5 songs for managing tapes

29 August 2018 by Mikey Anderson

The satirical jukebox is back folks. So far we’ve boldly covered working in IT, erasing data and virtualised systems. Next up on the chopping block - tape storage.

We’re not talking about that insane mixtape that you got from a friend in 1994; instead, we’re focusing on the seemingly timeless method that companies are relying on to store archive data in the cheapest way possible.

Don’t worry if you don’t know your LTO from your DDT – we’re going to take a step back and explore the topic from a slightly different angle.

If you’ve read our previous posts, you know exactly what to do. New to the series? The rules are very simple:

  • Make yourself a beverage. Anything will do, although if it’s before midday maybe avoid the strong stuff
  • Obtain a snack. Biscuits are a perfect choice and have been scientifically proven to contain zero calories*
  • Rest those weary legs on something. A leaning tower of old backup tapes will score you all of the bonus points
  • Ignore your colleagues staring at you, they’re just jealous

*Maybe factually incorrect.

Shall we begin? Here are our top 5 songs for managing archive tapes.

1.    Tick Tick Boom – The Hives


“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, boom!”

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. It’s going to make you want to bash your head against the wall, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year; the GDPR is here.

This means that companies now have a much stronger obligation to properly manage what data they retain, especially if it contains customer or employee information.

As tapes usually contain either file server or Exchange server backups, there’s a high chance that they still need properly indexing, so that any GDPR information requests can be adequately managed and redundant data can be properly destroyed.

It’s important that this is addressed; no company wants an information access request blowing up in their face because a process wasn’t defined.

If your tape estate is starting to look like a ticking time bomb, and you haven’t figured out a way of containing it, might be worth starting to look at it now, or yesterday. This track will really help to emphasise that, in a really loud way.

2.   Final Countdown – Europe


“It’s the final countdown!”

It’s been over 30 years since this 1986 classic was released, which funnily enough is the length of time that tape storage generally lasts for (under optimal conditions).

When companies originally started storing data on tapes, the common consensus was to store everything, regularly, and keep it there. Given that tapes can last for a while, companies tended not to worry about them, however that complacency might not have been a good thing!

Companies need to quickly understand what type of tape storage they use and if it’s time to upgrade/migrate before the data becomes inaccessible due to physical damage or corruption. Even 10 years is a long time by IT standards, so make sure everything still works, before it’s too late!

3.   You’re My Best Friend - Queen


“I’ve been with you such a long time...”

Let’s hop back to 1975 now and this cracking number by Freddie and the gang.

One of the inherent problems with tape storage is that organisations often get tied in with a certain vendor, whether it be software, hardware or a managed service.

With lots of infrastructures now becoming ‘old’, keeping various backup systems online for retention purposes can be very costly.

This can be all well and good if the data is within its retention period and you know exactly what data is stored, but more often than not, it’s the exact opposite situation.

Financially, it might make more sense long-term to assess what data you have, migrate off what you need, then securely destroy the rest.

Those old tried and tested backup methods and systems may have been your company’s best friend for a long time, but that’s not to say they’re still valid for today’s requirements.

4.   Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds


“Don’t you forget about me…”

Title says it all here. Don’t forget about your tapes, archiving system or backup processes in general. Like most things in life, if you ignore the problem it’s not going to go away (like that email you really should probably/maybe reply to, or fixing that noise on your car that’s been there for weeks now), so it’s best to tackle it sooner rather than later.

Starting the discussion is the first step and will likely help you get a better understanding of who the stakeholders are, the challenges involved and any corrective actions that need to be taken as a result. Once you get started, you’ll find that everything starts to fall into place relatively quickly. Simple!

There’s one other thing you also shouldn’t forget…

5.   Use Somebody – Kings of Leon


“You know that I could use somebody...”

Reading this post and listening to these 5 songs is easy, but actually doing something about your tape storage is challenging to say the least, especially if you’re going in solo.

Time for a quick calculation; how long would it take to find out how many tapes you have, where they’re stored, index them, understand exactly what data you have and get rid of what you don’t need? That’s assuming all of the necessary software and hardware still works…

If that gave you a headache, then maybe ease off the volume on this track (although it’s advisable to turn it up and sing it loud), but don’t forget that you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to indexing your archive tapes; use somebody to help you!

It’s much easier and cheaper to get it sorted soon rather than later so you’re prepared for any access requests in the future, especially when things get marked as urgent (although, isn’t everything ‘urgent’ these days?!).

That completes our list of 5 songs for managing tapes. Got any that you’d add? Let us know by tweeting @OntrackUKIE