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Document ID: VLAR-42XRPP

Tape Drive Media - Operation and care considerations

Applicable to: World-Wide

Operational Guidelines
Environmental considerations are of paramount importance to the extended life of tape media. The nature of magnetic-tape media requires user awareness of the special limitations and the requirements for operation, handling, storage and usage for reliable backup of critical customer data files.

Cleaning of magnetic Tape drives
Unlike most other options that can be attached to a PC or to an Intel-based processor server, such as fixed disks, magnetic tape drives do require periodic cleaning by the user. It is the user's responsibility to be aware of this requirement and to provide the necessary supplies to perform the required cleaning. Cleaning is not difficult, however, failure to perform this simple task will cause tape backup failures and possible loss of critical customer data. The documentation provided with the specific tape drive provides the necessary information about cleaning and obtaining the required cleaning supplies.

The frequency of cleaning will vary depending upon the following: local environmental conditions, age, quality of the tape media, and other factors. For example, a dusty warehouse environment or locations with heavy pedestrian traffic may require cleaning more often than office environments with minimum pedestrian traffic and a well-filtered air-conditioning system.

Proper cleaning is a major factor for reliable tape operation.

Magnetic fields
As in a11 other magnetic media, magnetic tape cartridges are susceptible to inadvertent data loss if they are placed too close to magnetic fields, such as florescent desk lamps, small appliances, electric clocks or computer monitors (displays). Because monitors are usually placed in close proximity to PCs and servers, it is easy to forget the magnetic field they generate. The larger the monitor is, the larger the magnetic field is. Regardless of the size of the monitor, a large magnetic field is generated during the power-on cycle. When powered-on, most monitors will initiate a degaussing cycle in which a very large magnetic field is briefly applied to the front screen for a few seconds. If a tape cartridge containing valuable data is left lying near a monitor during power-on or power-off cycles, it could be affected by the magnetic field of the monitor and rendered difficult or impossible to read.

Quality of the magnetic media
Only tape media of the type specified by the tape drive vendor should be used. Do not substitute media. Refer to the documentation provided by the vendor for guidance and for the specifications of the tape required for their specific tape drive. Choosing a brand of tape media can be confusing because prices and quality vary from brand to brand. This decision should be given as much consideration as the decision for the brand of tape drive. To protect sensitive financial data, or other critical business data, it is recommended that you choose a brand based on durability and consistent quality. Remember that a slightly higher purchase price could result in lower overall operational costs and higher reliability.

Pre-formatted Tape Media
Pre-formatted media is a popular choice in the marketplace. Usually, this works quite well, however, intermittent tape backup errors have been experienced when using pre-formatted media directly from the box. Therefore, for critical backup applications, the media should be formatted before being used. This only takes a few minutes per cartridge and can be done ahead of time. This provides a ready-to-go tape cartridge that has been formatted on the same drive on which it will be used to store the critical data.

Software considerations
There is no BIOS interface for magnetic tape drives in any Netfinity Server product. These devices require a device driver to control their operations. The device driver varies depending upon the operating system and the specific tape drive being used. To minimize problems, the most recent software application versions should be used and recent fixes or patches for it should be researched to determine their applicability to the configuration. One of the most common causes of backup and recovery errors is related to not having the most recent software versions and fixes from the applicable vendors.

Data Compression
Most magnetic tape drives available to the market today incorporate some type of built-in hardware data compression. Usually, this option is turned on as the default setting by the manufacturer in order to obtain maximum storage capacity per tape cartridge. This works quite well, as long as the data being backed up was not compressed by the operating system or application software. Double compression, which results under these conditions, is a source of difficult-to-diagnose tape backup/restore failures and is not supported or recommended.

Tape Library Management
Correct management of the tape library (tape data cartridge inventory) is a very important factor in a trouble-free tape backup environment. Organization of the library should be based on business needs and unique operational situations. Some of the factors to be considered are as follows:

  1. Ease of use - Can a specific back up tape be located for use?
  2. Tape identification - What is on the tape and when was it created?
  3. Order - In what sequence are the tapes to be used?
  4. Time - How long must a specific backup tape be kept for archival purposes?
  5. Security - Is the tape library located in a safe place, protected from fire, water damage and magnetic fields?
  6. Location - Are all the backup tapes in one location or are there other locations that must maintain a library?
  7. Maintenance - Do a11 responsible personnel understand the importance of correct tape maintenance and the requirements for maintaining library integrity at each location?

Tape Terminology
4-mm - tape Digital Audio Tape, 4 mm in height, helical scan

8-mm tape - 8 mm in height, helical scan

DDS - Digital Data Storage, data format for 4-mm tape (DDS IIII 2 GB, DDS-2 4 GB)

DLT - Digital Linear Tape, half-inch height, longitudinal serpentine scan

Helical scan - Recording technique that writes data to tape at a 5-degree angle from top to bottom of the tape

Longitudinal or linear - Recording technique that writes data to tape from end to end.

Mini QIC or QIC mini tape - Shorter length than QIC, called DC2000, longitudinal scan. (Sony introduced MQIC - Travan)

QIC tape - Quarter Inch Cartridge, called DC6000, quarter-inch height, longitudinal scan

RAIT - Redundant Array of Independent Tape

Serpentine - Writing data from end to end and back again (used in longitudinal recording)

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under 1 GB, 1.x GB, 2.x GB, 4.x GB, 5.x GB, 10.x GB, 12.x GB, 20.x GB, 24.x GB, 35.x GB, 440.x GB, 525.x GB, Accessory




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