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Advice wanted: Tape vs. Disk

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I need to replace the 32 AIT-4 tapes that our Sony SurStore tape library uses - they're all oldrer than our 1 year use policy. The warranty is also set to expire this year, so I'm looking into alternatives, such as backing up to FireWire drives.


I've used tape w/ Retrospect for the 10+ years I've been doing backups, so I'm not sure what to look for in a drive solution. Our current backup is 1.3 TB, so I'm going back and forth between two 1TB and one 2TB FireWire drives.


Does anyone have recommendations or suggestions?

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It's hard to answer your question in the abstract without knowing your backup policy and your backup needs. You might consider the issues raised here first before making a media choice:



That said, if you stick with tape, the answer depends on your volume of data. We use tape because of our archive needs (never reuse tape, always retire when the backup set fills up, preserve forever) and off-site data retention policy (one set goes offsite). Of course, use an autoloader, and you seem to understand that. Those who don't just don't know how it will change their lives.


For low data volume, consider the Exabyte (now Tandberg) VXA-320 1x10 1u PacketLoader (both Firewire and SCSI versions available, 320 GB nominal per tape compressed, really about 250 GB or so with typical files and Retrospect), or, for higher volume, consider an LTO 4 drive with autoloader. The LTO tapes are cheaper and so you pay for the increased drive price in a few months, and LTO is faster than VXA. Exabyte (Tandberg) has a selection of LTO drives and autoloaders too.



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Thanks for the quick reply. We backup 85 Macs and expect to add 10 PS - these are all workstations, as our servers are backed up at our remote data center. This is a mid-sized creative agency and users are a mix of designers, writers and support staff. We have 4 backup sets (CMYK) that rotate offsite weekly and are then recycled every 4 weeks - today we're recycling the M set and sending C to storage. A backup set is usually 1TB-1.5TB. Tapes are typically kept for 1 year and then put in storage; cleaning cassettes are kept for 1 month.


Our current solution, a Sony StorStation LIB-81, is an 8 tape library that we're very happy with, but it needs to be replaced soon, as does it's twin we keep in our offsite location for disaster recover. It connects via SCSI Ultra3 SCSI to a G4 running OS X 10.5.6 and Retro 6.1.230.


I plan on reviewing the link you posted, but currently we there is no need to keep backups longer than a month.

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