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Setting up a Tape Backup Strategy for your Business

So you know a little bit about tape backup, but you're wondering how to set up a tape backup strategy for your business. Well, let's take a look at 3 simple steps to setting up a complete backup solution.

Step 1: Purchase your tape backup hardware

Firstly, purchase the tape backup hardware. If you need to perform file server backup (or Exchange Server backup or SQL Server backup) for small business, then one of the following tape drives should suffice:

* Travan cartridge drive (up to 10 Gb)
* DDS tape backup drive (up to 20 Gb)
* DDS tape backup drive with hardware data compression (up to 40 Gb)

Then purchase the necessary tapes for your backup rotation strategy. A good Grandfather-Father-Child variation will require 10 tapes or 14 tapes.

Step 2: Purchase your tape backup software

When it comes to tape backup software, one option is to use NTBackup -- the standard Windows backup program. The problem with NTBackup is that it is too hard to use. While an expert should be able to schedule backup jobs using NTBackup, what you really want is something a novice can setup in minutes.

What you really want to do is invest in some quality backup software for your business? Well, if you run a small business, you'll want to avoid those expensive brands! They're designed for large corporations. You should really be looking for software for tape backup that does everything you need, but is affordable at the same.

Look for a backup program that's designed specially for small business instead. Look for a product that is advertised as being simple to use. Remember, you don't want software that requires an expert to run it. Download a trial version of the backup software and try it out for a month or so. If everything works smoothly and you're happy with the product, go ahead and make a purchase!

Step 3: Continually perform your backups

So you've attached the tape drive to your server and installed the software. You've configured the software to run your tape rotation scheme and everything's raring to go. So how do you go about performing backups?

Well, at the end of each working day, put the tape into the drive. And as obvious as this sounds, the correct tape should be placed in the drive. For example, placing the "Week 2" tape instead of the "Week 3" tape in the tape drive will reduce the effectiveness of your tape rotation strategy! Your tape backup software should take care of the rest.

In addition, you should monitor the results of each backup to check for errors. For example, if a tape wears out and data cannot be verified, you need to take action and replace that tape. If some problem prevented a backup from completing, you need to know about it so that you can re-run the backup the next morning.

Be sure to also follow your manufacturer's guidelines for drive cleaning and maintenance.

Final notes

As strange as this seems, you should be at the mercy of your tape backup software. And the more control it exerts over you, the better! Let me explain...

NTBackup assumes that you insert the correct tape and it doesn't inform you of any errors. You are responsible for selecting the tape according to your tape rotation scheme, and the onus is on you to read result logs and discover if any errors occurred.

This means that the file backup process is tedious and prone to human error. A complete solution for tape backup should take charge of your backup strategy for you.

A tape backup software should email tape rotation instructions and the results of backups to you or your secretary, making your task far simpler and minimizing the chance of human error. Select the right server backup software and you're already most of the way to implementing a complete tape backup strategy for your business.

Linus Chang is a backup expert and the lead developer of BackupAssist -- backup software that is simple and affordable, and perfect for small and medium businesses. Protect your Windows servers, including SQL Server and Exchange Server, to tape, REV drive, hard drive, NAS and more, at a fraction of the cost of other backup programs. Transforms NTBackup into a script-free and simple-to-use tool.

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