Offsite tape vaulting is an essential part of any disaster recovery strategy

A key part of any disaster recovery strategy is locating tapes at an offsite location for quick retrieval. We tell you how far offsite you should vault tapes and how often they should be moved there.

By Antony Adshead

The key reason we back up data is to ensure that an organisation has copies of essential data in case of a disaster. With that in mind, it's time to look at offsite tape vaulting, which is the secure storage of backup tapes away from your primary IT infrastructure. This begs two further questions:

  • How far offsite should I vault tapes? and
  • How often should they be moved there?
  • Dealing with the last question first, the question of how often to vault tapes is dictated by your recovery point objective (RPO). If the minimum amount of data you can realistically stand to lose is 24 hours' worth, then you should vault backup tapes every 24 hours.

    The big mistake many small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) fall into here is to not send a tape offsite until it's full because it may seem like a waste of tape capacity or they have pricing concerns. While saving a few pounds on tapes may seem worthwhile, if a tape you've taken days to fill is destroyed in a fire, you'll lose far more than the tape. So, you should buy more tapes and send them offsite as often as your RPO requires.

    Another reason we may avoid offsite tape vaulting is because we want to keep tapes onsite so data is accessible in case of erroneous deletion by a user, or there's a file corruption issue and we need to restore from the original tape. But don't let this be a reason to not send tapes offsite. The answer is to make two copies: retaining one copy for a fast file restore (if needed) and sending the other offsite.

    As to where and how far offsite you should vault tapes, this will vary according to the likely threat your business faces. Fire could destroy an office building, so moving tapes to another floor would be inadequate protection. Moving tapes to a nearby office may also prove useless if both locations are in a flooding zone or within an area where a disaster at a major facility may result in the closing of a substantial zone (e.g., the Buncefield Oil Depot explosion). Keeping tapes in a car boot has its obvious disadvantages. Therefore, having an up-to-date disaster recovery strategy that deals with the issue of data backup and offsite vaulting is critical.

    The conditions in which tapes are vaulted is also important. Tapes should be handled according to manufacturer recommendations in terms of temperature and humidity. To ignore this could result in a loss of data or reduced tape life.

    One way of dealing with issues arising from the need to store tapes offsite in an optimal fashion is to engage a tape vaulting services company. This type of service provides collection of tapes, storage in temperature and humidity controlled premises, as well as insurance against loss or damage to media. Another option is electronic vaulting, a term that encompasses nearly any method of backing up data over a network to a remote location.

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