Old tapes can lead to sticky situations


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Travis Means, director of sales at ISSI Data, an IT services provider in Bothell, WA, makes it very clear to his clients that storing data on old tapes is a bad idea. How bad? When one of Means' clients, an architectural firm, accidentally deleted some files, they couldn't recover the original drawings and renderings because they'd been backed up to an old tape. That resulted in the firm losing a competitive project bid. "Their failure to make a $300 investment in tape probably cost them $100,000 in sales," says Means.

It seems like the storage industry should have moved beyond such mistakes, but industry observers and users say the problems associated with old tapes persist. Companies store data on tape for three good reasons: lower cost per gigabyte, lengthy shelf life and infinite capacity. The problem is that when companies try to recover data from tapes, they often discover that they no longer own the right tape drive to mount the tape or their backup software can't recognize the data on the tape.

Kelly Polanski, a data protection specialist at KEHP Group, a NJ-based data management consulting firm, deals with clients who find old tapes in everything from offsite vaults to boxes and file cabinets. These tapes are often stored in an environment where the tape media deteriorates over time. However, the larger concern for most of her clients is determining the tape's worth. "They

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have no idea what data is on the tape or what its value is," explains KEHP Group's Polanski.

Jeff Pederson, manager of data recovery operations at data recovery service provider Kroll Ontrack, says there are some simple techniques that backup administrators can try to recover data from old tapes. First, the obvious: Put the tape in the tape drive and see if the drive can mount the tape and if the backup software can read and restore the data.

This was first published in December 2007

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