Sample Backup Tape Rotation schedule

The simplest backup method is FULL/COPY.  If you are able to perform these types of backups each day, the number of tapes in your rotation schedule can be small.  This document is based on the assumption that your backups will be FULL.  There are a variety of backup software packages you can use, including the built-in "NTBACKUP" for Windows 2000/XP.
In the following example each day the appropriately labeled tape is put into the machine.  At the end of the week, the correct Friday tape is inserted.  On Monday the Friday tape is removed.  It is advisable that the alternating Friday tape be stored OFF-SITE.  In the event of a total disaster, data can be recovered from this tape.
Week1MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday 1
Week2MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday 2
If more tapes are affordable, an even better schedule is to use 2 independent weeks of tapes.  Many people find this less confusing as well.
Week1Monday 1Tuesday 1Wednesday 1Thursday 1Friday 1
Week2Monday 2Tuesday 2Wednesday 2Thursday 2Friday 2
Whichever method is chosen, the monthly rotation calender will look like this:
Permanent Archives
Because most companies are required to keep records of transactions for 5 to 7 years, you may be required to provide electronic versions of some documents for this time period.  With documents being frequently deleted or changed the common practice is to permanently archive 1 tape per month in a secure off-site location.  A company such as Iron Mountain provides a comprehensive pickup, delivery and archival service.  Some companies opt for less expensive solutions such as safety deposit boxes, fireproof safes, etc.
To make this work with this backup schedule, the last tape of the month is archived and replaced with a brand new tape.  If the last day of the month falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the Friday tape is archived.  Because the last day of the month will vary the tapes in the schedule will slowly but surely be replaced.  It's possible that a tape may "fail" before this time, in which case a new tape is also inserted into the schedule.
It's also a good practice to keep an eye on the age of the tapes in general to ensure that they aren't near failing. Each tape type has a manufacturer recommended lifespan.  Many people feel more comfortable dedicating a brand new tape to their month end backups. 

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Last updated 02/18/2005