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We're currently backing up quite a lot of data from different servers to a tape library using Amanda Backup and it works just fine.

Now I need a one-off backup of a specific set of files (in a location that's not otherwise backed up) to tape for long-time storage.

Obviously I could create a new Amanda configuration and just run that once, but that has several drawbacks, as restoring requires that configuration to be present or restored from the tape via a manual process (that's acceptable for the general backup but I don't think that's a good idea for a one-off).

What would be the best format for storing a backup on a tape, considering ease-of-restoring and (more importantly) not depending on external configuration data for the restoring process.

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Not to derail, but if it is a one-off backup for long term storage where you aren't going to be grabbing it often, you may consider Amazon's Glacier service. –  TheCleaner Oct 2 '13 at 14:56
    
@TheCleaner: I know, I've considered it. Main reason not to: inertia ;-) there's already all the infrastructure for the tape backup, so we'll probably use that. –  Joachim Sauer Oct 2 '13 at 15:09
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For my money, tar, directly to the tape device - which is the normal way to use it, and one it does a great job with. It's been stable for a long, long time; as long as you have a drive that can read the media, you're very likely to be able to read the data off them.

If you want to get fancy and manually set the blocking factor, to try to optimise write streaming and capacity, it can also be used through dd:

cd / ; tar cf - . | dd of=/dev/nst0 bs=64k

and record the blocking factor chosen on the tape case. Note also the use of relative paths, to avoid embedding absolute paths in the tarfile; GNU tar helps you avoid the trap with that (Sun tar used to force you to restore the data in the exact same location, if the paths were absolute), but it's wise not to dig holes for yourself even if you're sure you can later avoid them.

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I was considering that but didn't know if there where any hidden catches or drawbacks to that. If there aren't then that sounds like a perfect solution to me. –  Joachim Sauer Oct 2 '13 at 13:54
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