Tape backup, reliable? Never ever!

The Dilbert Disaster Recovery Plan  Or how tape backups have failed my customers over the years, and wasted our collective time, because of customer stupidity.

  1. Melted tapes
    The school which stored their entire backup tape set next to their server.
    One office fire later, “No, we can’t restore your melted tapes.”
  2. Old tapes
    The schools which refused to buy replacement tapes, because they were too expensive.
    And wondered why, after a server hard disk failure, we couldn’t restore data off their 4 year old tapes.
  3. Dirty tape drives
    The office locations which never ever cleaned their tape drives.
    The tape drives would gum up, and make the tapes un-readable.
  4. “Not my job”
    It wasn’t a difficult task to change the backup tapes every day, but it was always “someone else” responsible for it.
    Net result: continual backup failure, and lost data.
  5. Slowing down with age.
    Tape drives, being mechanical devices, slow down with age.  So you get Tape Drive A (the old drive) creating tapes that Tape Drive B (the new drive) couldn’t read.

Sony DAT Tape drive and Unisys QIC Tape DriveSo what did we do to encourage the customers to be concerned about their backups?

Melted tapes:
Showed them what a fire-damaged tape looked like.  “Oh!” was the most common comment.

Old tapes:
Try and grab a copy of the “critical” data when we could, via over-the-network backups.

Dirty tape drives:
Cleaned the drive when we visited once a year.  Little else we could do.

“Not my job”:
Nothing we could do about that.  A hardware failure would often change the attitude at the customer site.

Slowing down with age:
We’d only see the effect of this after a hard disk crash, where we try and read the tape, and fail.
Often involved paying a service technician *lots* of money to adjust a drive for us, so it could read the data.

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