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Old tapes can lead to sticky situations

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Administrators still need to exercise some caution before taking this tactic. If the tape media snaps or the media peels off the substrate, some of the data may be lost forever. Kroll Ontrack can repair physically snapped tapes and, says Pederson, "tape has some amount of leader [sometimes feet], so if some media does peel off the tape it isn't necessarily doomed."

A more conservative approach should be taken if there's only one copy of the tape. If you don't know what data is on a specific tape, sending it to a data recovery company may be your safest route.

Here's something that might surprise you: Pederson says it's sometimes easier to recover data on older tapes than newer ones. That's because tape cartridge vendors now try to squeeze as much data on the tape and as much tape in the cartridge as possible. "Newer media is thinner, more susceptible to stretching and data is written to the very edge of the tape," says Pederson.

Kroll Ontrack is among the vendors that have developed their own proprietary software to read data from old tapes. It recognizes the data layouts generated by all backup software products. As it streams data from tape, it's designed to identify which backup software product created the data and then recover it in a readable format. Successful data recoveries depend on the tape's condition.

To avoid getting

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into this predicament in the first place, ISSI Data recommends its clients not keep data on tape longer than five years before migrating it. In the case of the architectural client that used the same tape for too long, "they will never make that mistake again," says Means.

--Jerome M. Wendt

This was first published in December 2007

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