Century IT blog

Backup Tape Life Expectancy

June 25th, 2012

How Long Can You Expect a Backup Tape to Last?


Everything wears out eventually, be it your computer or your bicycle, they all come to a point in time where they deteriorate, wear and break.


Backup tapes are no exclusion from this unfortunate truth.


If you have a routine to cycle the same five backup tapes around (Monday-Friday) then it is very likely of course, that all of these tapes will go wrong within a reasonably short period of time from each other if they are all stored and handled the same. To combat this, it is always worth having some spare tapes to hand should one or multiple tapes decide to stop working.


Alternatively, you can cycle tapes round so that you have two tapes for each day of the week marked up as one and two respectively (E.g. Monday -1, Tuesday – 1, Monday – 2, Tuesday – 2 etc.) This way each tape only gets used once a fortnight.


There are many factors contributing to the life expectancy of a backup tape though.


In optimum conditions, and if the tapes are extremely well looked after and used infrequently, then the life expectancy of an Ultrium tape can be up to 30 years. However, it is unlikely that a tape shall be kept in these perfect conditions and not receive damage over the course of ten or more years.


This figure of 30 years however, is how long that the tape should last and hold its data successfully for not necessarily how long it will last under constant use.


With the tape under normal use in a weekly or bi-weekly rotation, an Ultrium tape can be expected to last for around 260 full successful backups. It is however strongly advised that the tapes are changed before the breaking point so as not to end up in a situation where a backup will fail due to a lack of tapes to perform the backup on.


There are many factors contributing to the life expectancy of a backup tape


A few of the things that would contribute to lowering the life expectancy of the tape would be:

I.T Support, Server Support, Network Support


  • Dust and dirt in the area that they are used and stored


  • Humidity of the environment that they are used and stored in


  • Whether the tape runs back and forth during backup


  • How often the tape is used


One of the major contributions to the shortening of the life of a tape is a process commonly known as “Shoe shining.” This process is where the tape drive is faster than the server itself, and the tape drive has to stop, reposition itself and start up again to continue writing many times so that it can allow for the slow speed of the server.


This in turn causes excessive wear to the tape from all of the unnecessary movement across the tape, rapidly reducing the life of it. Newer drives and tapes can detect when this is happening and attempt to stop or reduce it, though this in turn does mean that the full capability of the tape drive is not being used.



Century IT Services – Getting IT Right

Providing Computer Support & IT Support to businesses in Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey, Wiltshire, Sussex & Berkshire.


Digital Britain 3 Years on!

June 1st, 2012


Back in 2009, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown said digital technology was as important today as roads, bridges and trains were in the 20th Century.


The Digital Britain Interim Report which was produced by the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform states that “A successful Britain must be a Digital Britain.”


Also back in 2009, we gave our opinion on the topic of broadband speeds in our BLOG article titled Digital Britain – Broadband Speeds in Contention, now some 3 years on let’s review some of our observations and see how the business broadband market has changed.


Let’s review some of our observations and see how the business broadband market place has changed in the past 3 years



If some Internet Service Providers marketing material were to be read literally, we might somehow believe we were living in the ’21st Century’ and the broadband skyline was a bright and exciting world, unfortunately the real world is comparatively different.


Quite frequently in the press there always seems to be a lot of noise about advertised broadband speeds not being quite as advertised, and in practice the general complaint is these broadband speeds tend to be a lot slower than advertised.


Would you be surprised I were to tell you that it is our experience that these broadband speeds are never generally in favour of the consumer, more often, our experience is the broadband speed is in their determent.


The major broadband complaints we get from our business customers are:


  • Broadband isn’t quick enough


  • Broadband experience is of a transient nature (drops out, slows down, disconnects)


  • Broadband upload speed simply isn’t sufficient


  • Broadband throughput is throttled at the telephone exchange or at the ISP


  • Poor broadband connections or reliability are causing business financial loss


The above problems are not generally ISP specific and generally manifest themselves across a large geographic area i.e. a variety of different counties, telephone exchanges and internet service providers.




Let’s start this discussion by giving some facts from real world examples


Real World Example 1

Let’s first look at our office broadband, our ISP advertises business broadband speeds of up to 17mb download. Strangely our router ADSL sync speed is nearly at 21mb.

Our average broadband download speed is around 14mb.

A BT specific broadband speed check lists our broadband speed at up to 21mb, the BT speedtest diagnosis is that our broadband has 15.52mb download speed.


Real World Example 2

Another router on a different telephone exchange reports a 11.5mb router sync speed

Average download speed is around 8mb

A BT Specific speed test lists the broadband speed at up to 21mb, the BT speedtest diagnosis says that the broadband connection download speed as around 8.5mb


Real World Example 3

11.5mb router sync speed

BT service says that the connection is on a 21mb connection

Average download speed is around 8mb

BT Specific speed test lists the broadband download speed as around 8.5mb




I suspect many of ISPs will be reading this and will readily formulating their excuses to justify why broadband speeds are so transient and to be quite frank, we have heard them all before. Unless they have something new to tell us, don’t bother wasting your time trying to justify your position.


Our point is that broadband speeds shouldn’t be transient; at least for businesses it should be a steady, guaranteed service, anything else just stifles business innovation and growth.





Let’s try to draw comparisons with other utility based services to try to put things into perspective:-



In 2010 there has were nearly 10 million TV sets sold, yet there isn’t any reports of T.Vs not working as the broadcasting services have been oversold and a T.V signal could not be found?

And no I didn’t need to reboot my T.V a single time to watch BBC News Night!



In the past year there has been no reports of some radio stations not working, or not working at certain times of day, or slowing down if the whole neighbourhood has their radios turned on?

And no I didn’t need to reboot my radio a single time to listen to Dave Lee Travis!



In 2010 there were around 81,000 new homes built, strangely there have been no reported problems with light bulbs only being able to get bright at certain times of the day, or ovens not getting hot enough (that i know of) due to lack of electricity.

And no, I didn’t suffer any intermittent light bulb outages or needed to keep a variety of manufacturers different light bulbs to test with.



Let’s look at the water supply and the flow rate from your tap, does it stop or slow down at certain times of the day? Will your water supply only work with certain types of taps?


The above comparisons may be slightly humorous although there is a serious side to the above illustrations, if you pause for thought and give some consideration to what is being argued. In today’s technological age, is it too much to ask for a utility service to be supplied at a constant and consistent rate?



Is it too much to ask for a utility service to be supplied at a constant and consistent rate?




If you don’t get bogged down in all of the industry jargon, the simple fact is that broadband technology is not and has not kept up with demand.


The leaps in technology that occur in every other technology sector are not taking place in the broadband sector.


Our experience is broadband speeds haven’t increased (for the majority of the population) in any notable measure over the past 3 years.


Business broadband connections still are of a very transient nature.


From our experiences, could we be criticised in drawing the conclusion that broadband services in the U.K are being rationed?



What do we recommend

For the purpose of this article let’s concentrate on the business broadband market. As far as we are concerned, business broadband should have the following characteristics:-


  • Business broadband should not be transient


  • Business broadband should have considerably faster download and upload speeds (when compared to residential market)


  • Should have uncontended and unfettered traffic


  • Should not be asynchronous



Business Opportunity



ISP’s should be aware that businesses are as not as price sensitive as the residential consumer market place and businesses therefore would be more likely to pay more for a better broadband service, better reliability and a considerably faster broadband connection.


We believe that business broadband speeds should


  • Start at 50mbs


  • Should not be asynchronous in nature


  • Should not be contended


  • Should have a S.L.A by default (Service Level Agreement)


  • Should be un-throttled


  • There should be speed options for different types and sizes of businesses i.e. 50mb, 150mb, 300mb


For the right kind of ISP, with the right kind of vision of the future business broadband market place there probably is a huge, untapped business opportunity.





After reviewing some daily newspapers, the Mailonline and the Telegraph we were not surprised to review some recent articles on this topics



Number 10

Ofcom (http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr11/)