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I currently back up to LTO-3 tapes, and I'm about to cross the threshold where a full backup will not fit on a single tape any more; the weekly and monthly backups will span two tapes. Well, I realized today that I'm going to need a bigger bag, so my question is this:

What kind of container do you use to physically transport backup media, especially tapes? Most important is that it protects the tapes from the elements to some degree (moisture, being bumped). Some kind of organizational scheme would be nice as well, instead of having to rifle through all of the tapes when I want to find one.

I've also been thinking about physical security lately. If somebody wanted to get access to our company data, the weakest link would be me carrying tapes to and from my car. Is this a concern that anybody else shares, and what have you done to alleviate it?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

We use Iron Mountain tape vaulting services. The tapes are transported in a locked container that is somewhat weather-proof and foam lined. There is a specific chain of custody regarding this procedure. They're then transported to an offsite tape-vaulting location in an unmarked and alarmed van.

I surely hope that you guys aren't taking your backup tapes home with you.

Edited to add: Taking them home with you because you're an awesome I.T. guy and trying to be nice, opens you up to a world of hurt when and if that tape gets "lost" or stolen. But, it also depends on what you're backing up. Is it SS#? Is it credit card information? How valuable is the data to someone who would use it for nefarious purposes? (Don't really answer what kind of data it is in this public forum..just questions you need to ask yourself :) )

If this company is too cheap to pay for some other method of getting backups offsite, then make the owner of the company take the tapes home with him/her.

If there are no tape vaulting services in your area, Iron Mountain (Mozy, Amazon S3 with JungleDisk, etc.) offer online backups into the cloud. We are in the process of moving our physical tape backups to cloud based with Iron Mountain, called Live Vault. We're also making use of their Turbo Restore Appliance, which facilitates everyday backups and restores for around 30 days. The rest gets backed up into their cloud. It fits our needs because it's automated AND encrypted. While it's not inexpensive, the loss of business in a disaster, without proper backups to restore to, would be astronomical.

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Yes, I do take backup tapes home with me. I carry only the tape(s) needed for a certain day, and leave the rest at home. Each month, the most recent full backup is pulled out of rotation and archived at my manager's home. Iron Mountain looks good, but I work for a small business in a somewhat remote area with no tape vaulting services. What would you recommend as an alternative? – Nic Nov 6 '09 at 5:21
If there is no vaulting service locally ... encrypt those tapes when you back them up. actually ... you should be encrypting them anyway. – Zypher Nov 6 '09 at 6:07
If you do not have vaulting services available, then use a safe deposit box at a bank. The bigger boxes are only a few hundred a year and you can store a ton of tapes in them. We use Turtle Cases for doing transport to our vault, but they would work good for the bank trips too. – Doug Luxem Nov 6 '09 at 14:47
+1 for @DLux suggestion for a safe-deposit the very least, this is what you could be doing. Just stop taking those tapes home with you... – GregD Nov 6 '09 at 14:56
yeah..who woulda thunk of a safe deposit box? ;) – damorg Nov 6 '09 at 14:58

I highly recommend Pelican cases. They're virtually indestructible, and waterproof, they even float if dropped in the water. I don't currently use them for tapes but have done so in the past. I've also used them for photography equipment. You can even drive a truck over it.

A nice feature of the Pelican cases is that they come with "pick and pluck" foam so you can have custom shaped padding inside for whatever it is you're carrying.

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Very nice. I like the customizable foam. – Nic Nov 6 '09 at 9:05

We use something like these:

They have a certain amount of foam padding and are lockable.

Security-wise, our tapes go to an offsite vault. Think Iron Mountain but we're lucky enough to have a similar outfit locally that is more reasonably priced for us.

Short of that kind of setup..."always have a buddy"...don't transport the tapes alone from building to car, have a signed log documenting a chain of custody for who handles the tapes internally and out the door.

where do the tapes go offsite? If it's not to a locked vault, there's security on the far end too.

Further thoughts:

As already mentioned, consider encrypting the tapes regardless of your handling method.

I see in your profile that you work for an accounting firm so I would have to guess there's some level of auditing that goes on internally and externally. Your auditors and lawyers may have recommendations for data handling and protection.

If professional offsite vaulting with locked van pickup etc. isn't an option, additional steps you might take:

  1. Document a procedure for handling the tapes internally and log it daily including the chain of custody in your org. Get it signed off on so everybody is on the same page about the risks involved.
  2. If at all possible, don't take the tapes home. That's a lot of risk for your company and a lot of risk for you personally (you aren't bonded/insured for that and your home isn't a "secure" site). Short of a data vault, maybe a lock box at your company's bank. That might also help with security, access logging, and chain of custody.
  3. Depending on the amount of data, electronic vaulting may be an option where you back up securely over the wire. Yes, a tape holds a lot of data but if a relatively small amount of data is changing it might be an acceptable solution at an acceptable price.

Keep in mind that "ignorance is not bliss"...the risks exist regardless of whether you talk about them or not so it's better to talk about them. The best you can do is make sure everybody understands them, help figure out what the practical options are, and help carry out the agreed-upon solution.

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Those cases are exactly what I was looking for, but GregD's answer makes me wonder if I am even asking the right question. The chain of custody is just me. I like the buddy suggestion. – Nic Nov 6 '09 at 5:25
You can only do what you can do...if your company can't or won't vault with a bonded offsite operation, it limits the possible solutions. I'll edit my answer above with some additional thoughts. – damorg Nov 6 '09 at 11:59
+1 for suggesting a safe deposit box :P – GregD Nov 6 '09 at 16:43

I use different media to alleviate it. I back up to a portable hard drive that I store offsite. I also use DVD's and cloud services to do backups (Amazon in this case)

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I only have to transport one tape each day, so it goes into one of the compartments of my laptop bag. The bag is big enough that I could carry the five tapes I needed to take with me each day in my previous role. As my beloved laptop is in there as well you can be sure I'm careful about what happens to it and the bag is rain proof as well, as long as it's properly closed.

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We use a two part approach, our regular backups go offsite to Iron mountain just like GregD uses once per week. We normally keep our daily incremental and a full backup on site in our tape library.

One set of tapes a month however go to a safety deposit box at wells Fargo. Always two of us go, sometimes three (its right near where we sometimes go for lunch so convenient). This is only a few blocks away and we have a spare Iron Mountain case that we use for this transportation.

Tapes not in use or that are obsoleted are stored here in a concrete lined fireproof cabinet that can lock.

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I just wanted to add that just because a 'fireproof' container will indeed keep tapes from catching fire, they WILL NOT keep the tapes from melting ;) – GregD Nov 6 '09 at 14:43

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