6 Steps to Help Back Up Your Data During Hurricane Season

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Pete Massiello, iTech Solutions

This is a special edition of our newsletter due to Hurricane Florence, and our regular monthly newsletter will be delivered in 2 weeks. If you haven’t subscribed, join 15,000 other IBM i professionals by subscribing here.

On Thursday of this week, we are bracing for Hurricane Florence to hit the Carolinas with massive flooding and wind damage up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States.  Right after that, we have Hurricanes Isaac and Helene currently forming in the Atlantic, their direction is still indecisive. It’s hurricane season.

Of course, the first concern is keeping you and your family safe. The Red Cross has excellent resources on Hurricane and Tropical Storm preparedness. You can see those here.

There may come a time when you ask if your business is fully prepared.

[Get the guide: 25 Tips to Prepare Your IBM i for the Unexpected]

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The first question you have to ask yourself is “Do I have a full backup in case my machine is destroyed or damaged?”.  This is probably the number one issue that I see in our industry today.  Most businesses don’t have good backups that they can rely on.

If you are a regular reader of the iTech newsletter, you have probably heard me stress that you need to test your recovery and that it still holds out.

Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Am I 100% sure of my backups?
  • Can I put the pieces of my backups together again?
  • Do I know where my tapes are?

If you have to pause a moment when going over those questions, we will go over some steps below to help.  (Remember, the iTech Solutions team can help you get your machine restored, but if you don’t have a backup tape, there isn’t anything we are going to be able to do to restore your data.)

Once you have your backup, please take the backup tape off-site.  If the whole area is being hit by the hurricane, then you can ship the tape to iTech Solutions (27 Mill Plain Rd. Suite 3, Danbury, CT 06811). Make sure you put your name on the tape. This is the second most important step to perform.  Most likely if your machine is destroyed and the tape is inside the tape drive (Don’t laugh, I see this all the time), or the tape is on top of the computer, that most likely will also be destroyed.  So, move that tape to another location!

Below are the most straightforward steps for performing a full system backup.  Now, if you are using BRMS or have your own save strategy that is fine (make sure you are saving everything).  I am just providing the most straightforward backup procedure so you can get a full system backup.

Step 1: Determine how many tapes you will require for your backup and initialize them.  If you don’t know, initialize 3 tapes which should be ample for the backup. Load the first tape into the drive and use the Command:

INZTAP DEV(TAPxx) NEWVOL(FULL01) CHECK(*NO) DENSITY(*CTGTYPE)

Change the TAPxx to the name of your tape drive. Once the first tape is done, remove the tape from the drive (label it), and put the next tape in and run the command changing the tape name in the NEWVOL parameter to FULL02.  Then repeat the same steps for the 3rd tape.  Now, put the first tape back into the drive.  If you know you only need one tape, then you just need to initialize one tape.

Step 2: Locate your Console (This will be in your controlling subsystem) and sign-on to this with QSECOFR userid or a profile with equivalent authority.

Step 3: We are now going to bring the machine into a restricted state, which means it will end all jobs on the system and knock all users off. From the Console, enter the command GO SAVE and press Enter. Select option 21 by typing a 21 on the command line and pressing Enter (Yes, you won’t be able to see the option unless you scroll down, but it is there). The next screen will be an informational screen telling you what this option does. Read the screen, and then press Enter and go to Step 4.

If you weren’t on the console, it will tell you about transferring your job to the controlling subsystem. If that is the case, you need to either transfer your job to the controlling subsystem with the TRFJOB command or go find the real console.  You really should be on your console and know where your console is.

Step 4: We are ready to do the save, and we need to change the parameters. Please make sure under Devices you have the same name of the tape drive that you initialized the tapes in Step 1 above.

For “Prompt for commands” make that an “N.”  For “Check for active files” make that an “N.”  For “Message queue delivery” make that “*NOTIFY.”  For “Start time” make that “*CURRENT.”  For “Vary off network servers” make that “*ALL.”  You will want to hit page down to see the next screen of options.

For “Unmount file systems” make that a “Y.” For “Print system information” make that an “N,” and for “Use system Reply list” make than an “N.”  Depending on if you want to backup spool files, enter “*ALL” to back them up, or “*NONE” to not back them up.  I highly recommend backing up spool files, and you should make this “*ALL.”

Now, hit Enter the system will wait 5 minutes to get to restricted state and then it will start the backups.  If you are already in restricted state, you can change that value from 300 to *NONE.  Your backup time is dependent on the number of objects on your machine, and their size.  You will see informational messages at the bottom of the console telling you the status.  It will alert you if you need to mount the second tape, or if you see “Waiting for message on QSYSOPR” at the bottom of the screen hit a System Request key and option 6 to read the messages and reply.

Step 5: When the backup completes take the tapes which you used and prepare them to be MOVED off-site.

Step 6: The system will come back up by automatically running your system startup program at the end of the backup.  At this point, it might be wise to power the machine down if there is no need for usage and wait until after the storm has passed and the power is back to normal before powering it back up.

If you need assistance next week with a recovery, just contact Pete, and we can schedule one of our System Engineers to help you.  Don’t forget, we also have machines and cloud-based partitions we can loan you if you happen to lose yours due to flooding, electrical issues, or other damage.

Best of luck, and we hope you and your family stay safe in the coming days.

[Get the guide: 25 Tips to Prepare Your IBM i for the Unexpected]

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