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Backup and Archive Service (HFS)

Title of Service: HFS Backup & Archive Service

Status of Document: This document describes the HFS Backup and Archive service. Access to the HFS service is restricted to computers which are either physically connected to the Oxford Network or connect to it via the IT Services VPN service.

1. Introduction

The Hierarchical File Server (HFS) is a centrally funded service providing backup and long-term archive services to Senior Members, Postgraduates and Staff. Users register online, pick up, install and perform simple configuration of the software on the client computer and then proceed to either back up or archive data to be safeguarded on the HFS.

The HFS uses the IBM Spectrum Protect (formerly known as Tivoli Storage Manager or 'TSM')  client-server software to manage the backup and/or archive data. Data is sent from the client computer, across the University (backbone) network to the HFS servers and ultimately is stored on magnetic tape in an automated (robotic) tape library. The HFS servers and tape library are situated in a climate-controlled, secure location. Three copies of the data are made, each to separate tapes: one copy is held in an automated tape library; the second, in a fire-proof safe and the third in a fire-proof safe at an off-site storage facility. Access to the data is private to the owner and is normally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2. Summary of IT Services' responsibilities:

Hours of Service

2.0 The service operates at all times.

2.1 HFS Systems staff cover is normally available from 09:00 to 17:00 on weekdays. Outside these hours there are no formal arrangements either for periodic monitoring of the HFS or for staff to be called, and no funding is provided to make this contractual.

2.2 If a fault is noted between 09:00 and 17:00 on a working day, IT Services will commence investigation and correction within one hour (provided that no similar fault is also being handled by the same team).

Serviceability Targets

2.3 It is intended, as far as is possible, to maintain service of all system components at all times. There are no formal serviceability targets.

2.4 IT Services endeavours to carry out any work required in advertised slots, and with minimum disruption to service.


2.5 The HFS infrastructure is resilient to failure of several components. Most hardware failures are to one component: a single disk, tape drive, adaptor, cable or controller might fail and none would result in a loss of service. Additionally, each data storage element is dual-pathed with automatic failover, so an entire path might fail and all hardware resources would remain available. Were several hardware components to fail at the same time, then this may result in a degradation of service, the severity of which would depend on the precise mix of elements needing repair. A fault that rendered an entire SAN disk server inactive would also result in a partially degraded service. A fault that rendered one or both of the automated tape libraries inactive could have significant impact: there may for example be no access to client data already stored with the service (i.e. for restore or retrieve purposes) until it was fixed. Extended outage of the tape libraries would necessitate a total loss of service (i.e. neither backup nor restore facilities would be available).

Alternative Facilities

2.6 No alternative exists to any of these facilities within Oxford. 'Cloud' backup and storage solutions exist (e.g. Amazon's S3) but the location of the storage facilities outside University control may pose problems for some University-owned data.

Hardware and Software Maintenance

2.7 IT Services has a contract for all HFS hardware maintenance with IBM. Pivotal items in the SAN, such as the tape library, host and disk servers - where failure would or could cause major degradation of service - are covered by 7x24 service call reporting. Other items, such as switches and tapes drives - where failure would not lead to a major degradation of service - are covered by 5x11 service call reporting.

In practice the above means that for a major hardware failure of the tape library, the SAN disk servers or the servers hosting the backup server, an engineer would normally attend within 1-4 hours. Parts are not guaranteed to be available in any particular period (some parts are available on the same day, some are sourced from Europe and arrive next day). Problems with tape drives and single disk drives would normally be fixed within 1-2 days.

2.8 Software updates to the IBM equipment are supplied by IBM, and are mounted by the IT Services HFS team. Except in the case of a major system breaking fault, or the risk of a major breach of security, we will aim to give one week's notice of any down-time on any part of the HFS.

System Development

2.9 There is no scheduled development time.

Administration and Support

2.10 Connection to the HFS

Information for Departments and Colleges wishing to register new clients is given at Registration for backup service is available online. Requests for archive projects are initiated by completing a web application form which is then processed offline, more details are available at

2.11 Information

Notification of major faults, outages, backup/archive server upgrades or downtime is circulated on the mailing list and on the IT Services Status web page

Problem Reporting

2.12 Initial problems should always be directed to local IT support. Where problems cannot be resolved there, they should be reported to the IT Services Help Centre. First level support is provided via the Help Centre with specialist follow-up diagnostics and advice provided by the HFS team.

Education and Training

2.13 The HFS web pages at provide comprehensive advice and guidance on installing, configuring and using the client software, as well as a comprehensive FAQ. An introductory course on how to use the backup software is also available once a term.

3. Summary of client’s responsibilities

  • The client’s responsibilities vary according to class of service as below:

3.1 Backup

  • Register the computer for the appropriate backup service
  • Install only the HFS-configured client software
  • Conform to rules regarding password choice in terms of standards and privacy rules
  • Configure the client software and options as per instructions and guidance on the HFS website.
  • Read and follow the guidelines for acceptable use of the HFS.
  • Perform an initial manual backup
  • Perform regular manual backups and/or weekly scheduled backups within quota whenever possible
  • Make reasonable efforts to ensure that only data related to University work is included in the backup
  • Regularly check client logs and read email alerts to ensure backups are working as required
  • Access the HFS FAQ as a first step when unknown/unidentified errors occur
  • Inform the HFS team via formal support channels ( only after the above two steps have been completed and the problem remains unresolved
  • Provide the requested diagnostic information (log files, configuration files etc), when requested by the HFS team, in order to aid the solution of outstanding errors or problems
  • Follow instructions and guidance given by the HFS team, and IT Services' support personnel working on their behalf, when resolving problems or issues, including upgrading the TSM software when requested
  • Inform the HFS team regarding contact changes via the HFS Portal or other channels
  • De-register the account with the HFS service and remove the client software from computer when the service is no longer required

3.2 Long-term Project Data Archive

  • Comply with the Policy for the Use of the HFS Archive Service
  • Liaise with the HFS team regarding project requirements at the earliest possible stage (at proposal stage where the project is likely to be in receipt of grant funding and where the required storage is likely to exceed 4TB)
  • Complete the web application for archive project approval
  • Install only the HFS-configured client software
  • Conform to rules regarding password choice in terms of standards and privacy rules
  • Configure client software and options as per instructions and guidance on the HFS website
  • Follow the guidelines for acceptable use of the HFS.
  • Liaise with the HFS team regarding optimal usage of the HFS archival facilities
  • Upload data at agreed rates and within agreed quota
  • Regularly check client logs to ensure data is being uploaded as required
  • Follow instructions and guidance given by the HFS team, and IT Services' support personnel working on their behalf, when resolving problems or issues, including upgrading the TSM software when requested
  • Inform the HFS team regarding contact changes
  • Renew the tenure of the project with the HFS Archive Service in advance of the original tenure expiring
  • Inform HFS team if data storage is no longer required and remove the client software

Additionally, we may insist on local measures being implemented in order that the backup or archival of data does not consume a large amount of (HFS) system resources. These local measures may include, but are not limited to:- excluding files, re-partitioning into smaller filesystem/volume/drive partitions or pre-processing files before backup or archive.

4. Overview of Service

Use of the HFS

Currently the following services are provided free:

4.1 Personal Workstation / Desktop Backup.

4.2 Departmental/College Server Backup.

4.3 Departmental/College Large Server Backup.

4.4 Backup of vSphere vCenter infrastructures (TSM4VE).

4.5 Archive data up to 5TB for 10 years. A chargeable service is available for larger amounts of data and for additional requests to extend the archive period beyond 10 years. Clients are requested to confirm and renew their archive requirement for a further period (up to a maximum of 10 years in total) after an initial 5 years.

5. Premium services

IT Services operates a chargeable service for use of the HFS Archive by a project that exceeds 5TB of storage and/or extends beyond 10 years. The unit cost is per Terabyte (TB) and takes into account the media, licencing and maintenance costs incurred in managing large amounts of data. Where appropriate, staff costs will be calculated as 'directly-allocated'; that is, staff time for the management and support of data is averaged rather than audited. Please see our archive pages for more details on how to manage an archive project with the HFS service.


Charges are negotiable depending on the profile of data upload and access (download) but indicatively will start at around £100 per TB per year on an ongoing basis. However, it is often preferable for both customer and us as the service provider to negotiate a one-off up front charge at the start of a project for the entire tenure of the project, or at least an initial 10 years, and interested parties are encouraged to enquire further at with details of their project data storage requirements (note: put the subject line as 'HFS Archive Enquiry'). Charges apply in all cases at the terabyte boundary. Charges are due in advance when charging on a yearly on-going basis.

Written by IT Services. Latest revision 10 June 2019