For archive and long term storage of digital data it is common practice to use a tape data storage solution. While hard disk drives, USB storage and recordable media have increased in capacity and increasingly reliable, they should not be considered as the best option for long term storage.
It is important though to understand that all tape media has a limited lifespan, mainly dependent upon the environmental conditions of storage and the pattern of usage. The two most common reasons for requiring data recovery from an archive backup tape are through poor storage conditions or due to the tape being overused.
Storage Environment Is Important
As with hard disk drives, it is important that tape data cartridges are stored and used within a certain temperature range, otherwise the lifespan of the media may be significantly reduced. Heat can affect the surface of the media, which can lead to tape becoming sticky, which in extreme circumstances may cause the magnetic recording layer to be damaged. Not only will this cause a problem for the tape media, but may lead to an early failure of the tape drive.
Another important consideration is the location where the tapes are stored. Ideally any tape backup media should be stored off-site, such that in the event of a disaster it will be unaffected and readily available to restore the data. Should you want to store backup on-site, a fireproof safe situated next to an outside wall on the ground floor is the best option. Fireproof safes are however only rated to a certain temperature before the contents will start to suffer damage.
Data Cartridge Cycle
Each tape data cartridge is rated for a certain number of passes before the presences of data errors in the form of media flaws are expected. This is due to the speed at which the read/write heads or the tape move, which will inevitably cause wear and tear. It is therefore important that the tape drive is regularly maintained, as dirt on the read/write heads will further wear and tear.
It is therefore important that new tape data cartridges are regularly introduced into the backup cycle. Some large corporations will only use a brand new tape data cartridge for each backup, whereas many will rotate on a monthly basis. There is no hard and fast rule, but the importance of the data and being able to maintain business continuity will determine how often new data cartridges are used.
Tape Data Recovery and Conversion
With many tape data cartridges having a quoted lifespan of 10 to 15 years, it is easy to see long term data storage on any media is not ensured. For companies who must maintain archive data from which e-disclosure may be required in the future, it is important that it is regularly transferred via tape data conversion to new media to ensure it is secure.
A failure to ensure that archive material is always secure could at a future date cause problems, leading to tape data recovery, which in complex cases may be expensive. It is important not to only think about archive data when it is required, but to ensure that it is always readily available, through regular data conversions. This will ensure that no data is lost through the tape media developing an problem, which would require tape data recovery.