15 Tips for Proper Storage Tape Maintenance
By Bob DeCoufle
Despite what futurist have predicted, storage tape is still around and will continue to be around for awhile. Tape media and drive manufacturers are continually addressing customer needs to meet new regulatory requirements, trends and IT applications by advancing tape systems to perform faster and hold more data.
Today tape is helping to contain the information explosion. Companies are facing increased requirements for records retention — particularly for long-term retention of financial records and transactions, and HIPAA requirements for health care organizations handling digital patient files.
With all this tape that continues to be in use and we should be mindful of maintaining our equipment and tape. The following is some quick suggestions and reminders on maintaining your system and your tape products:
Keep the space and area clean, especially air filters & ventilation paths Don't drink or eat anything around your machinery Put your equipment on UPS power or an alternative back up source.
Avoid vibrations and shocks (e.g., avoid stacking components) Use only data grade media of the proper type and length for your drive.
Always keep the cartridge in its storage case when it is not in use. Store the tapes in a cabinet in a cool, dry area with the cartridge in the vertical position.
Keep tapes away from monitors, motors, or any other source of strong magnetic fields. In order to minimize the possibility of data errors, do not use the software erase or overwrite commands. Instead, use a bulk degausser to fully and cleanly demagnetize the tapes. The same process should be used on all new tapes before they are first used.
Clean the tape head on the drive at the intervals recommended by the drive manufacturer, using the materials and methods recommended by the drive manufacturer. Please refer to your user manual for these recommendations. Update your drive technology as your backup requirements grow. Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. With high capacity cartridges it's feasible to backup weeks of backups to one tape. Don't be tempted to leave the tape in the drive and use the same tape. Rotate tapes and take current backups off site.
Always do a directory or verify of the tape after the backup is complete to ensure that the data was written to the tape and can be read back by the drive. Alternatively use a tape technology that will automatically perform a read after write to ensure that the data recorded matched the data on the system. Make sure that the database from your backup software is backed up onto tape and taken off site on a daily basis. This is often the key to your data without which your backup tapes can be next to useless.
Disposal of old tapes should be performed with care. While the tapes themselves are generally suitable for normal office waste disposal, the data that they contain will be company confidential and should be erased before the cartridge is disposed. For sensitive environments physical destruction of the tape cartridge may be the best option. When you change tape/optical technologies be careful not to leave behind islands of data that is no longer accessible. Migrate all archive data at the same time. The longer you wait the more difficult it becomes.
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