calling a laptop data recovery technician, you can quickly have those lost files retrieved. Many times the service can come to wherever you are, including the coffee shop where the fatal incident happened.

The importance of laptop data recovery is growing with the increased use of laptops. Should you require assistance simply call Data Detect for free telephonic assistance on +27-11-234-4757, South Africa’s leading data recovery company.

By Alfonse Rodreges

Realities of RAID: Data Loss Still Exists

Redundancy Equals Protection
RAID systems are great for data protection because they allow data to be written to multiple hard disk drives so that a failure of any one drive in the array does not result in the loss of any data. RAID systems also increase the system’s fault tolerance – that being the system’s ability to continue operating when presented with a hardware (or software) failure – as should be experienced when a hard drive fails in one of the redundant configurations of RAID.

Because RAID systems offer this built-in protection and businesses are focused on finding solutions that protect their data and help them avoid the downtime that accompanies data loss, most businesses rely on them to house their mission critical data such as financial data and business system data (email, back office, large database application data).

Redundancy Isn’t Fail Safe
But what happens when there is a major issue with the RAID system that results in the data becoming inaccessible? Although RAIDs are specifically created to guard against data loss, they are still susceptible to total system failures if multiple drives experience problems at the same time. Other problems can occur when RAID controllers don’t recognize the drives in the array or if a drive is removed from a hot swappable drive bay and a new one is replaced in the wrong order.

The bottom line is that, just like single hard drive systems, RAID systems can also experience problems that can lead to data loss – the difference is, with a RAID failure, the problem can literally cripple a business or halt operations since the data stored on the RAID array is usually business critical.

Unfortunately, after experiencing a RAID malfunction, many businesses give up hope if they are told by their own IT staff, vendors, technical support or consultants that their data is inaccessible with no chance for recovery. When RAID problems happen, most think it is the end of the line for that data – if the RAID is broken, there is no way to get the data back. This simply isn’t true and businesses need to know that they do have options if their RAID system stops working. Data recovery providers can fix broken RAIDs, but the key is to work with RAID recovery experts to ensure that the most critical data has the best chance to be saved.

Data Recovery & RAID
Often times, IT staff will attempt to fix the system by relying solely on the original RAID configuration, documented administrative procedures, or will attempt to force a RAID controller or drives in a RAID into a particular configuration which usually results in even greater damage to the customer’s data. However, RAID experts know that rather than forcing normal procedures, one should figure out the RAID “by hand,” which means that they look at every sector of data across all of the drives in a system to put it back together.

Specifically, they don’t rely on the original RAID configuration because it may have flaws in it. By rebuilding the distributed data blocks, drive order and data symmetry manually, even the most challenging RAID system can be recovered.

Experienced Engineers even have the ability to work on RAID systems if the original hard drive has failed by reconstructing the RAID virtually. More importantly, some experienced companies can often recover the RAID system in the field remotely via Internet or dial-up connection so the customer doesn’t have to pull out drives and racks for shipping. This is an important benefit as it allows the fastest possible recovery for critical data – often times getting businesses back up and running in only a matter of hours.

In this first-hand account, an Apple MAc design business based in Johannesburg said they were in the process of transferring data to a new server when one of the drives in the RAID system failed. As such, they were unable to have a complete back-up prior to the operation.

With mission critical data lost, they panicked that the company would not have been able to continue in business without the data. After using a recovery service that was inexperienced in RAID arrays, they turned to the engineers at Data Detect who were able to recover 99 percent of the data and keep them operating.

It is also important to note that an advantage of data recovery is its ability to get back the most recent files versus the most recent backups – a crucial distinction since RAIDs often store the highest value data.

Data Detect has recovered many failed systems with a 100% recovery success rate for leading bussiness in Southern Africa.

File Recovery and the Recycle Bin

One of the big problems with accidental deletions is the omnipresent Recycle Bin that sits there on virtually every operating system in the world. The Recycle Bin appears to be a great convenience, and yes, it does make file recovery very simple in some instances. But it is extremely unwise to put any confidence in it when it comes to dealing with any data of any importance especially when working through a network.

The Recycle Bin captures files that are deleted from Windows NT Explorer only. Files deleted through other programs such as File Manager, or from within applications, are not sent to the Recycle Bin. Files deleted at the DOS prompt bypass the Recycle Bin and get instantly deleted; any files that are deleted from removable media, such as floppies, or Zip disks or files deleted from compressed folders, meet the same fate. For these files, file recovery is a lot more difficult. In addition, files that are deleted across a Windows NT network from one computer to another also bypass the Recycle Bin and are permanently deleted.

And files that are accidentally “saved over” are also a primary source of accidental deletions – and the Recycle Bin plays no part at all in that type of file recovery – files that are “saved over” are definitely GONE for good.

Most of us, of course, have no idea about the liabilities of the Recycle Bin, and thus, extremely important files constantly get deleted.

The estimated cost to the US economy due to accidental deletions runs into the tens of billions, and yet, almost everyone – from the home consumer to the biggest corporations in the world – still play “Russian roulette” with their files and data.

And for those who think tape backup is a solution, studies indicate that it is not very reliable. File recovery using tape backup often doesn’t work. This is because tape backup often results in corrupted files, or, even when it works, is done on the timetable of the IT department, and that can take hours or even days depending on the situation.

In order to prevent disaster, or even toying with it, the best solution is simply to have a file recovery system in place that will do the job, so that one never has to worry about whether or not an accidental deletion can be recovered.

There are several companies that offer solutions. Products are available ove r the internet however however some of them leave a lot to be desired. It is recommended to contat a data ecovery company with credibility, one such company Data Detect offers this service at the fraction of the cost of other DR comanies.

So when is “gone” really “gone?” It really depends on whether or not you rely on the Recycle Bin, or get a good data recovery company to help you. If your data is important to you, it’s best not to take chances.

Trends in data recovery management

Many enterprises have turned to tiered storage architectures in an attempt to regain control over the operational costs of managing and protecting differing classes of data. The rise of this type of storage architecture has in turn created an opportunity to change the way enterprises protect and manage backup data. Recovery management is a relatively new approach to data protection here in the United Kingdom and across Europe and it holds the promise of reducing data under protection, improving recoverability and reducing backup windows. Combining tiered storage assets with backup, snapshot and replication technologies, recovery management offers IT managers new tools in the quest to resolve data management and backup challenges.

*Recovery management*
Recovery management solves the problem of lengthy backup windows, difficult restores and growing costs which offer IT personnel the ability to protect, and recover, virtually any amount of data virtually instantaneously. Additional benefits for e-mail applications and databases include preventing business interruption due to data corruption and virus attacks. Recovery management via ‘recovery tiers’ enables continuous access to the business data and information needed for decision-making and execution, the lifeblood of competitiveness.

*The recovery tier*
Traditional storage environments consist of primary storage – the ‘protection’ tier – and archives, both active and offsite. With the addition of a recovery tier, comprised of recovery volumes created from snapshots and replicated data, IT departments gain the advantage of faster recovery of business-critical data from near-line recovery tiers without the need to touch production data.

Unlike the data protection or backup tier, which includes backup copies of data stored on primary disk, disk-to-disk or disk-to-disk-to-tape, the recovery tier requires only one ‘touch’ of production data via a storage environment’s native snapshot capability. By snapping a copy of production data on a regular basis – for example hourly – and replicating that data to the near-line recovery tier, applications performance is protected, recovery levels are assured and end-user productivity is unaffected.

*Creating on-line replicas*
Recovery management centres on the creation and management of online replicas of production data. Online replicas are immediately available without requiring a restore process before data can be used, a marked difference from traditional backup, including backup-to-disk, which requires that backup data be restored before it can be used. In enterprises which rely on Exchange and Oracle, a restore process may take days – blocking end-user access to e-mail and databases and slowing business processes dramatically.

Of course, it has been possible to create online replicas with snapshot and replication technologies for some time – primarily on large enterprise storage arrays. Today, this capability is available on mid-tier and SMB devices from a number of reputable vendors.

Creating a recovery tier of near-line storage can involve physical assets, e.g. a separate storage device, or logical-virtual assets, for example, an online tier co-located with production data. Either approach results in easy access to online replicas of production data. Online replicas can be created more rapidly than traditional backup copies because they maintain data in native format, using snapshot, mirroring, or replication technologies. These online replicas do not require a restore process and are thus more readily accessible than traditional backup copies.

In addition to providing online recovery, recovery tiers supplement the established backup protection tier, as well as the archive tier. This multi-tier approach to data management offers increased service levels, providing enterprises with a comprehensive data management approach and enabling IT to support corporate regulations dictating retention and availability of information.

*Improving RTO and RPO*
Recovery tiers offer an added benefit: improvement in recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) service levels. Of vital importance to corporations subject to virus attacks and other data-corruption that threatens Exchange and other business-critical databases and data stores, recovery tiers using online recovery volumes enable near-instantaneous recovery in situations which typically require days to restore from backup copies.

RPO and RTO service levels are also improved when online recovery volumes are used to create backup copies. By eliminating the need to backup from production data, sound recovery management practices solve the problem of squeezing all of an enterprise’s data into shrinking backup windows.

*Recovery tiers: introducing efficiency, reducing data management issues and costs *
Recovery management offers IT managers an efficient, effective approach to data management. Integrating snapshot management and replication with backups ensures consistent, coherent data, and can be accomplished via a single policy in a unified data protection environment. Production data is tapped once, to create the snapshot, resulting in an efficient, cost-effective process. Restores are also efficient since the recovery process is the same as if the backup were created from production data. IT managers need only select the client, select the data to recover, and execute the recovery process.

Create a Data Recovery Strategy By Neil Robertson

Most Unusual Requests for Data Recovery

Fire, water, exploding batteries, hardware failure, accidental damage… there are many reasons a hard drive can go south, taking your data with it. Companies like Data Detect specialise in retrieving that data, in the event that it’s irreplaceable (remember to backup, people!)

However, amongst the fairly ‘run of the mill’ reasons for needing data recovery, a few gems are sown. Here are the top ten for 2006.

*‘My cat urinated on my laptop’* – A Toshiba laptop was sent in to the technicians at DD in the hope that the data could be saved from the hard disk of the laptop which had been urinated on by a clients pet Persian Blue.

*’It fell off the roof of the car’* – A sales person was in a hurry to get to his next appointment, and placed his laptop on the roof of his car, while he placed all his demo products into the vehicle. Needless to say, he forgot the laptop on the roof and drove off. He stated ‘ I was doing about 40mph when I say it in the rear view mirror’

*‘I accidentally drove over it’* – was the reason for having to send the MP3 player into DD. The client didn’t realise that the MP3 player had fallen out of her pocket, and accidentally drove over the offending device.

*‘We just sacked the IT manager and he started kicking the server’* – The IT manager wasn’t up to the job of managing the IT department, so it was decided to ask him to leave. The person in question decided that he would be happier if he broke the server prior to leaving. This was achieved by kicking the server until it stopped working, causing lots of data to be corrupted and hardware damage to the hard drives.

*‘There was a bit of oil on it?’* What was later found out was that there was oil damage on a laptop computer from a spillage on an oil rig. The oil spilled was a substantial amount, approximately 120 barrels of crude was spilt over this clients laptop.

*‘I accidentally threw it out of a window’* – the claim from a student who was ‘messing around’ with his room-mates laptop. Instead of pretending to throw the laptop out of the window, he actually did – much to the dismay of his room-mate.

*‘She just got stroppy and snapped it in half’* – This is what we were told by a client whose husband thought she was having an affair. The phone, a Motorola V3 Razor was literally snapped in half by the upset wife. Data Detect only received one half of the phone, and was still able to retrieve all the SMS messages and contacts.

*‘The dog has had a go at it’* – a Staffordshire bull terrier took a liking to its owners camera and bit into it. The memory card inside took a bit of damage, and arrived still wet from dog saliva.

*‘I was showing my friend how to delete data on the spare hard drive – but I deleted the wrong one’* – this helpful client tried to assist one of his workmates and mistakenly deleted the good data and left the data which should have been destroyed.

*‘My wife threw my laptop down a well’* – All we can say is that there was a bit of a ‘marital dispute’, and that the excuses given were apparently not acceptable to the wife. Revenge was taken and the husband’s laptop was promptly thrown into a 60 foot well.

Despite the above circumstances, Data Detect was able to retrieve data for all of these clients. Still, we’d recommend people try not to make it onto Data Detect’s 2007 top ten; keep your mobile in a single piece, don’t kick or drive over your hardware and whatever you do, don’t leave laptops lying in litter trays.

Waiting for Disaster: Majority of Computer Users Invite Data Loss

Nearly two gigabytes of data – equivalent to all of the songs on someone’s iPod Nano, for example – is lost every minute of the day. Figures like this underscore the fact that it is only a matter of time before every hard drive breaks down. With more valuable information being stored now than ever before, people need to be aware of the risks and plan accordingly.

Unfortunately, the survey shows a high level of preparation is rare. When asked how long they plan to use their current computer, 58 percent of respondents said “until it dies on me” or “until it starts to get skittish.” Coupled with the fact that 63 percent of people back up their critical data less than once a month – and 23 percent never perform backups – the outlook for safe and secure data is not good.

“Given all of the options available for data protection these days, waiting for your computer to malfunction and wipe out your files is extremely reckless. More than 60 percent of the people we surveyed have experienced data loss in the past, so data protection habits clearly need to change.”

In order to help people avoid future pitfalls, the following simple advice that every person can perform to protect their computer data is:

Make Backups Regularly – Backups of all critical data should be made at least weekly to ensure that important files are up to date. With 64 percent of people experiencing multiple computers crashes within the past year, doing backups monthly or even more infrequently leaves too much to chance.

Test Backups Periodically – Although some people actually do backup their computer data, 45 percent never bother to check if those backups actually work. It is crucial to verify all backups to make sure that your important files and photos are there when you need them.

Store Backups in an Offsite Location – Another important step that is missed by a majority of computer users is storing all backups in an offsite location. Only 17 percent of respondents said they store their backups offsite, with the majority indicating their backups are on media in the same room as the computer. This is not effective if that location is hit by natural disasters such as fires or floods.

Monitor Your Computer’s Health – Don’t wait for your computer to break down because you’ll risk losing your data. There are several computer diagnostic tools on the market that can assess the health of your hard disk drive, file structures, and computer memory by identifying problems that could cause data loss. Most quality programs can be used to both diagnose current problems and/or as part of a regular maintenance program to identify potential problems that could lead to future data loss.

Consider Data Recovery – Sometimes, despite even the best data protection efforts, data loss still happens. In these times, it is important to know that data recovery exists and can help with a majority of situations. Twenty seven percent of respondents didn’t do anything when they lost data and only four percent contacted a data recovery company. Without solid backups, a data recovery company might be the only option, so it’s important to find a professional provider ahead of time that can return your data as soon as possible.

Data Detect is the leading Data Recovery company in Southern Africa with qualified internationally trained engineers providing data recovery services for its local and international clients.

Don’t use tape for recovery!

Tape itself is not necessarily to problem. Tape by and large has proven to be enormously reliable, when handled properly. There are hundreds of ways backups and recoveries can fail, and it only takes one misstep to foul up the process. Sometimes, backups are successful but recoveries fail because we backed up corrupt data or the wrong data. Process is as responsible for failures as something physically breaking.

* A huge percentage of shops have integrated at least some disk into their backup processes. Whether virtual tape libraries, file servers, cheap arrays or whatever, folks have realized that backup is isn’t the game, recovery is — and the lion’s share of recovery operations occur on data that is pretty darned fresh — so keeping fresh data on disk makes recovering that data much faster and easier. Most of these shops still backup to tape, and rightfully so, but they don’t recover from tape, thus dramatically improving their recovery capabilities. Disk-based “protected” storage is going to be a giant market and a savior to many.
* People are beginning to understand their backup worlds. There are now hundreds of thousands of servers that are monitored specifically for backup and recovery success or failure using the likes of Bocada Inc. or WysDM Software Inc.’s tools. It still amazes me that only 2% of you are using these types of tools, but at least some of you are getting wiser. With this type of monitoring and reporting, at least you know when something failed or is out of the loop altogether, and you can do something about it. It can be hard to fix a problem you don’t know you have one. (Don’t even get me started on why you still don’t run storage resource management tools.)
* Backup Software is getting better. Traditional backup software is improving, albeit slowly. It has gone from “it sucks” all the time to “it sucks” some of the time. Subtle, but important.
* Recovery features are much, much better these days. Continuous data protection (CDP) is the greatest invention ever for improving recovery. It has not proven itself to be a business, but it certainly is a feature that you should run everywhere you can. Both true CDP, which captures every single transaction and lets you go back to any point in time, or “kinda” CDP, which is a collection of snapshots, are much better than going to your last full backup tape and layering on incremetals. CDP has probably done more to improve recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives than anything else I can think of since the advent of the backup market.
* Understanding that backup/recovery and disaster recovery are part of the same continuum has helped enormously.
They are both about data protection and providing the ability to recover under a spectrum of outages — from fat-fingered deletions to losing a facility. Replication technologies have enabled big and small players alike to be able to move critical data off-site so that they can recover in a realistic time frame.

In-Sourcing disaster recovery. Nothing is as eye-opening as doing something for yourself. The business model of the outsourced disaster recovery providers is fatally flawed and destined to fail without a complete retooling. Companies have realized that all their disaster recovery guys have provided is an doomsday insurance policy and that disasters and outages occur without being all-or-nothing scenarios — and the disaster guys just aren’t geared up for that. They don’t even have the capability to test your ability to recover but a few times per year. That won’t cut it in today’s regulated world, so folks are doing it themselves, and in the process, they find out they can do things they never knew they could. Does anyone really think that an 18-wheeler showing up a week after the building falls down with a ton of servers and storage boxes in it is practical? Even if it was on-site within an hour, how do you recover a petabyte of data sitting on 11,000 tape cartridges before I’m a great grandfather?

So, it ain’t about the tape. You need to keep on using tape; just stop using it for recovery. Tape is the end of the line — the worst-case scenario. You need it because it’s removable and can sit in a deep bunker somewhere. (Although an interesting company in Boulder, Colo., ProStor Systems Inc., has developed a tape-like cartridge that really has disk inside it — and it has longer media life and better shock-absorbtion characteristics than tape cartridges.) The issue is building a process and infrastructure that minimizes the need to recover from those tapes, and that means building disk-based recovery infrastructure that use a “cache” model – we call it 3DR – to optimize recovery times and points — locally, remotely, and really, really remotely.

So, I hope that the next time I get this question, the answer will be that recovery from tape never fails, because we never recover from tape. But in the interim, help save the planet and your sanity — stop backing up the same exact data to tape a 1,000 times. Back it up four, five or 20 times, but not 1,000. It ain’t gonna change, and since you keep all your tapes in the same two places, having a thousand copies is just plain stupid. At $80 bucks a cartridge, that buys a bunch of disk.