Knowing how to restore data from a tape backup is critical if you rely on tape backup to protect your data. In this article I will tell you a couple of tips to make sure the tape actually has the data on it, then how to restore the data back onto your computer.
First, make sure your tape drive is clean. All tape backup devices have an approved method for cleaning. Anymore, this is usually just inserting an inexpensive specially designed cleaning tape into the drive. Follow the directions when using, and watch for an indication that it is all used up and needs to be discarded.
Keeping the drive clean not only helps to ensure a good backup, but also a successful restore.
Second, rotate your tapes by not always using the same one or two. Having many tapes and rotating them has many advantages, one of which is that if a tape fails during restore, data that is only a day or so older is available on another tape. Tapes wear out based primarily on hours of use, so if you want the computer and tape drive to last 4 or 5 years, it will take more tapes to spread out the wear and tear on the tapes to last that long too.
Third, store your tapes in an approved environment. Excessive heat or cold in storage, even humidity, will affect the probability of successfully restoring your data. See the tape’s specifications for the proper storage conditions.
Now it is time to actually restore the data.
Step 1 is somewhat optional, and is designed for the very conservative at heart. Take an unused tape (so you are SURE you will not destroy data that you may need) and backup your computer system as is. You may also copy the “bad” data to another new backup subdirectory of your choosing, where it is out of the way.
Step 2 is to locate the most recent tape with the data that you need. This often is your most recent backup, but not always.
Step 3 is to set the “write protect” mechanism on the tape to prevent writing to the tape. We don’t want to accidentally save data to the tape and wipe out what is on it. See the tape instructions for how to do this. Usually there is a tab that slides on the tape itself.
Step 4 is to insert the tape into the drive. Easy enough.
Step 5 is to setup the restore with your tape backup software. All software is different, but you ordinarily want to make sure all data is deselected (not chosen for restore), and select only those few files you need.
Step 6 is critical, and has a side benefit. Tell the tape software to restore to a different directory than where the data came from, I use C:TempRestore. Additionally, tell the software NOT to overwrite any files. This is all a precaution against an error on your part.
The side benefit is that if you want to take the wise step of doing test restores periodically, you can complete all of these steps the exact same way as if doing a real restore. Then compare files in the source directory to those in the temporary restore location, and ignore Step 8.
Step 7 is to actually restore the data from tape. Make sure you get a successful completion message from your software.
Step 8 is to copy the data from this test restore location to where it goes. As mentioned above, I ordinarily make a copy of the “bad” data, just in case, before starting the restore. I normally keep this restore directory and the “bad” data for a few days until I am sure I don’t need it any longer.
Step 9 is to eject the tape, remove the write protection and return it to its storage location.
Step 10 is to test the restored data to make sure all is well.
Restoring data from tape should go smoothly, albeit with a few butterflies in the belly. Taking care of your tape device, your tapes, and performing test restores periodically will reduce those butterflies, speed the process, and virtually guarantee that you get back the data you need.
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