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free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)

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Rachael Busher
free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:31:05 pm

Hoping to become an LTO Ultrium user here in the next couple months... just still deciding which drive (in my other post - anyone with suggestions WHICH drive to get please post ☺ ) and figuring out my own best archival strategy still.

Apparently LTFS is free for everything and cross compatible - easy to share data between win, mac, and lin, and a tape in one drive works in any maker's deck. Yet is it the best answer for actual long term archival and backup?

Mostly I planned to just use LTFS and store mostly large files immediately accessible... yet there may be reasons NOT to do so. I'm just not sure what they are yet. It seems like disadvantages to most backup software - like 'vendor lock in', and can only restore with that specific OS and that specific software so you better have it later - are nontrivial in my mind.

Is there reasons to use 'conventional' backup software? Is commercial stuff dramatically better than open source or free options? What even are the better open source or free options, like maybe something cross-OS compatible...

I'm here to learn...

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Martin Greenwood
Re: free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)
on Jan 12, 2018 at 4:52:06 pm

The mechanisms and performance of all LTO-7 and 8 drives are the same, as they are all made by IBM, so your choice is on price or brand.

We would recommend using LTFS, it's widely used and cross platform. Also we see customers using LTFS tapes as an interchange, rather than handing over a $100 hard drive why not send a $25 tape that can be accessed quickly.
An LTO-7 drive can read three generations of LTO tapes.

My company YoYotta develops workflow software for production and post and have used LTFS for over 7 years. Our Conform tool takes an editors timelines and partially restores the clips needed for the edit or grade. It can do this directly from an LTFS tape. Projects can have routinely have hundreds of TB of raw footage so it makes sense to store them on a shelf and restore files on demand.



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Tim Jones
Re: free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)
on Jan 12, 2018 at 6:55:39 pm

Hi Rachael and others,

Think about the value of your data and think about what it would cost you to recreate that data if it was lost. There is a reason why every major studio and post house has chosen BRU to protect their work. In fact, we can happily claim responsibility for more than 31 major motion pictures being recovered from massive system and storage failures since 2004.

If you are looking only for free backup software, you'll need to look to a platform other than Mac OS and use tools like tar or cpio. There is no tape layer in Mac OS like there is on other Unix-based platforms for accessing tape, so the free options don't exist on the platform. While tar, cpio, pax, and dd exist on Mac OS, they are not tape-aware. In fact, Apple actually removed the FreeBSD "sequential access" layer from the Darwin kernel back in the 0.99 beta days making native tape access on OS X unavailable. This means that real tape software vendors must create the tape IO layer themselves and that means engineering development expense that doesn't exist on other platforms.

While you can get LTFS for free on Mac OS, it's not a true backup/archival application any more than copying files from one hard drive to another is (which is all that the free LTFS tools basically are). Of course, others disagree with my feelings towards LTFS, but I've been at this for more than 32 years on over 50 different Unix platforms and I've witnessed a lot of "tape pretending to be disk" options come and go with the user generally caught with non-recoverable data.

When you mention your concern of lock in, I can speak for our BRU engine in that a) it has 33 years of cross-platform proven functionality, and b) you get real support from that single vendor that will cover you from the UI down to the manner in which the data is written to and recovered from the tape. BRU is available on more than 21 different platforms and and archive written on one platform can be restored on any of the others. The current version (BRU 19.0) can restore data from an archive that was written as far back as 1988 with our 6.1 version. As for support, our team knows the entire stack from the UI application down to the HBA and system device drivers to how the tape drives and libraries actually work. When dealing with free solutions like LTFS, we are already seeing platform and version incompatibilities depending on who's LTFS suite and version you use. Also, you really have no one to go to for help if the LTFS core in use doesn't work properly for you because of it's "Wild West" open source nature. To quote the copyright and license header for LTFS:
The IBM Linear Tape File system Single Drive Edition is distributed in the
hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the

Having someone that you can communicate with when you have problems or questions is a very important part of a solution like backup and archival.

To read more about how BRU specifically differentiates itself from ALL other solutions, I ask you to take a look at this white paper for a bit more info into why a properly engineered and designed backup and archival solution is important for protecting your data:
The BRU Advantage - From 1985 to 2018, and Beyond

Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!

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Bob Zelin
Re: free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)
on Jan 12, 2018 at 9:06:49 pm

Hi Rachael -
everyone is being so nice and polite to you. Unfortunately, I will not be nice and polite.
So let me get this straight - you can afford editing systems, RAID arrays, an LTO drive (which as you know costs thousands of dollars) a disk drive host card to run the LTO (perhaps you have an MLogic MTape with is a thunderbolt LTO that also costs thousands of dollars), and you will pay about $60 per tape, but you want FREE LTO software ?

Well Rachael - you will get what you pay for. Here it is -
This is HP StoreOpen
and let me tell you from first hand experience, it's a piece of crap, and you will suffer when you run it
and from this very page on HP Store Open -
What's new

Technical support is no longer available for StoreOpen Automation. Software is run at your own risk.

So when you have trouble with this FREE software, and you have problems - who will you call ? NO ONE.
No one will help you.

I don't understand that you have thousands of dollars for the hardware to operate an LTO tape backup system, and it's killing you (or your employer) to spend $500 for a wonderful piece of software from Tolis Group, YoYotta or Imagine Products that will work perfectly, and give you someone to ask questions, if it doesn't work.

There ain't no free lunch Rachael ! By the way, if I help you with this for free, would you edit a show for me for free ?

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Sam Lee
Re: free or low cost tape backup software? (and is there a point)
on Jan 17, 2018 at 2:50:07 pm
Last Edited By Sam Lee on Jan 17, 2018 at 2:51:24 pm

Good thing I didn't even bother to install HPStoreOpen many years ago. Right off the bat I saw that I have to manually fit the 2.5 Tb to each tape. That itself over time is a huge waste of time. $500 is worth it for me for a decent software that can easily span over multiple volumes and has cataloging feature such as BRU PE.

Red flag should always be raised whenever anything is free. Conventional wisdom has always been pay the price. That simple rule works for me. You'll be disciplined and have no other options but to make whatever you purchase productive.

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