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Firestreamer consists of the following components:
From the operating system's perspective, the non-tape media in the Firestreamer tape libraries appear as physical tape cartridges loaded into real tape libraries. The result is that you can use your tape-based backup software with non-tape media almost exactly in the same way as with physical tape.
In this manual, the following terms are used interchangeably:
- Library, tape library and media changer.
- Tape, medium (singular) and media (plural).
The Firestreamer tape library consists of multiple tape drives and storage slots. Any tape drive or storage slot can be used as a storage location for a single medium. A tape drive can perform any tape operation on the medium loaded into it, while a storage slot can only read the medium's bar code. Storage slots and tape drives are also referred to as changer elements.
The initial arrangement of media in a tape library is called the initial media layout. For example, a tape library consisting of five tape drives and 200 storage slots may have the following initial media layout: Tape A, B and C are loaded into Tape Drive 1, Storage Slot 5 and 6, respectively; Tape Drives 2 to 5, Storage Slots 1 to 4 and 7 to 200 remain free. A media layout can be described by a media map.
Any medium can be loaded into any changer element of any tape library. All changer elements are independent from each other, and a tape library can have none, some or all of the changer elements occupied. The actual arrangement of media in a library has no special meaning to Firestreamer. It is up to your backup software whether or not particular storage slots or tape drives will treated in a special way. For example, Microsoft DPM does not allow to associate a tape drive or a protection group with specific storage slots.
Your backup software can freely move media between storage slots and tape drives within the same library. The current arrangement of media in a tape library is called the current media layout. It is up to the backup software whether or not it will eventually restore the initial media layout. Firestreamer automatically restores the initial media layout when the computer is restarted.
When a medium is loaded into a storage slot, it is not accessed by Firestreamer, except for a moment, to read the medium's bar code. As a result, the medium remains available to other software on your computer. When a medium is loaded into a tape drive, then it may be locked by Firestreamer and become inaccessible to other software by any means other than as virtual tape.
The actual backup and restore operations are performed by your backup software, not by Firestreamer, which merely transfers data between the backup software and the media. Like a physical tape library, Firestreamer is not aware of what kind of data is recorded on tape. Neither does it know anything about your backup software. Firestreamer has no control over which tape is used for a particular tape operation. You use Firestreamer like you would a physical tape library. You just load tapes into the library and change them as needed. For more information on using tape libraries, please refer to your backup software documentation.
To load media into a tape library, you need to create and apply a new media layout (see Common Tasks). A media layout describes all media in a library. You cannot define, for example, a single tape in a media layout and have it added to the already loaded tapes. Instead, you create a new media layout that contains the already loaded tapes and the new tape. Applying a media layout always replaces all currently loaded media with the new media. At the same time, Firestreamer attempts to match the currently loaded media to the new media. If a matching medium is found, then its state is preserved. For example, if a matching medium was in a tape drive, it would remain there, and if a tape operation was being performed on the medium, the operation would not be affected. To unload a particular tape from a library, you need to apply the new media layout that contains all currently loaded tapes but the one you wish to remove. Applying an empty media layout will unload all tapes from a tape library.
Firestreamer supports two types of media: file media and drive media. The file medium is an ordinary file, for example, D:\Folder\MyTape_0001.fsrm or \\Server\Share\MyTape_0002.fsrm. The drive medium is an ordinary physical storage medium, for example, a USB external HDD or a Blu-ray disc. A single Firestreamer medium corresponds to a single tape cartridge. You can load different types of media simultaneously into the same tape library.
It is up to the backup software to decide how much data will be written to a particular medium, so a medium may not necessarily be filled to its maximum size. When the current medium is filled up, the backup software normally continues the current backup to the next available tape or, if free tape is not available, prompts for new one. The content of a medium can only be interpreted by your backup software, and only when the medium is loaded into a Firestreamer tape library. Like with physical tape, you cannot see what is recorded on a Firestreamer medium if you open it in Windows Explorer.
Note that a physical storage medium can be used either as a drive medium or as a container for file media. For example, if you use a USB external HDD as a drive medium, then the entire HDD corresponds to a single tape cartridge. However, if you formatted the HDD with a standard file system, then you can use it to store multiple file media, which means multiple virtual tape cartridges per HDD. To decide whether you need file media or drive media, consider the following factors:
- If a storage device is not supported as a drive medium, then you can only use with file media. In particular, it is true for any network file system.
- If you can conveniently use a particular type of storage media in a way similar to tape cartridges, then drive media is an option. For example, if you can afford a number of external HDDs, some connected to your computer, some kept off-site with backups, and others ready for media rotation, then you may want to use them as drive media. However, if you can only afford a few external HDDs, then it may be better to go with file media.
- Certain types of storage media, for example, DVD, Blu-ray or Iomega REV, are only feasible as drive media. While you can use such storage media as ordinary disk drives by installing additional software, that software is usually neither reliable nor able to provide adequate data transfer rates.