Tape Drive Backup Software

The most important decision you can make after you choose the tape standard and capacity of your backup tape drive is the backup software you will use with it.

The three sources for tape backup software are

  • Software bundled with the drive

  • Software bundled with the operating system

  • Software obtainable from third parties

Use the following checklist to evaluate the software you plan to use with your tape backup drive:

  • Device support. You might prefer to use tape for most backups, but can you change your mind and use high-capacity removable magnetic or optical storage if you need to? Some backup software bundled with a particular drive will work only with that drive; check whether a full version with more options is available.

  • Compatibility with existing backups. If you have replaced an older tape drive with a new one, can the backup software as well as the tape drive read your old data?

  • Adjustable compression options. If you are using a drive without hardware data compression, you should be able to adjust the compression methods used, or even turn them off to make sending the tape to the user of another drive easier.

  • Data safety options. In addition to verification, good tape software should also include some form of ECC error correction to make recovering the data in case of media damage easier.

  • Disaster recovery. Many bundled or operating-system-standard backup programs require you to reinstall the operating system before you can restore the contents of a crashed drive.

Insist on a disaster recovery feature that will allow you to restore a drive from bootable disks and the tape backup without taking the time to reinstall the operating system first. Keep in mind that you need to use an ATAPI or SCSI drive to have support for disaster recovery as well as software with this feature.

Other useful features to look for include

  • Unattended backup scheduling. Enables you to schedule a backup for a time when you won't need to use your computer

  • Macro capability. Use when selecting options and the files to back up

  • A quick tape-erase capability. Use when erasing the entire contents of a tape

  • Partial tape-erase capability. Use when erasing only part of a tape

  • Tape unerase capability. Use when recovering erased data

  • Password-protect capability. Enables you to protect backup data from access by unauthorized persons

Read reviews, check compatibility, look for trial versions, and be sure to test the backup and restore features as you look for the best tape backup program for your needs.