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Tape Restoration Services

Attempting to process large numbers of tapes natively (i.e. using the the originating backup application and IT environment) can prove to be a daunting task when large volumes of data are needed quickly. Most infrastructures are designed around getting data written out to tapes, but only sometimes needing to restore. This is not an adverse criticism, if daily restores are needed then either it is time to stop getting IT equipment from fire sales or there are some staff training issues to address.

However, when a large volume of data is needed quickly from a broad cross-section of backup tapes, perhaps a legal case requiring email data spanning several years, how can it be done?

In the case of one UK insurance company they had over 1000 LTO tapes, LTO1 to LTO3, containing Backup Exec backups from a number of Windows based systems, these included MSSQL backups, Exchange IS backups, and user data file backups from a number of servers running SIS (single-instance-store). They were not in a desperate hurry, but they knew a requirement to disclose data was likely in the next 4 months and that it could include email and user’s file data, so they were looking for a 3rd party tape restoration service.

As fortune would have it we had just released our latest version of our ADR Tape Restoration software suite, complete with a new module to handle SIS backups without the need to have SIS installed, and the Exchange and file data were duly restored to USB disks. Our processing for this, to meet the deadline, meant using multiple drives restoring in parallel on standalone PC systems, no need to Exchange servers or Windows servers with client systems. Each time a set of 4TB USB3 drives became full they were shipped post-haste to the customer so they could introduce the data to their new archive management system, and by the time they needed it they had it all in place.

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Mission creep with mail restoration

3,500 backup tapes containing Commvault Galaxy backups from which selected emails are required within 30 days might seem like a tall order, until the tapes arrive and turn out to be 1400 TSM backups on LTO2, 1200 Galaxy on LTO4, 900 NetBackup on LTO1 and LTO2, along with a selection of additional DATs and AIT tapes of unknown origin (it transpired that these were AS/400 SAVLIB). The water having been muddied it now turned to sludge as the court deadline to get the data turned out to be 30 days from 18 days earlier, so there were 12 days until the deadline. One other small detail, the email system in use had changed at some point from Notes to Exchange.

Planning around formats such as NetBackup and Galaxy where there is at least the option to position along tape to filemarks and get backup set information without having read every block of data is one thing, for TSM there was no option but to read every block of every tape and identify all of the file present.

Under such circumstances using the originating backup applications is not an option, for NetBackup and Galaxy where this would be possible, the infrastructure set-up requirement prior to starting work would take us past the deadline. With TSM it is just not an option. To meet the deadline tapes had to be “spinning” from day 0.

This is where the benefit of having written your own “non-native” restoration software and having spent years proving it in live situations reaps rewards. Rather than needing media servers to host drives & backup servers to host backup software, we were able to process the tapes using single PC systems each with 4 tape drives attached and scale up to 60+ drives running simultaneously on a 24/7 basis, filtering the file information as we went to identify Exchange backups and Notes files and where found process the tapes in question and restore the data. The deadline was met, not easily, but a day early.

Whilst there are cases where using the originating “native” backup application is the way to go, in a case like this being able to scale up processing with the relatively simple addition of Windows PCs each with multiple tape drives and no requirement for additional servers is what made it possible.

 

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