More tape tales

By | August 10, 2007

There is definitely something about tapes, they just seem to attract trouble!

We’ve talked in the past about tapes that have been inserted upside down and back-to-front, tapes that have had barcodes maliciously swapped and tapes that have come back from the vault with grass all over them.  But this one is a new one for me…..

Basically, I was recently involved in a Commvault implementation when we came across a tape that we thought was faulty.  The library had tried several times to mount the tape with no luck.  So we had it removed from library and shipped to site so that we could package it up and return to the supplier as DOA.

However, this is what we saw when it came back to us –

Seriously! It had been put into the library with the instruction sheet explaining where to put the barcode label stuck to it!

Notice the circular markings in the middle of the paper that were made by the reel motor as it repeatedly tried to engage the reel drum.  Makes me wonder if we had tried to mount the tape enough times if the reel motor would eventually have worn a hole through the paper and mounted and used the tape with the paper still attached??  Guess I’ll never know!

The thing is, this was done by somebody I have a fair bit of respect for! 

Inserting tapes upside downand the likes is usually down to stupidity or not knowing what your doing.  This on the other hand could have been done by any of us.  Like I said, this was a new installation and involved loading a lot of new tapes into a new library – quite a monotonous task – and Im sure had it been me loading the tapes I may well have missed it.  Well……… 😉

A case for VTL??

3 thoughts on “More tape tales

  1. Stephen2615

    Great respect eh?  I have a lot of respect for myself so does that mean you did it? 
    But seriously, back in the days when I did my one and only backup work (about 1997), I was using Legato Networker and I used one DLT 4000 tape per day to backup my UNIX systems.  As a precaution in case of needing to recover the data in a DR situation, I used to print off the bootstrap information and put it with the tape inside the case.  This tape was given to our data management person who managed the other tapes for things like Windows, etc. 
    I was working for a very large and successful stock broking firm at that time and the data was needless to say very important.  So, as we spent a lot of money on our DR solution, we decided to test it one day.  We called back yesterdays tape and I started building the fresh DR system which meant installing Networker.  Our DR site was an outsourced green fields site with nothing on the systems. I got the tape and there was no paper inside the cover.  This made it difficult to know what to recover in a clean site.
    We did a bit of a witch hunt to find out why the bit of paper was not there.  It seems that the girl who managed the tapes was pulling out the piece of paper without ever asking why it was there.  As she also managed the backups for the other systems, we also found that she had no idea of how to recover any of our systems which was her job.  Needless to say she had a fruitful discussion with our manager about this but she decided that another place would suit her just fine.
    I imagine backup solutions have come a long way since needing the bootstrap information to make sense of what was on the tape.  I do wonder how many companies rely on green fields sites to do DR.  I do know of one place that has a DR site but has nothing there to read the tapes….

  2. Nigel (mackem)

    Hi Stephen, no it definitely wasn’t me who loaded that tape – but good ask!

    I worked for a company not so long ago who had its DR site at an IBM data centre.  They owned zero kit there, it was all loaned and in fact shared with other companies.  The hope was that two companies who required the same pieces of kit didn’t have a disaster at the same time 😀

    They had two long weekends every year where they all went off to the DR site and rebuilt their core systems, and had a good time doing it.  I don’t work there anymore but I still have some of the guys on my MSN list and see every once in a while that a few of them are showing their status as busy and on site at the DR site.  I assume they are still doing their twice-annual trip to the DR site and rebuilding everything from scratch.

    I imagine they are very proficient at the exercise now.

    Although this may seem a bit archaic compared to active active sites (may be even 3DC) with synchronous replication etc……. the fact that they practice regularly and document the exercise so well, they are in fact better prepared than most companies Ive seen.  I know a few companies who have stricter requirements but would not have a clue what to do in an emergency.

  3. Jesse

    I’ve found when taking new tapes out of the case that there is so much static-cling on the tape case that the labels and instructions actually cling to them.  In the past I’ve actually had to exert some real effort to separate the two.I can see making that mistake putting tapes into a library, there is nothing in the library slots to break the paper through.  Then of course the robot grabs the tape, with the label still sticking to it and slides it into the drive..  It’s not until the drives intake mechanism takes over that the paper actually interferes.Good one though.

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