GST Says 25 Percent of iSeries Tape Restores Fail
July 19, 2005 Alex Woodie
When it comes time to restore your iSeries following a disaster or a crash, will your backup tapes work properly, or will your restore be the one in four that fails? These are the questions the iSeries tape experts at GST want every iSeries shop to ask themselves. Last week, the vendor launched a new service to test iSeries backup tapes, so you can rest assured your restore will work, or so you can fix what’s wrong–before you’re in a serious fix.
To use GST’s new System Restore Testing Service, an OS/400 shop would send its backup tapes to GST, which then attempts to restore them on its iSeries Model 570. After testing is completed, the backup tapes are returned to the subscriber, plus a tape with the restore joblog, which details any complications GST encountered during the restoration process. GST can handle practically any type of tape used in OS/400 environments, promises to remain discreet with sensitive data, and pledges to test and return the tapes within 14 to 30 days.
GST decided to introduce the new service after several of its clients requested tests of its backups to ensure compliance with new regulations, such as HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley Act, FDA 21 CFR Part 11, SEC Rule 17a-4, and DOD 5015.2. “The time to find out if your i5/iSeries or AS/400 backup does not work should not be in the middle of a system restore or system upgrade,” says David Breisacher, GST’s chief executive and chairman.
Breisacher says it’s not “technically or economically viable” for the majority of OS/400 shops to test their backup tapes themselves. Without a second OS/400 server at their disposal, the time and storage requirements make it very difficult to perform a full system restore. “Unless you have a secondary system, you can’t do an inhouse test,” Breisacher says.
GST has already provided this tape testing service for some clients, and the company has a good idea of what to expect. None of the restores have gone perfectly, and 25 percent of the iSeries restores are “catastrophic failures,” Breisacher says.
The most unreliable part of a backup is–and no great surprise here–the physical media. “We’ve seen a lot of media failures,” Breisacher says. This is one of the downsides of the iSeries’ single-level storage architecture: If an OS/400 shop generates 15 tapes during a full system backup, and tape number 7 doesn’t work, the whole restore is blown, he says.
But media failures aren’t the only problem encountered by GST. “The other part is, the way customers are doing the procedures doesn’t amount to a 21 restore,” Breisacher says. “They’re taking shortcuts, and those shortcuts are the Achilles’ heel on a restore.” Some of these common pitfalls include being behind on CUMs and PTFs, Breisacher says. “Most don’t think to back up security profiles or workstation configurations. So you’ve got a big massive failure, nobody’s got the right authorities, and now you have to recreate them. It’s simple things like that.”
GST’s new service supports all types of tape, and all of the different ways that OS/400 shops can back up their software, including Option 21 saves and restores, IBM‘s BRMS program, or third-party backup and restore utilities, such as Help/Systems Robot/SAVE, LXI‘s MMS, and others.
GST is pricing its new tape testing service based on the size of the restore. At the bottom end of the spectrum is a restore with 250 GB of data, which costs $1,500. At the upper end of the spectrum is a restore of 5 TB of data, which costs $7,000.
With the recent rash of lost backup tapes by CitiGroup and Bank of America grabbing headlines, GST understands that some OS/400 shops may be hesitant to send their valuable data through the mail. For these customers, GST is expected to announce a new service whereby it ships to the client a full iSeries server on which to test their backup tapes. When the client is done, the iSeries goes back in the crate, and is shipped back to GST.