Tape Backups

Clean Tapes and Drives Avoid Backup Failures

Using tape drives for backup is still a good choice for many people.  They are usually very reliable, and the tapes are easily transported so periodic backups can be kept off-site.  Having a copy of your data off-site is highly recommended, in case of fire or theft.

There are some basic maintenance steps to be taken with your tape backup that often get ignored.  The first is to clean the drive.  Tape drives get dirty over time, usually from minute particles of the tape media coating the tape head.  All common drives have cleaning cartridges for them.  Many drives come with a cleaning cartridge when you buy the drive.

To clean these drives just insert the cleaning tape in the drive.  Once inserted, the drive will recognize that it is a cleaning tape, and automatically run the cleaning cycle.  At the end of the cycle, the tape is ejected.  That’s all there is to it.

I usually recommend starting by cleaning the drive once a month.  In some cases, with very large amounts of data being backed up, more frequent cleaning is needed.  If your backups run error free for a while after you clean the drive,,then as it gets close to the time to clean again, you get occasional failures, you may need to shorten the time between cleanings.

The other thing to be aware of is tapes wear out over time.  What I recommend is, if you have a backup failure,log the tape that failed.  If you get another failure on the same tape, within the next few usages, replace the tape.  If it does not fail in the next few uses, chances are it was just that glitch that happens occasionally with transient dust or power problems,

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