Make sure you inventory your tapes

One of the problems with tapes in a modern IT environment is that there are so many of them. With hundreds, or even thousands, of tapes stored on and off-site it is easy to lose track of them. That is why it is important to conduct a periodic inventory of your tapes. And because this is the time when end-of-year activities move into high gear, this might be a good time to conduct an exhaustive inventory of the tapes you have on hand. It can solve several potential problems.

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An effective inventory checks for several things. The most obvious one is missing tapes. Some of those tapes are completely lost (or perhaps never existed) and some will be misfiled somewhere in the tape resources. Perhaps less obvious is the need for a total count of the number of tapes, especially the ones that are unused or can be recycled. This is important; you need to know how many you have in a state that can be reused before you can determine when to order more tapes. Then there are the tapes that aren't yours. Because tape is sometimes used as a medium for information exchange, 'orphan' tapes from other organizations may have gotten mixed into your collection. Finally, there are problems such as missing or unreadable bar codes.

A tape inventory should be done at least annually, preferably as part of your regular information security audit. One procedure for doing a tape inventory (along with other information audit procedures) is discussed in finweb.rit.edu/bpa/forms/computer_center-internal_controls_of_administrative_information_systems-audit.doc.

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.


This was first published in December 2003

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