PTC MKS Toolkit
Backup and Tape Handling Solutions Guide

PTC Inc.
12701 Fair Lakes Circle
Suite 350
Fairfax VA 22033-3831 USA
Office: +1-703-803-3343
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September 2014


Data loss is a real and significant problem in today’s computing environments and can occur for a variety of different reasons. Hardware failure, virus attacks, theft, and even natural disasters can cause organizations to lose considerable amounts of their most valuable asset, not to mention the loss in employee productivity during the time it takes to restore or recreate the information. A good back up solution should be an essential component of your administrative infrastructure. It can minimize down time and preserve the integrity of your data. It is not a matter of if you back up your systems but rather a matter of what data you should back up, what tools you should use to do it, and how you use those tools.

Choosing Data to Back Up

As an ideal solution, you would back up every byte of data on every machine in your organization every night (or perhaps even more often). But even in today’s world of high speed processors and inexpensive storage media, such an ideal solution is not always the practical one. Often, factors such as time and currently available storage resources will require you to choose what you will and will not back up.

When deciding what data to back up, there are two important factors to consider:

  • How important is the data?
  • How replaceable is the data?

In many cases, the importance of data is easy to decide. For example, you obviously do not want to lose your organization’s sales records for the past five years or the source code for your company’s main software product, but is there any real reason to back up Sandy’s directory full of jokes downloaded from the Internet?

Once you have decided what data is important, you should consider how replaceable that data is. For example, while Microsoft Word may be very important to the continued operation of your organization, there is little need to back up all the files associated with it. You can always reinstall the program. However, you probably do want to back up that set of custom templates with your organization’s letterhead and the configuration and customization files that make Microsoft Word work the way you want it to. Even though Microsoft Word itself can be reinstalled, without backups of customized files, all that customization work would need be to repeated, an effort that is, most likely, far greater than the effort to back up the data.

Choosing the Right Tools

Basically, the tools you choose to implement your backup solution must meet one important criterion. They must back up the data you want to back up and do it how and when you want it done.

At the very least, you need a tool that can create a backup and restore it in the same place. However, this is seldom enough to meet all the needs and desires for a backup solution. For instance, you may want your backup solution to support a wide variety of devices such as tape drives, CD writers, or floppy disk drives. Or you may wish to use your backups to transfer large amounts of data from one machine to another. But what if the desired location for the data on the new machine differs from its location on the original? Your tools may need to be able to move or rename files as they are restored.

Like many organizations, your computing environment may consist not only of Windows machines but also those with other operating systems and possibly even older machines with unusual file formats. If so, you will need a set of tools that can talk to all these various machines. Ideally, such tools would also have versions available for the other platforms in your environment that could create backups in a standard format, allowing you to create and restore backups on any of these platforms should the need arise. And if not all these machines are directly connected, you may need tools that allow remote access either to run your backup tools remotely on those machines or to move the data from those machines to a centralized location.

Another consideration is user workstations. Often, important data sits on such machines and is never backed up. The individual workstation user cannot always be depended upon to make sure such data is backed up regularly (if at all). If your backup strategy depends on making sure workstations are backed up, you will most likely want tools that can handle this task in a way that is as painless and invisible to the workstation user as possible.

Finally, the repetitive nature of backup operations makes scripting and scheduling an essential part of the automation strategy you adopt. The tools you choose must be able to run in an intelligent and unattended manner, as backups will need to occur regularly during off-peak hours to minimize network performance hits that affect day-to-day productivity.

As you can see, while the basic needs of backup tools are simple, things become much more complicated when the true needs of many organizations’ computing environments are assessed. The end result is often the need for a full range of flexible and compatible tools that can be easily combined and automated.

Implementing the Solution

The third part of designing a backup strategy is how the chosen tools are actually going to be used to backup and restore the desired data. This involves the design of processes and scripts to ensure the greatest level of protection for your data.

Among the items that must be considered in the implementation of your solution are:

  • How and where will backups be stored?
  • When will backups be performed?

The question of how and where your backups will be stored includes possible choices of file formats (if your chosen tools offer a variety), choices of compression or encryption, and of course, of the storage media to be used. Storage media is one of the easier issues to address and there are many media types to consider. Magnetic tape, rewritable CDs, floppy, and even hard disks can be used depending on the scope of your environment and the amount of data in question. Your backup solutions should be able to work with any of these hardware choices.

The question of when will backups be performed has two parts. The first part is the choice of the exact time of day at which backups will be performed. Usually, a time is chosen during off-peak hours to lessen their impact on system performance.

The second part is how often should data be backed up. If data does not change very often, it needs to be backed up less frequently. For example, rather than backing up your whole environment on a nightly basis, you may choose to back up the directory containing your organization’s sales transactions nightly, but only back up the directory that contains month-end summaries of those transactions on a monthly basis.

You should also consider full versus incremental backups. A full backup includes the full set of data that you have chosen to back up. An incremental backup includes only that subset of data that has changed since the previous backup. While incremental backups obviously increase the performance of each operation, they may also introduce complexities in the restoration process because data is often dependent on the state of the system at a given time.

About This Document

This document introduces you to the concepts and techniques needed for you to use PTC MKS Toolkit to implement an automated and thorough backup strategy with the flexibility to grow and change with your organization. It includes many examples of how to use the PTC MKS Toolkit archiving utilities either on their own or in combination with other PTC MKS Toolkit utilities to meet the needs of most backup solutions.

Chapter 2: “Backups in a Windows Environment” introduces the basic concepts of using PTC MKS Toolkit to implement your backup solution in an environment consisting solely of Windows systems.

Chapter 3: “Backups in a Mixed Environment” expands upon the concepts of the previous chapter to discuss how PTC MKS Toolkit can communicate with remote systems and share data with other operating systems.

Chapter 4: “Compression” introduces the various compression utilities in the PTC MKS Toolkit.

Chapter 5: “Tools” describes the PTC MKS Toolkit archiving utilities (tar, cpio, pax, and Visual Pax), the commonly associated dd and mt utilities and the PTC MKS Toolkit compression utilities.

“Devices” discusses various devices that PTC MKS Toolkit can use for creating backups.

Chapter 7: “Tasks” describes various tasks that can be useful when using PTC MKS Toolkit to implement your backup solution.

Chapter 8: “Troubleshooting” answers several questions concerning the behavior of the PTC MKS Toolkit archiving tools.

Appendix A: “Archive Formats” describes the various archive formats supported by the PTC MKS Toolkit archiving utilities.

Appendix B: “Preserving Windows Security Information” describes the enhanced archiving capabilities of the PTC MKS Toolkit archiving utilities and shows how they can be used to preserve Windows NT/2000/XP security information.