How Travan data recovery tests us…

Travan is a QIC format of quarter inch magnetic tape popular for back-ups decades ago. They were developed by 3M and Imation and were designed to end the MC and wide variants. The linear recording technology enabled significant storage capacity for the time. There were a number of non-standard Travan QIC drives produced by Dittomax, Colorado and Aiwa Bolt which are hardware specific. Whilst the format has long since been superseded, we still see plenty of data cartridges for recovery. Due to a lack of any built in data verification ability, recoveries from Travan TR1, TR2 and TR3 data cartridges test our engineers.

With high densities of nearly one hundred thousand flux transitions per inch, contaminants are one of the most significant problems we encounter. These physical issues prevent a normal read and we have to work in a sterile environment to treat any media degradation. Any components repairs are undertaken in our Class 100 ISO clean-room and our engineers are skilled in oxide loss, creasing, snapping and delaminating. Often the tape is un-spooled and treated inch by inch.

Unlike modern tape formats, Travan drives do not automatically verify data. This means that any corruption is not recognised until the tape is read back. Mid file errors, overwrites and end of tape markers are commonly encountered data recovery issues. Add to this the complications associated with each back-up format such as CPIO, Sytos, Backup Exec and NetBackup and the user can see how difficult logical corruption can be to repair. Thankfully, years of experience have identified common logical errors and our engineers have proprietary handlers and specially adapted drives to identify and bypass errors. Thereafter they must try to repair files and fill any ‘holes’ in the data.

Whilst all these problems are common in Travan tapes, around three quarters of the tapes we receive are healthy. They simply cannot be read following years of software upgrades. Often the users do not even have the hardware to read them. Sometimes, the user cannot even tell us what is on the tape and all they need is a catalogue of files to decide whether they can dispose of the tapes. Whilst some Travan formats are standard, others are hardware specific which means they need a particular model of tape drive to operate. Take a look in our tape library and you will see literally thousands of different drives all ‘mothballed’ and waiting for a specific data cartridge for data recovery.