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Fault-tolerant computer systems are systems designed around the concepts of fault tolerance. In essence, they must be able to continue working to a level of satisfaction in the presence of faults.
Fault tolerance is not just a property of individual machines; it may also characterise the rules by which they interact. For example, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is designed to allow reliable two-way communication in a packet-switched network, even in the presence of communications links which are imperfect or overloaded. It does this by requiring the endpoints of the communication to expect packet loss, duplication, reordering and corruption, so that these conditions do not damage data integrity, and only reduce throughput by a proportional amount.
Recovery from errors in fault-tolerant systems can be characterised as either ‘roll-forward’ or ‘roll-back’. When the system detects that it has made an error, roll-forward recovery takes the system state at that time and corrects it, to be able to move forward. Roll-back recovery reverts the system state back to some earlier, correct version, for example using checkpointing, and moves forward from there. Roll-back recovery requires that the operations between the checkpoint and the detected erroneous state can be made idempotent. Some systems make use of both roll-forward and roll-back recovery for different errors or different parts of one error.

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