This document covers the policies and procedures as it relates to
system backups within the Department of Astronomy at the University of
Florida. This document will address what data is backed up, frequency
of system backups, data restoration, and the responsibility that users
have regarding their own data.
As of December 2011, the total amount of data stored within the UF
Astronomy Department was just over 120 terabytes. With this large
of a set of data, it is impossible for the systems staff to backup
everything. Below is the list of all data that the system staff will
backup in accordance with this policy.
Home Directory Data - System staff will backup all data
within users networked home directory. Windows users can store data
on their H: drive, while linux, os-x, and solaris users can
store their data in the /astro/homes/userid directory.
Application Utilities - System staff will back up all of the
applications stored in the /astro/depot hierarchy.
INSTLAB Volume - System staff will back up all of the files
stored in the unix directory, /astro/data/instlab, and
\\ASTROSMB\\INSTLAB on windows.
Office Share - System staff back up all of the data in the
front office O: drive.
Although the departmental system staff back up nearly everything in an
individual users home directory, the Mozilla, Netscape, and
Firefox directories are excluded because of the superfluous cache
data. This means that it is possible for a user to lose their
The department does not have the facilities to back up any data
that is not explicitly listed in this document. For *nix users, this
means the department does not back up any data stored in the
/astro/data hierarchy or on the local /scratch disks of
each workstation. For Windows users, this means the department does
not back up anything on the local C: drive, or any other drive
unless it is on the \\ASTROSMB samba server. If the data is
important to you, you will need to be responsible and back it up
yourself, or move it to one of the backed up locations.
Windows users who are not currently configured to store their data on
the network home space should send an email to admin at
astro.ufl.edu to request help in setting up their windows drive
Once a week, the IT staff perform a complete, level-0, backup of all
data covered under the backup procedures. In addition to the full
weekly backup, each night the IT staff perform differential backups of
data that has changed since the last full backup.
Unfortunately, if a file is accidentally lost before a scheduled
backup event could be performed, there is no way to recover the data.
As a general rule, users should only assume that the most recent
backup was made the previous evening.
The department is committed to providing secure backups with a six
month horizon. Each week departmental system staff shuttle the
previous backup set to a secure off-site storage facility. When a
user account has been terminated, system staff will backup all of the
user data on to optical media and remove it from the network. Once
data has been stored offline on optical media, it will remain there
In the event of a complete catastrophe, such as a fire, system staff
will be able to recover the data from the previous weeks backup set.
Under such extreme and dire circumstances, at the most, one week of
data may be lost.
Data Restoration Policy
System staff will automatically perform data restorations under the
Data loss due to hardware failure - When the departmental NFS
server has suffered multiple hard disk failures resulting in data
Data loss due to system staff error - If system staff
accidentally delete data, such as removing an account that had been
inactive for several months.
If either of the two conditions listed above are responsible for the
data loss, system staff will make every attempt to recover the data
within a business day. However, in the event of a catastrophic event,
such as fire damage, services and data may be unavailable for an
extended period of time.
In the event of data loss due to user error, departmental system staff
may restore corrupted or deleted files that would take more than one
business day to re-create. These restorations will be performed on a
time available basis, and will occur within the next five
business days. Users should submit a request to admin at
astro.ufl.edu to have the data restored.
Because it is impractical for the system staff to backup every bit of
data stored on the Astronomy network, the only data the department IT
staff accept responsibility for is the data which is explicitly listed
above. If users have data that they feel is critical and must be
backed up, there are multiple options available.
Users can use any of the following storage mediums to perform their own
Optical Storage - CD-ROM discs can store 650 megabytes of
data. DVD discs can store approximately 4.3 gigabytes of data.
Several of the older machines already have CD-ROM burners, and all new
PC purchases that are done through the department system staff will
include DVD burners. Additionally, the media is relatively inexpensive.
Tape Storage - The department has multiple tape drives which
can support the following tape formats: LTO-1, DDS-3, Exabyte 8MM,
External Drives - Although users will need to provide their
own drives, system staff will be happy to help users
configure their workstations to use external firewire and USB
Tape Library Subscription - CNS has a tape library
subscription service. There is a recurring charge for data storage,
data backup, and data restore. Users should be aware of this charge
and understand that it may be expensive depending on the amount of
data and the duration of backup. Users wishing to subscribe to this
service will need to provide a grant number in order to subscribe to
the CNS tape library system.
Unfortunately, the department cannot provide backup storage media.
The system staff will be happy to order blank CDs, DVDs, and tapes for
you if you will provide us with a grant number, but we do not have
spare media that we can give away.
If you have backup needs that you feel are not adequately addressed by
this document, please drop me a note at ken at