Thursday, September 01, 2005

Those ole backup tapes

Some technologies are spectacularly primitive and have been largely replaced by modern equivalents. One such is backup - the idea that you use something like ufsdump to back up a Solaris filesystem has no place in the 21st century. Tools such as Legato Networker (or the Sun equivalent - whatever it may be called this week) or Veritas NetBackup should have relegated ufsdump to museums years ago.

(I have used ufsdump occasionally - usually piped direct into ufsrestore as a quick hack to copy a filesystem.)

But having closed down the systems at my former employer, deleted all the data and sent the machines off to oblivion, and burnt all the backup tapes, of course I needed to get some files back for one particular project.

So: no tapes, no tape libraries, no backup server, no legato license. But I did have a ufsdump tape made several years ago.

Every week we used to drop a copy of critical system files onto a bootstrap tape - jumpstart profiles, copies of systems configurations, basic software. (And we knew the directory trees were stable so we were happy to do the ufsdump live.) The theory was that in the event of a total disaster, we could get any old machine and put enough on it to be able to work well enough to reconstruct everything else. (Having needed to do this, it proved its worth.)

So the files were on this tape. I managed to find a DLT drive in the loft; managed to find a machine to hook it up to; managed to get the files off the tape.

(Finding a suitable machine was more tricky than I expected - I was a little surprised to go round the back of my W2100z - a SCSI based machine - and find no SCSI orifice. Fortunately I'm looking after a SunBlade 2000 for a colleague and that does. The other criterion was that I wanted to drop the files onto a USB connected zip disk, so having SCSI and USB in the same box was a help. I need to get that home network set up!)

So, problem solved. And it just goes to show that despite my reservations about tapes and old backup systems, they do actually come in handy once in a while.

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