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Energy firm tackles tape backlog with Index Engines

Dominion Resources Services expects to save millions on outsourcing by deploying tape indexing software to manage 20,000 legacy tapes for litigation requests.

An IT litigation support specialist at a Richmond, Va., energy company estimates her company will save millions on outsourcing fees by using tape indexing software to search through a backlog of 20,000 legacy tapes in-house. The company deals with between 50 and 60 cases of litigation each year.

Dominion Resources Services, a natural gas and electricity delivery company serving more than 5 million customers in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Northeast regions of the U.S., has a "keep everything" data retention policy. That policy causes a large backlog of tapes in various formats dating back to the late '90s, including DLT and LTO-2.

"Our massive backlog of tapes is known and therefore discoverable," said Christy Campos, Dominion's IT litigation support specialist. "It's a big liability and can't be dispositioned until we look at the tapes."

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Dominion has been working with Index Engines Inc.'s Tape Engine for a little more than a year to index information on offline tapes. Dominion also plans to use the software between cases to go through the tape backlog and try to reduce the amount of irrelevant data stored in the archives.

For current cases, "it helps us identify a couple of important pieces of meta data that help us decide whether it's even worth indexing," Campos said. "It'll tell us what backup type, what the server name was, the year and sometimes even the operating system information. And that's often enough to be able to say, 'There's no way this is relevant to any case.'"

This determination is made by comparing Index Engines meta data to information in the company's case management database. From there, relevant tapes are fed manually into the company's tape readers and indexed by Tape Engine at the file level. The files and index journal are stored on a portable hard drive and sent to legal counsel for review.

Using Tape Engine helps Dominion avoid having to outsource tape cataloging and indexing, which can cost from $200 to $300 per tape. On a recent case, Campos estimated her team saved $10,000.

Campos also projects a $5.5 million savings over the next five years because Dominion will be able to weed out info from the tape backlog instead of outsourcing the project. That process hasn't begun yet, however, because the team is busy with litigation requests and in part because of a balky legacy tape system.

The company has a large legacy Sun Microsystems Inc. StorageTek tape silo that it keeps for its DLT-4 drive to read older tapes. It took Dominion six months to figure out that the problem was the tape reader instead of the Index Engines software.

Tape Engine has a clean interface, Campos said, "but I don't think the tool is so intuitive that you're just going to get it, mostly because I don't come from the tape world. I'm not a backup person. If you don't come from that world, you might need some more help with some more basic information." Campos said she would've liked a glossary of terms as well as an overview explaining what each feature does, or a training course to familiarize her with the software.

In an email to, an Index Engines spokesperson wrote, "Index Engines offers extensive online help within the product, Web-based support resources, on-site installation and training. We do our very best to make sure the customer's implementation and usage experience with Index Engines is positive."

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