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Using Linear Tape File System for archiving

Learn about using Linear Tape File System for archiving in this Expert Response from Brien Posey.

Are there any products in the market utilizing LTFS for archiving? And is it possible to categorize data stored on tape to make it searchable without restoring the data to a server if it is not LTFS-compatible?

LTFS is an acronym for Linear Tape File System. LTFS tapes use a file system that's similar to what is normally used in disk-based storage. LTFS makes it possible to drag and drop files to tape in the same way that files might be dragged and dropped to disk.

This concept allows LTFS-compliant tape drives to be used as an archive solution. Tandberg Data, for example, offers software that allows their LTO-5 tape drives to be seen as a disk resource. Since many of the data archiving products on the market are designed to write archive data to disk, it becomes easy to redirect the output of such products to a tape drive instead, since the tape drive emulates a disk.

The main advantage to using Linear Tape File System for archiving is that tape drives provide a near infinite capacity, since tapes can be replaced as they are filled. Tapes offer high capacity and a low cost per gigabyte, so they tend to be a good alternative to disk-based storage.

As far as indexing on non-LTO tapes goes, there is a company called Index Engines that offers a technology called direct indexing. Direct indexing can make the discovery process far less time-consuming. The process works by scanning the tapes and looking for things like files, email messages, databases, and the like. The process indexes the tape's contents and works independently of your backup software. Cataloging a tape does not require the data to be restored. The tape is simply scanned.

The Index Engines software includes a search engine that makes it possible to perform discovery against archive tapes. The discovery process is even able to look inside of certain types of unstructured files (such as Exchange Server databases).

This was last published in October 2012

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I invite you to examine the LTFS caveats at:


We would love for something like LTFS to become the "answer", but until Apple and Microsoft add support directly to Finder and Explorer and one entity takes responsibility for vetting the implementations, we're not there yet.

There are LTFS appliances out there that solve those issues. Crossroads Systems have such an appliance called StrongBox.
Several products have entered the market as LTFS-based solutions. One key thing to keep in mind is that a huge benefit to LTFS is it's vendor-neutrality. When looking into possible LTFS archive solutions, IT buyers need to be sure that the solution, in entirety is non-proprietary. Otherwise, data will once again be locked under vendor-specific formatting, inaccessible to end-users.
And it reallly works, great utility. used like a USB stick....just need some firmware...
Tape provides near infinite capacity, but only if used with software that can manage spanning data across tapes. Otherwise, LTFS requires that you chunk your data into 1.5TB or 2.5TB sizes (actually, a bit less) so that you can get a full write onto a single cartridge.

Also, without a third party (and usually expensive) non-Open Source wrapper, there's no way to check what's on a tape that's not actually mounted.

Finally, there's no way to verify what you wrote to the tape actually mad it onto the tape properly. This lack of a verification process is a very bad thing when you talk about using tape for long term archival. Throwing data onto the tape and praying is not the best way to store your irreplaceable assets.

And with everybody and their brother getting into the LTFS party, the dream of an easily cross platform tape solution is fading rather than growing stronger. There are already solutions out there that offer true cross-platform compatibility, high performance, end-to-end data verification, and one organization responsible if things get sideways.