Frequently asked questions

Is your tape drive physically damaged? Unsure what data is stored on your tapes? Are you looking for the correct hardware and/or software to read your tape drives? Are you considering migrating your backup infrastructure?

Here you can find answers to these questions and many more. If you cannot find the answer to your question here, call us on +44 (0)1372 741 999 for a free consultation and one of our experts will be happy to help you.

Recover archived data

When your tape has been physically damaged or the data is corrupt and you are unable to read it.

If your DAT, 8mm or AIT tape is snapped, you can try (at your own risk) to stick it back together using adhesive tape. However, you need to be careful. Under no circumstances should the area covered with adhesive tape come in contact with the read/write head of the drive as this could destroy it. It is possible to fix the tape since data is saved consecutively on this type of tape using the helical scan method. However, the data stored snapped or broken point will be lost. This method will not work with DAT or LTO tapes since they use a different method to save the data.

Even though it is possible, we do not recommend it! Should this happen, it is better to contact experts, like Kroll Ontrack, to carry out the repair and recovery. We offer a repair service for snapped or broken tapes as part of our tape data recovery services. Since the tape is usually now only good for one operation – data recovery – it should not be used again and, therefore, it should be destroyed securely after a recovery has been carried out. Additionally you should check your tape drive, since a snapped tape often indicates that there is an underlying hardware failure which caused this to happen.

You should consult a data recovery specialist immediately. Since water can cause damage to a tape, it most likely results in data loss, if the data is not recovered within a certain timeframe. If your tape(s) contain important data, some of it may be lost. Specialists, like Kroll Ontrack, can recover most or all of the data, since they have unique equipment to both dry the tape(s) and read the content. Do not try to heat up or freeze the tape(s) as this can cause even more issues and reduce the chances of restoring the data.

Even if you handled your tapes with great care over the years, some of them can often be polluted with dust. This is quite normal since the magnetic layer of the tape attracts dust. If a dirty tape is used in a tape drive, it will either make the read/write head go bust, or it can destroy data on the tape as a result of dust rubbing over the surface.

The solution to this problem is to clean the tape either with alcohol, a cleaning tape or with a machine especially designed for this purpose. This machine will then wash away the dust or dirt by special cleanser pads from both sides of the tape. When cleaning a tape yourself opening the jacket is not without risk and should only be done by an experienced professional as the mechanism inside is sometimes not as simple as it seems in the beginning.

This depends on the amount of damage to the tape. In any case, you should consult with a data recovery tape services specialist since the experts will have the necessary tools to recover both the tape and the data.

If the cover was the only part affected by the fire, it is sometimes possible to take a new or used tape product, disassemble the item, switch the tapes and put it back into the cartridge.

When a tape itself is destroyed by fire, there is normally no way to recover the data. In the case that only parts of the tape were burned, there is a very low chance that any data can be recovered. For an estimate on the damage and possibility of data recovery, the tapes should be sent to the Kroll Ontrack data recovery engineers for a closer look.

Compared to a hard disk, normally this should have no serious effect on the ability to read or write the content of the tape. Since modern tapes come packed inside solid jackets, e.g. LTO3, then shocks from a certain height pose no major threat to your data. Even if the jacket is broken, the tape itself can still function.

In this situation, it is possible to insert the tape into another, intact jacket. When you need to do this, you should seek the help of data recovery experts who have experience with tape services.

You would normally need some assistance in carrying out this procedure. Since this is the most difficult and advanced type of recovery job, you would need special tools and hardware to perform this task. Additionally, you need very good knowledge of the way data is structured and saved on the tapes and within tape library storage systems. Most people without professional experience do not have this type of knowledge. In this case, it is would be wise to contact Kroll Ontrack to recover the erased or formatted tapes.

If you experience problems with bad tape media, you should contact your tape vendor immediately. Some vendors have analysis tools to check the quality of the problematic area. It is also possible to purchase these types of analysis tools. The great advantage of using these tools is that you can find out the exact amount of read/write procedures as well as the current life expectancy of the tape. With this information, you can decide if you want to use the tape for upcoming backups. Additionally, this analysis can provide a good indication as to why a tape is not accessible anymore, where perhaps there are Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) failures or tape/write errors. The problem of broken tapes is very rare when they are brand new, but there is still a small chance of getting one that does not function properly, especially in cases where you have a very large amount of tapes.

If your tapes are unreliable, you should not use them for saving important data.

Whether they are for backups or legacy data storage, the tapes are not secure enough to use anymore. If you are not certain of the quality of the tape, you can either give it to a tape service provider or buy a tape diagnostic device for analysing it. If the quality of the tape is too low for professional storage purposes, you should consider migrating the content to a new tape or another storage device using a professional tape migration service. Additionally, Kroll Ontrack can offer you a detailed analysis on the quality of your tapes and provide you with a list of all content stored on inaccessible tapes.

A read/write error is quite a common problem, not only with tape, but with all storage devices. When you experience such an error, you have to check for several possible causes. The most common cause of this type of failure is dirt on the read/write heads of the tape device. The solution: clean the heads with a suitable cleaning tape.

Sometimes old tape media causes a read/write error. In this case, try another (new) tape. If this doesn't help, there are other possible causes, such as the use of an incorrect tape storage device driver or firmware or faulty cable connections.

The worst case could be that the device has reached the end of its lifecycle. If this happens, you can decide whether it is a good idea to stick with the current tape system, switch to another tape drive or to another storage device, like a hard disk. In any case, you should migrate your tape content to another storage medium.

CRC is the abbreviation of Cyclic Redundancy Check, which is a method to check if data has been transferred correctly via any network. Prior to a data transmission, the original data will receive additional code, which is a checksum to detect changes in the data. After a file is received at the destination the checksum has to be identical to the one before the transfer. Otherwise, the file is corrupt and a CRC error will occur.

As with the case of a tape read/write error, a CRC error is usually an indication of either a faulty tape or a bad connection where the data transfer went wrong. In most cases, it is a good idea to either try the transfer again or to resave it. If this doesn't help, use another tape or check the cable connection to and from your tape storage system.

The simple answer would be, you can't. If your tape machine doesn't show your tape, you won’t be able to access the data. Possible solutions to this problem are:

  • You have a second drive as emergency backup hardware just for this purpose. With some luck, your tapes can be accessed and read by the other tape drive as it is not uncommon that tapes that work perfectly fine with one drive but don't work with another one, even if it is the same model and brand
  • You can clean your tape drive and hope for it to run again. With some luck it will, since these types of drives were engineered for heavy duty work and durability

If these methods don't bring the device to life you can either try to buy a new or used drive of the same brand and model or bring the device to a specialist who can fix it. To access the files you should get in contact with data recovery experts for tape like Kroll Ontrack.

Read/write errors when accessing the backup file indicate that there might be a problem with the tapes or with the tape drive. If cleaning the heads of the tape machine doesn't help, you should not try to access the data on the tape as this can worsen the problem.

By trying to access working tapes with bad hardware, you risk losing your data permanently. You should immediately contact tape recovery experts, such as Kroll Ontrack, to restore the data with specialised tools.

In the case of tapes damaged by water, fire or broken cartridges, you should not try to recover the data by yourself. In most cases, you may prevent a possible restoration of the tapes. If you try to access such a tape by putting it into a drive, you could also destroy the machine, which is most likely still worth a lot to you. In such an event, you should get in contact with tape recovery specialists, such as Kroll Ontrack.

If your tape restore failed, try another hardware environment. Sometimes, tapes which are not readable on one drive can function perfectly with another drive. This is a common problem with incompatibility issues between both different drives from different brands and different tapes by different brands. This happens quite often and the best solution is to try which tapes work best with your drives.

If this doesn't help, you can try cleaning the drive with a cleaning tape and check for that the cable is properly connected.

If your drive is not functioning anymore, then consult with Kroll Ontrack for a professional tape restore. At Kroll Ontrack, we keep a large amount of drives from different brands and models in stock, which is normally very difficult to have, even within the IT department of a large company.

If you experienced problems accessing your backup or the verification of the backup process has failed, there may be several reasons that caused the backup operation to fail. If your backup tape wasn't stored properly or the tapes just are too old, it is quite common to experience this type of problem.

You can try a different software or hardware environment to recover your backup. If this doesn't work contact the tape data recovery specialists at Kroll Ontrack.

Audit tape archives

You have a number of tapes but do not know what's on them. Perhaps you do not have the backup software to restore the tapes.

Try to get a copy of the backup software by contacting a software vendor or distributor online or in a shop. If the software is very old and not available anymore, or if you are affected by some of the common tape and backup media problems, you should get in contact with data recovery experts. Specialists such as Kroll Ontrack have very specific tools and hardware for a range of tape media, which aren’t available in the market anymore, to gain access to your tape data without the need for the old backup software.

This problem often indicates that either a driver is not working correctly or the backup/tape storage system software is not properly installed. Reinstall them and then try to access the library. If this is still not possible, you should get in contact with data recovery experts, such as Kroll Ontrack, who have very specialised tools to recover the library and its content from a range of tape media.

That depends on the software and tape library system you are using.

In some tape storage software you can - as the tape library administrator or operator – use a certain code command to track down a certain file on a tape. However, this is only possible if you know the exact name of the required file. There is still the chance that you will find a wrong copy of the file. The main issue is that, since you have several copies of the same single file with any advanced backup system and you are not able to identify which one you are looking for, you can only guess the exact name.

A simple solution to this would be to create an index and catalogue of tape and archive media, which is more time and cost-effective if you need to access specific files on your tapes.

This depends on the particular case. If the tape hardware system is still up and running, it is quite easy to create the content list of the tapes without restoring all the content from all the tapes. There is usually some basic functionality in the tape storage system with which you can create and access a content list and find out what is on the tapes.

Without the backup software, you can at least find out what is on the tapes, even though you cannot restore the backup. If you have neither the tape system nor the backup software available, you should definitely contact a data recovery expert who specialises in tapes.

Consolidate and migrate tape archives

You might have decided to replace or migrate your backup infrastructure, but you will still need to be able to access data on the legacy tapes as and when required.

Since the early 1950s, almost 40 different digital tape formats have been introduced to the market. While some of them still exist, the majority of them are long gone. However, this doesn't mean that they are no longer in use. In some companies, a variety of different tape formats co-exist side-by-side for legacy backups and long-term archiving. Problems usually occur when the old hardware (or backup software) is either obsolete or not functioning properly anymore. The importance of maintaining the ability to access your dark data on tapes should not be underestimated or forgotten.

Since there is no real standard on the best type of tape or backup storage system format that one should use for migration, you have the choice to pick the system and tape format which best suits your needs.

The best advice is to migrate to one of the three formats, which the big blue chip players on the market also support. These are:

  • LTO Ultrium
  • T10000
  • 3592

If you are thinking about migrating all of your current tape libraries to one consolidated tape platform, get help from the experts at Kroll Ontrack. They can advise you not only about what has to be done prior to the carrying out this process, but also about what risks and stumbling blocks may lie ahead of you.

Converting your tapes to another format is not as easy as it seems. Similar to a migration, you normally have to extract your tape backup data before you can convert the content to another format. Only specialised software and hardware can complete this process on-the-fly and getting your hands on this equipment is usually far too expensive just to carry out a single conversion.

The smartest thing to do is to let the specialists from Kroll Ontrack take care of the job for you. Since they use established processes in every kind of tape-related service, they offer not only a cost and time-efficient conversion, but also the assurance that the converted data remains intact regardless of the type of tape media that you are using.

First, you have to open your old data in your current backup system and tape format. Next, you need to extract the data out of the tape library to another storage place (presumably to your local NAS or SAN). Then you have to design a new tape backup system from scratch and import the data.

Later on, the data will be compressed in the backup systems data format and stored on the new tapes, which can also be a different type. The real problems occur when you either don't have the original tape devices, storage or backup system anymore or you are not able to access the tapes due to system or tape failure. Additionally, the old backup system architecture and environment has to be completely available with the same settings and in the same state as when the backup was created. This often includes the requirement of the domain controller or active directory settings, which is another difficult problem.

If you are converting to a newer format because of [[tape and/or backup media problems]], more consideration should be given in the planning phase in case of obstacles that may arise from these issues.

This is when the experts from Kroll Ontrack can help you. Not only do they have all the necessary equipment and software for migrating data from an old tape backup system to a newer one, but they also offer data audits and data health checks, so you can be sure that the material you want to migrate is intact no matter what type of tape media you are using.

Simply put, you must restore your tape archives and then extract the data. Then you can either import the content into the new backup environment, after you recreated the archive structure, or if your new backup system allows it, you can copy or import the complete archives into the new data structure.

There are several options available to organisations  when it comes to dealing with upgrading your archive systems, each one with its own considerations. In any case, restoring and migrating an old archive structure which includes data is not an easy task. Each backup system has its own way of saving data in its tape library and onto the tapes themselves, so you must dig deep into the manuals in order to achieve a problem-free new backup environment.

Additionally, problems may arise when a client software is not available or if the paths to them have changed or are not working properly. This is often the case when only snapshots or dumps were taken instead of a full backup and the source consists of database files. In such a case, getting expert help is a better way of dealing with this issue. Our specialists have all the required knowledge and equipment for all the current and old software and hardware for tape and backup solutions. They use standardised processes for tape services, meaning that it is both time and cost-effective for you.

This depends on what you mean by a backup tape migration.

If you want to migrate your current backup files from one tape format to another, such as from LTO 2 to LTO 4, most backup software products have special commands implemented so you can perform this task quite easily without any major problems. In most cases, all you need is a tape drive in the new format to which you can copy the backup.

On a disk-to-disk backup approach, usually Virtual Tape Libraries (VTLs) are very useful. Backup software writes to virtual tape devices, like it would do with a real tape library, which is normally equipped with a mechanical tool and several physical tape devices. In addition every VTL has a unique internal structure and separate database, which stores contents inside the virtual tapes. From the outside, they look like large files with a totally different stream of data than how a tape disk dump (dd) may appear. What is even worse is that several VTLs also heavily duplicate the data that is written to them.

If you want to migrate these backup files that are currently stored on the VTL, there are functions implemented in most professional backup solutions to copy them back to the server or even to a second physical tape storage/library.

If you want to migrate your current backup files stored on tape from one backup software solution to another, this is not an easy thing to achieve successfully. If you are not familiar with the underlying structures of both software products involved, you will most likely end up exhausted and in the worst case scenario, left with a crashed backup system and no backups at all.

For a seamless and quick process, it is best to contact our tape data recovery service experts. We can advise you on the best course of action no matter what type of tape media you are using.

Normally you can just extract the data stored in the backup, which is located on a tape set, and then save the original data on to a different storage space large enough to hold the content. This can be done by the backup software by inputting several commands and functions.

However, trying to access really old backup software solutions can be difficult, if you cannot find any working hardware which it may have run on before. Even if you find the old working hardware, it can still be tricky. Sometimes the data recovered is so old, that the applications used to present the databases in a meaningful way no longer exist. Additional work is required to open files with recent software applications, which may only be 10 years old.

Additionally, when trying to perform a data migration from tape sets to hard disk, the biggest threat is that the tapes will just not work because they are too old. They could be either corrupt, inaccessible or the data itself which is stored on tape is corrupt. In any case, maintaining the ability to access your tapes, in one way or another, should not be a forgotten task.

Whether you experience difficulties trying to access the tapes or the data stored on them, our experienced tape data recovery experts can help. They have all the necessary equipment - both software and hardware - and experience with successful tape recoveries from a range of tape media.

Changing or migrating your current backup software to a new backup software solution or product is not an easy task. You might say that executing some backup software commands that start a general restore from tapes to server can cause no problems. However, many of our clients have told us that the application always crashed doing when trying to do it. The backup software usually tries to recover files, entire servers and databases extremely fast, but it does not support a process of switching to different backup software.

Currently there is only one product on the market that can help you migrate from TSM and NetBackup. However, for other backup software solutions there are no such applications available. Therefore, you have to do your migration job the traditional way: extract all the data stored in your current backup solution to an appropriate storage space; build the new backup system (both hardware and software) from scratch, create the archive architecture and import the new backup system. Additionally, all necessary clients, policy details and schedules, and tape inventories and catalogues have to be generated.

A task this bit can become overwhelming, even for an IT department in a large corporation, as it is very time-consuming. You should consider contacting a specialist tape migration service provider - make sure they have experience in successfully completing several migration projects for all kinds of enterprises, regardless of industry or size.

In order to make the migration process from TSM to another product as smooth as possible, you have to keep several aspects in mind. Firstly, you have to "unpack" your specific data out of your current backup to another storage place so you can access it. To accomplish this, you can use the tools provided by the TSM.

If you only want the original data, you just extract and export it out of TSM.

If you want to import the whole library and metadata with the data stored inside into the new system, you will have severe problems as there are no products on the market which will copy the TSM metadata in a new system. Hopefully, your tapes are not damaged nor have corrupt data, if your only backup is stored on tape.

If this is the case, or even if you want to perform a "simple" migration, you can contact us. We can recover lost data out from a tape storage system, and we can also help with the difficult task of migrating a TSM system to a new hardware environment. Having carried out this task for many tape clients, recovering data and migrating from TSM has never been easier .

While normal transitions from old to new hardware and/or from an old NetBackup release to a newer one are not easy, any experienced IT administrator with several years of experience can complete this project.

On the other hand, some migration projects can be really challenging. For example, when you want to switch from your current Windows platform to UNIX, you are definitively on your own! Since Symantec does not provide support on NetBackup migration projects, you will be making the transition at your own risk.

If you have a large storage system containing lots of different tapes and hard disks as well as virtual backups, even a tiny mistake in the migration process can result in the worst case scenario, namely causing the whole storage system to fail. Also, performing updates or applying patches on the backup software in use can cause serious problems. If such a situation arises, chances are that not only will valuable data be lost, but also information that is necessary for the whole system to run.

Whether you want to replace your hardware and your NetBackup version or you have already damaged your system trying to migrate, you can contact our tape specialists for help.

NetWorker is one of the most advanced backup storage solutions on the market. As with other solutions, the migration of an existing NetWorker system to another product is extremely problematic.

The best approach to such a project is to get access to the data stored inside NetWorker with the built-in recovery function. In doing so, the compressed NetWorker files will be extracted to another storage space from where you can import the data into the new system. Normally, it is nearly impossible to import the metadata managed by NetWorker into the new hardware and backup solution. In most cases, you have to build the metadata of the new system from scratch and import the content into the appropriate folders or archives. Furthermore, NetWorker has a lot of features integrated into the system which makes it - if problems arise during the migration process - difficult to recover the backup.

Whether the NetWorker backup system is based upon tapes or hard disks, or a combination of both, the integration of deduplication and virtualisation of backup files when recovering a NetWorker backup is a complicated task. Only specialised professionals can - if a backup is damaged - recover the backup and rescue the data inside. In such a case, we review the accessible data and search for references, which lead to the original structure of the underlying and compressed data files, whether they were stored in virtual machines or deduplicated for faster use and file size reduction.

Migrating data from an existing CommVault backup solution to another system will normally be done the traditional way. You need to access or create a full back up with the CommVault system and retrieve all the data which are stored inside the managed tape library. When you have restored all of the data and archives onto another storage space (usually on disks from your local SAN/NAS), you have to build the new backup system (both hardware and backup software) from scratch, create the archive structure and import the data into the new backup system. Additionally, all necessary clients, policy details and schedules as well as tape inventories and catalogues have to be generated.

If you consider changing to a new system, some hardware and backup solution providers offer specialist migration services which, in some cases, will result in a significant part of the total migration cost. When migrating your existing CommVault system to a new solution, we use standardised processes to successfully migrate existing backup and legacy archive systems to new environments without changing the integrity of the stored data and archive structure.

In contrast to other backup storage software solutions, CommVault offers an easy way to migrate from other products. Its External Data Connector enables future or new clients of its current Simpana backup software to import the metadata which is stored inside a backup as well as details which are required regarding the current TSM, NetBackup or NetWorker storage structure, such as client information, policy details, job information, policy schedules and tape inventories. With this information available, IT professionals then can translate the old clients to Simpana clients, deploy the client hardware and inherit the defined policies from the old TSM, NetBackup or NetWorker system.

In the unlikely event that a migration doesn't work because of hardware or software failures, this can result in problems that even a talented IT administrator cannot solve by themselves. Broken tape library linkage or tape catalogue files make it hard even for experts to recover the original structure of the entire backup system and the attached tape library. If a migration from TSM, NetBackup or NetWorker backup to CommVault stops midway through, then you can find yourself in deep trouble. In most cases, our experts can recover the data lost during the failed process and they can complete the migration.

You could import old NetBackup or NetWorker tapes to build a recent catalogue, then either restore the data so you can access the content stored on tapes and disks and import it into Tivoli. Beforehand, you have to build the system from scratch, deploying all the policy domains, jobs and structures. You can also try one of the special software solutions that are on the market, which can import NetBackup or NetWorker backups without the need for restoration. However, if this connector software doesn't work properly and the import fails, you will have even more problems.

If the original data structure - both the files inside the backup and the NetBackup or NetWorker policies, schedules and other solution data - is damaged by the process, it is hard to carry out a restore to the original state to begin the project again, or to make a traditional restore and import into TSM. In this case, our experts can both recover the lost data and migrate your old NetBackup or NetWorker system to TSM.

It is a difficult task to perform a migration from TSM to NetWorker. Any migration here will cause you sleepless nights. That is because several precautions have to be taken into account.

Since TSM is the bigger solution and its backup data is different, there is no internal or external software that can help you with a migration. You have to create or have a backup ready and extract the data using the restore function. You also have to import the content into the NetWorker solution. Additionally, you have to build the NetWorker software architecture from scratch for your specific environment and backup tasks. TSM makes a backup of the data from its nodes to the storage groups and then migrates the data to tape(s), whereas NetWorker stores the data only in the nodes. Also, NetWorker can store data directly to tape while TSM also saves its data on server storage first and transfers it into the tape library later. This all has to be taken into account when you set up the new NetWorker architecture design, lay out policies and schedule backup jobs.

In the case that your migration project is time-sensitive, the experts from Kroll Ontrack can help you in the process of extracting the data out of TSM, search and read of the tape catalogue and library lists so that you can extract only the important data that you require, check the data integrity, as well as other tape and migration related services. We can also provide the entire process of migrating your existing TSM environment to NetWorker as a service.

There is no easy way to migrate backups from CommVault to TSM, NetWorker or NetBackup. The most common solution to migrate your backups from CommVault - whether it is one of the older software packages or the new Simpana release - is to use your existing CommVault to restore your data to a new location and recreate a backup using TSM, NetBackup or NetWorker. Even though there are some software solutions on the market which offer to "translate" the CommVault metadata to TSM, NetWorker or NetBackup, it is a timely and costly process. And, if the process fails when using one of these software tools, it is possible to damage or lose valuable data or CommVault settings.

In addition, CommVault - like all other backup software solutions - uses a special data format, which compresses the data stored in the backup. When the data structure is destroyed, it is a difficult task to recover the backup structure as well as the data. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. In this case it is wise to get advice from experts before the start of the migration project. Not only can they recover the data lost during a bad migration, but they can also provide the whole migration process as a service.

Achieving a successful migration of Time Navagator, CA ARCserve or Data Protector backups or archives is a difficult task. Currently, there are no tools on the market that serve as an interpreter for the structure and/or the data to import them into a new CommVault system. Since the flagship CommVault product, Simpana, is especially designed as an archive storage solution, it would be wise to develop a detailed backup plan for the whole enterprise before establishing a unique Simpana archive structure. The migration is carried out the usual way, by creating or restoring an existing backup out of the current Time Navagator, CA ARCserve or HP Data Protector software solution and importing the data into the new CommVault solution.

If you experience problems or if you just don't have the resources or time to perform this timely and costly project, you can contact our backup migration experts at Kroll Ontrack.

Performing a migration from CommVault to Time Navagator, CA ARCserve or Data Protector is usually done the traditional way. You restore or create the backup of your existing data inside your current CommVault software and then import the extracted data into your new solution. This is both a timely and costly process as you have to create the whole new backup or archive system from scratch with all policy domains, jobs and structures included. Additionally, you have to change or apply the paths to the existing or new hardware such as server, disk and tape storage devices or drives as well as the whole tape library.

Since there is no "converter" extension software for easy exports and imports from one system to the other - you must either do it yourself or get help from a tape migration service provider, such as Kroll Ontrack. Since we offer standardised workflow migrations for CommVault to/from other backup software solutions like Time Navagator, CA ARCserve, Data Protector, TSM, NetBackup and others, we can prove to be both cost and time-effective as a support service. We can manage the process, so you can be sure that the data which is migrated is unchanged as we comply with the strictest rules and regulations for evidence handling, as well as for audits and compliance.

Restore your data for legal reasons

You have been asked to restore data for legal reasons, e.g. a user’s mailbox, but you are unable to extract the data from the tape. Perhaps you are unable to determine on which tapes the data resides because of time pressure and/or lack of available resources.

Normally emails are stored deep within your backup software. The complete Microsoft Exchange mailbox server database file (.edb) is embedded within the backup software files. The .edb file contains all the mailboxes and their respective emails.

In order to gain access to the emails, you must first restore the backup access the .edb file. Then you have two options:

  • You make a brick-level backup with another physical Microsoft Exchange mailbox server to restore all or single emails
  • If you prefer an easy and reliable way, you use Ontrack PowerControls

Ontrack PowerControls is a specialised software package which allows you to easily extract the .edb file from its container format with its ExtractWizard and import it into the software. Soon after, you have full access to each and every email from the Microsoft Exchange mailbox server. Since Ontrack PowerControls maintains the integrity of the Exchange source files, it is the perfect tool to search, identify and export relevant data for ediscovery review or for compliance and regulatory requests.

You can recover a single email from tape by using Ontrack PowerControls for Microsoft Exchange. To access a single email, you just have to import an existing Exchange database file (.edb) or Personal Storage file (.pst) into the software. By doing so, you now have full access to the emails inside the Exchange or Outlook database file. Then, you can easily find the email required by using the advanced search functions, selecting the item and copying and pasting the email to any location.

You can do this by importing either an existing Microsoft Exchange database file (.edb) or an existing Personal Storage file (.pst) into Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange. After importing it, you can select the desired mailbox and search for single emails that are required, perhaps for review or legal purposes. Since no changes are made to the original data, using Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange is the perfect tool for use in legal disputes.

By extracting the mailbox from an existing backup file, you can then access either the .edb or the .pst file for multiple or single mailboxes. After the extraction, you have full access to all emails stored inside the mailbox(es) and can search, collect or save both the content as well as the attached data in whatever way you want. Before you can make use of Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange, you have to extract your .edb file using your current backup software.

This depends on the case.

If you try to access user data, which was originally stored inside a SharePoint server and then backed up on tape, you could use Ontrack PowerControls for SharePoint. With this specialised tool, all user data which is stored on SharePoint can be recovered as easily as emails, mailboxes and Exchange server databases.

If you can access your SharePoint server databases by extracting them with your backup software, just load them into Ontrack PowerControls for SharePoint and search for the material required.

If the user data is not stored inside a SharePoint environment and the backup software will not show any results, you should consult the experts at Kroll Ontrack. They have the necessary tools to both access the lost tape catalogue as well as recover any data that might needed from the tapes.

Even though it could be possible to access and extract an existing Exchange database file (.edb) directly from tape, it is neither common nor advisable since most IT professionals store their entire Microsoft Exchange server in a backup solution, which is then saved into a different format. Modern tape storage systems usually store their information on several different tapes. Accessing the entire contents of an .edb file can therefore result in a time consuming process.

The standard procedure of an .edb extraction is basically to copy the .edb file onto a different storage device – usually a disk – and then extract its content using Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange.

This is quite simple. You just import the .pst file into Ontrack PowerControls and extract the required emails. By using the target, you can select multiple single emails and collect them in any order that suits your needs. You can either copy and paste your selected emails and save them as a text file or assemble them and save them again as a .pst file for further use.

If you do not have an original .pst file on tape, you can also restore the single mailbox via an .edb file with Ontrack PowerControls, select the appropriate single mailbox, search for the important emails, arrange and save them as a new .pst file or as single text files.

Since tape content is sensitive to legal compliance and, in some cases, to legal prosecution, it is absolutely essential that the material is original. No additions or changes to the content and its metadata are allowed to be made by the backup or restoration software in use. With this in mind, only specialised software can be used to avoid inadvertent damage to evidence.

Even though it is possible to restore the tape content with your standard tape backup software, it is wise to use a forensically-sound email and content management tool, like Ontrack PowerControls. It allows IT personnel to meet all critical requests from the legal department and other external enquiries. Ontrack PowerControls software can also help administrators search, recover, restore and export data efficiently in Microsoft Exchange Server and/or Microsoft SharePoint Server environments.

With Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange you can perform a full backup of your Exchange server with your standard backup software. Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange restores and extracts individual mailboxes, folders, attachments, calendar items, or any number of duplicate or unique messages directly to your production Exchange server or any .pst file. You can then have full access to all the information stored inside the mail server for legal or compliance related purposes. With the advanced find functions of Ontrack PowerControls, it is easy to search by matching keywords, excluding keywords, dates, senders, subjects, and recipients.

You can use backup inventory and catalogue files. However, it is worth noting that tape restoration time should not be underestimated  and forward planning is always advised to prevent disruption to your business.

In order to reduce time and money spent, it is worth knowing the structure (order, sessions and tape sets) of the backup tapes. With the possibility to create inventories and catalogue files by the backup software, a good deal of time can be saved when performing a backup extraction. Since these two files contain all the necessary information for the restore process, accessing them will dramatically speed up the backup process. Since not every source and tape storage location has to be checked over and over again, the restore just relies on the information provided and will therefore be much faster.

Extractions and restores for investigations and legal cases are normally performed the same way as normal extractions and restores. The content of the tapes is restored either by a full or a brick-level backup (to get access to the tapes content) or by using Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange or Ontrack PowerControls for SharePoint. Using this specialised tool, you can completely eliminate a brick-level backup for single item restore. Additionally, Ontrack PowerControls provides the ability to search, collect and extract the data stored inside a backup without changing the original data source.

For further investigation and legal purposes, Kroll Ontrack Legal Technology and Computer Forensic experts offer a wide range of services for every possible legal- and compliance-related situations. They provide standardised and unique processes ranging from data identification, data preservation, data collection as well as data analysis and data processing in order to gain complete insight and more control over digital document evidence.

First of all, it is important to note that backup tapes were created for business continuity purposes. Therefore, planning for a backup restoration is advised so that, should you ever need the data for litigation or regulation purposes, the data is easily accessible and your business can meet the necessary legal and compliance requirements. In most cases, you take the tape backup software that your enterprise uses to carry out restores. You can either choose a full backup restore or a brick-level restore to gain access on single items. Since the brick-level backup restore demands a second server and takes a long time to complete, it is an expensive and complicated method. With Ontrack PowerControls for Exchange and Ontrack PowerControls for SharePoint, there is no longer a need to set up a second server. You can easily restore single storage items simply by using your existing full backup. With ExtractWizard, you can extract the Exchange database (.edb) containing the mailboxes or the SQL files containing .mdf, .ndf and .ldf files from the original backup format within seconds.

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Common tape & backup media problems

Tape is a fragile medium and is not suited to random access operations. However it provides an effective, high capacity and yet low-cost solution to the problems of securing your data.

Snapped or creased: Kroll Ontrack can recover any data from undamaged areas of tape, and often even from areas where there is some apparent damage.

Fire or Flood: Any attempt to read the tape will probably result in further damage to both tape and drive. Fire or extreme heat will cause data loss and might result in a failure of the tape mechanism. Any attempt to read from the tape will fail and might cause the tape to snap or become wound inside the drive mechanism.

Read error/ failure: Experts like Kroll Ontrack can read all unaffected areas of the tape and then, by using proprietary tools or by writing bespoke code, can restore the files from your tape.

Blank tape: Your software tells you that the tape must be formatted or initialised before it can be used. Specialised hardware will bypass the problem to recover your data.

Overwritten data: Did you just start a backup and then realised that you are overwriting the only copy of your business-critical data? This is actually becoming one of the most common issues we deal with. Kroll Ontrack can access any unaffected area of tape and recover your data.

Tracking: It could be caused by a serious media failure or a head alignment problem.

Poor recording: Sometimes a recording flaw can be serious enough to cause the drive firmware to crash and paralyse your entire system.

Incomplete recording: A hardware error during writing could have abnormally terminated a backup session. Some backup utilities require access to an on-tape directory that is written once the backup is complete. If the directory is incomplete or corrupt then the software could freeze or fail.

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