Published under Category : Network Attached Storage

Backup from QNAP to RDX and LTO

"No technology connected to the Internet is unhackable. "

This is true for any technology and NAS is no exception. It does not matter what brand of NAS you use, because it's connected to the Internet, it's vulnerable to numerous threats. The only truly secure backup is an offline backup

We have pointed out time and time again that even if you have your data on a NAS, you need to create an offline backup. This is easy on servers with LTO tapes, but you can also copy the data directly from your NAS to a tape. We will look at 2 ways you can do this - Using RDX and using LTO Ultrium.

What is RDX and why should you backup your data from a NAS to a RDX tape

RDX is basically a removable hard drive that looks like a tape. Since it is a hard disk drive, using RDX offers many advantages such as

  • Fast and easy
  • Native support - you can see the RDX media directly in your Qnap or Synology file manager and drag and drop files. No LTFS or proprietary file system is required.
  • Portable: The same USB dock that connects to your NAS can also connect to your PC /workstation, so you can easily read your offline media on any other system.
  • RDX is cheaper than a tape drive if the amount of data you want to store is less - that's because the docking station is very cheap, its essentially a USB to SATA dock so there is very little cost to infra. Tapes are expensive, but if you have only 5-10 tapes data, its cheap. If you have a lot of data, LTO would be cheaper.

There are 2 components in RDX - the cartridges themselves where the data is stored and the dock where you insert and unload the cartridge

The cartridge is a 2.5-inch hard drive with a rugged case that makes it durable and easy to handle and store. The dock is like a USB converter ( SATA ) into which you can insert and remove the cartridge



Backups from QNAP TO RDX - Setup

The setup is super easy. There are 2 variants of RDX docks. There is a dock with external power adapter and the newer version with a cable that has 2 USBs - 1 for power and 1 for data. All you need to do is connect the RDX dock to the power and then connect it to your QNAP via the USB cable

When connected, the front light will illuminate. Slide in the RDX tape and you can now see the RDX tape in your file manager. That's it. Now you can drag and drop from the file manager to copy to this RDX or use a scheduled task to copy to this RDX

The beauty of RDX is in its simplicity. With RDX you can quickly backup your data that you want to keep offline, and even small businesses/end users will find it very easy and convenient to do so

However, RDX quickly becomes expensive as the amount of media grows. If you have a lot of data to back up (e.g., more than 40 tapes), LTO becomes cheaper. LTO is also much more robust than RDX.

LTO Ultrium - What it is and why backup to LTO from QNAP

LTO Ultrium is the most popular unified tape format today (along with IBM /Fujis 3592). It is the most robust backup media today with the lowest cost per TB. Some of the advantages are

  • Clear roadmap, i.e. you have LTO-10, then 11 and then 12 and so on. There is an LTO consortium with big names driving this forward
  • Rugged, secure, air-gapped backup media
  • Available from a number of vendors including HPE, IBM, Quantum, Fuji, Sony...

Connecting an LTO tape drive to your QNAP NAS and backing up

Connecting LTO tape drives to a NAS is a bit complicated because LTO tape drives connect via a SAS interface. There is a Japanese company that makes LTO drives with a USB interface as well, but they do not ship to the Middle East and all the major LTO drives you can buy today - HPE, Quantum, IBM and Dell - are all SAS-based

So your NAS needs to have 3 things to connect to this LTO drive - a SAS interface (added with a SAS HBA ), the drivers for the SAS card, and software to copy to LTO tapes (there is only QNAP's P5 that supports this)

So the solution we will look at works on QNAP, only with a QNAP compatible HBA card and with the P5 archiware software. We could not get LTFS to work with it. Maybe it's our configuration or maybe you can not get P5 to work.

Hardware used

  • QNAP QXP-820S-B3408 SAS Card
  • QNAP TS-h1887XU-RP-E2336-32G NAS
  • Quantum TC-L82BN-FZ ( LTO-8 Drive with SAS bundle)

Setup involves installing the HBA card in QNAP, downloading P5, and connecting the LTO tape drive. A few important points to keep in mind

  1. Only use a QNAP SAS card that is compatible with your QNAP NAS. We tried to install the Atto HBA card, but it did not work. This is due to the driver requirements for QNAP's QTS

  2. The mini SAS connector is a little tricky. Make sure the blue pull tab is up. Then push it all the way in until you hear a click. The cable looks like it's reversible and could be plugged in the other way, but it will not click if you plug it in the wrong way around

  3. The LTO tape drive does not show up natively in your Filestation and HBS. You need to use P5 Archiware for backup. It is a paid software, but there are trial versions that you can use to check if the software is right for you before you buy it

  4. We were not able to perform a passthrough of the SAS LTO drive to another computer. The reason is that the SAS card is not listed in the list of devices that can be assigned to a container station or a virtual station. If this were possible, you could run a virtual machine on QNAP and use the native LTO drivers OS for backup, but this does not seem to be possible at this time

Installation is simple: install the SAS card in your QNAP, connect the mini-SAS cable, and then log in to QTS and download P5. The photos below show what our installation looked like

If you did everything correctly, P5 will be able to detect your tape drive and you can use the P5 wizard to backup to tape.

Here is a video showing how we did the LTO part on Youtube


About Author : Akash Jain

I have worked in Data Storage Industry since 1998. I loves Technology and write often about NAS, Hard drives, Tapes and Flash technologies

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