ERAM – A New Backup Media

Posted January 2007

For decades, the venerable 1/4″ tape served information technology managers well by providing reliable, affordable media for backing up important data files. This media has now begun giving way to the new kid on the block – ERAM.

ERAM – Electronic Random Access Memory, also known as “Memory Sticks”, has recently enjoyed the double-benefit of increasing storage capacity with simultaneously falling prices. Capacities of 512MB thru 8GB compare favorably with traditional 1/4″ backup tapes, and cost the same or less than their venerable big brothers. Better yet, ERAM media never wear out as 1/4″ tape media did, though they certainly are easier to misplace or lose. And, ERAM is literally hundreds of times faster than tape making the occasional manual backup, or emergency recovery of data considerably faster with less down-time.

INFONETICS recommends the following protocol for all good data backup schemes. First, backups should be made and rotated daily, with at least a week’s worth of media. And, they MUST be kept off-site so that the data on your server, and its recent backups, are never subjected to the same threat. For example, when arriving in the morning, some responsible individual will check the “nabar” messages logged on your console terminal to make sure the previous night’s backup ran without problem. Then, the ERAM stick (or tape) from the previous night is removed and placed in a purse/briefcase, and replaced with a new stick which was last used a week ago. This ensures that the backup travels off-site at the first sign of any emergency on-site, and finds a safe place off-site to spend the coming week.

In the RARE event that data need be recovered from a backup, you simply fetch the needed media from off-site. Ideally, this never happens so keeping backups off-site never inconveniences anyone. The risks of NOT keeping backup media off-site includes that media being stolen, burned, flooded or somehow damaged coincident with the main server. Therefore, it is never acceptable to keep backup media on-site, not even in a fire-proof/water-proof safe (which, generally speaking, is neither).

When moving to ERAM for your backup media, INFONETICS support personnel will need to reconfigure both the nightly “nabar” program, as well as the manual “Backup/Recover To/From ERAM/Tape” programs in root’s Utility Menu. PLEASE NOTE: YOUR INFONETICS LINUX SERVER MUST BE SPECIFICALLY CONFIGURED FOR VARIOUS MANUFACTURERS ERAM MEDIA, SO PLEASE BE SURE TO PURCHASE DIRECTLY FROM INFONETICS TO ENSURE COMPATIBILITY.

Validating the integrity of backups periodically is vitally important to any good information management department. INFONETICS recommends this be done with each/every new backup media placed into service, as well as on a monthly basis. To to so, simply logon as “root”. Then proceed to the Utility Menu and “Verify/List ERAM (Tape) Contents”. Insert the ERAM (or tape) media to be inspected, and hit <F9/GO>. The system will then read the data on the media and list each filename as well as last changed date/time. Watch closely to confirm that the date/time stamp correspond to the period the backup was made. The filename “cmCust” is usually an excellent indication of recent usage since it is accessed almost constantly throughout a typical day’s business.