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How to deal with legacy tapes effectively

The tape has been the storage media of choice for long-term archiving since the 1950’s. Why? Because it’s a reliable, long-term option that can store valuable company data for 40+ years.

The need to store data for such a long period of time is not going away. The tape is still a major player in the storage market, especially when you compare the cost, amount of data that can be stored and the period of time it can be stored for to HDDs, SSDs or even the Cloud.

Issues with tapes

However, many companies experience problems with their legacy tapes that are archiving data from decades ago. Why is that? Well, after such a long period of time in an archive, many companies no longer have the equipment to be able to read the tapes in their possession. In a survey conducted by Ontrack three years ago, it showed that 25% of all IT administrators in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland were unaware of the content on their stored tapes due to not having the necessary hardware to be able to read them. Many of the companies in the survey had removed the tape hardware on purpose, either due to the cost of the license or needing to remove those employees that have the tape expertise.

So, many of today’s administrators are left alone with boxes of old legacy tapes that they have no way of accessing. This can be a cause of serious problems as in many situations sensitive data from decades ago may be needed due to legal or business reasons.

How can companies prevent their tapes from being inaccessible in the future?

Our tape experts at Ontrack have seen many cases where companies were not able to access data in a reasonable amount of time. To protect yourself from such a situation, they advise to follow these tips:

  1. Keep the backup software and hardware infrastructure intact for as long as the data is planned to be saved for. This includes paying the licenses and annual maintenance costs as well as having experienced experts for many years to come.
  2. If you don’t want to follow point 1, use special commercial software that allows you to migrate old legacy tapes to a newer backup and/or tape formats. However, this, too, will come with a license and annual maintenance costs as well as the need for experienced personnel until the data is not needed anymore.
  3. Use a managed data service provider to transfer and store the tapes in their specialized premises, this will also include the option to restore the data whenever needed. This will come with the associated costs of storing tapes with a data service company.

For more information on tape services by Ontrack see https://www.ontrack.com/uk/tape-services/

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