Check the life of 4-mm tapes in backup

Check the life of 4-mm tapes in backup
Rick Cook

Although the magnetic medium used in tapes has a service life of more than 10 years, the effective life of a tape is much shorter. According to magnetic media manufacturer Imation, the number

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of passes through the drive usually determines the life of a tape.

What is different about 4-mm tapes, Imation says, is that each operation actually involves several passes through the mechanism. With 4-mm tape, a cartridge can accumulate six to 12 passes of the tape for each backup, restore or verify operation.

As a result, Imation says, even though a 4-mm tape is rated for 1500 passes, "the maximum number of backup, restore or verify operations which can be expected is actually about 250 under optimum conditions." Since optimum conditions seldom occur in real-life data centers, Imation recommends taking 4-mm tapes out of service for critical applications after 90 to 150 such operations. Many organizations doing daily backups replace their tapes after 30, 60 or 90 days.

For Imation's suggestions on 4-mm tapes, see the article on their Web site at: www.imation.com/en_US/main.jhtml?Id=12_10_02&Article=2002_02_4mmtape.xml.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

Editor's note: Mention of specific products in this tip is for illustrative purposes only, and is not meant to imply endorsement of such products. Moreover, any products so mentioned have not been reviewed by SearchStorage or TechTarget, and thus such mention in no way implies recommendation for those products.

This was first published in June 2002

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