The Guide to Backup Tape Rotation and Vaulting Schemes

The Benefits of tape rotation services through Record Nations

Among all the various methods and formats, tape backups stand alone as one of the most cost-efficient and long-lasting options for backing up data.

Learn more in this video or the transcript below about what a backup tape rotation and vaulting scheme is, its benefits, the different kinds of tape, and most importantly the individual types of tape rotation schemes such as first in, first out, grandfather-father-son, and the Tower of Hanoi.

Video Transcription

What Is a Backup Tape Rotation & Vaulting Scheme

Tape rotation and vaulting schemes are a strategy for backing up data to tapes in order to minimize the amount of media needed by reusing past tapes for future backups.

The strategy lays out when each tape is scheduled for another backup and how long the data on it is retained before the tape is used again for another backup.

Even though with all schemes the actual data that’s backed up is the same, over time different rotation and vaulting schemes have been developed to strike a better balance between cost and retention requirements.

Different Types of Backup Tape

Tape Type

Latest Version

Storage Capacity

Transfer Speed

“Jaguar” IBM 3592 Tape Series

TS1160 (released 2018)

20 TB

400 MB/s

Linear Tape Open (LTO)

LTO-8 (released 2017)

12 TB

360 MB/s

Digital Linear Tape (DLT)

DLT-S4A (released 2007)

800 GB

60 MB/s

Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT)

SAIT-2 (released 2006)

800 GB

45 MB/s

Benefits of Using Tape Rotation & Vaulting

There are 3 simple benefits from using tape backups that still make them a useful tool for modern records management:

  • Tape is cheap, making it a cost-efficient medium for storing data in bulk.
  • Tape backups are a physical, removable medium, meaning they can’t be hacked or deleted like digital data.
  • Tapes have an average lifespan of 10+ years, making them ideal for data with extended retention requirements.

tape storageDifferent Types of Rotation & Vaulting Schemes

There are 3 main backup tape rotation and vaulting schemes, and determining which is best is based on your own storage and retention needs.

The primary rotation and vaulting approaches include:

First In, First Out (FIFO) Rotation & Vaulting Scheme

During a First In, First Out (FIFO) backup scheme the newest or most recently modified files are saved on the oldest tape in the set. In other words, the tape that contains the least useful previous data is overwritten.

When using a FIFO backup system, the backup depth goes as far back as the number of tapes being used.

For example, if 14 tapes are being used for daily backups, then the past 14 days of data will be available.

Grandfather–Father–Son (GFS) Rotation & Vaulting Scheme

Grandfather–Father–Son (GFS) backups are a common rotation scheme for backup tapes where there are three or more backup cycles being used such as daily, weekly, and monthly.

Just like with general FIFO rotation schemes, the daily, weekly, and monthly backup tapes are rotated using a first in, first out system.

The Tower of Hanoi Rotation & Vaulting Scheme

The Tower of Hanoi method is more complex tape rotation strategy that’s based on the mathematical puzzle invented by the French mathematician Edward Lucas in 1883.

In terms of backups and tape rotation, the Tower of Hanoi scheme a cycle of exponential retention periods with a recursive pattern for scheduling tape backups as opposed to using a large number of tapes that need to be backed up daily.

The Tower of Hanoi can function on as few as four tapes, where:

  • Tape A is backed up every 2 days
  • Tape B is backed up every 4 days
  • Tapes C and D are backed up every 8 days

Using this system as an example, data from up to 8 days before it can be restored despite the fact that only 4 tapes are used, and continuing the exponential pattern, if a 5-tape Tower of Hanoi was used, then data from up to 16 days will be available.

Interested In Implementing a Tape Rotation & Vaulting Scheme?

Join Kroger, NASA, Netflix, and the countless other businesses and organizations that we’ve helped to find and implement the ideal backup tape rotation and vaulting scheme when you visit us at Record Nations. For free no-obligation quotes, fill out the form to the right, use the live chat button, or give us a call at (866) 385-3706



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