How to ensure your tape drives remain accessible – part one

22 September 2020 by Tilly Holland

Against the backdrop of an increasingly complex technical infrastructure, a mountain of data, and flat or decreasing budgets, cost-effectively and defensibly managing the life cycle of information continues to be a challenge for all organisations.

When managed efficiently, a well-defined life cycle incorporates the needs of the organisation and adheres to regulatory compliance, security, and litigation readiness requirements. It mitigates risk, protects information assets, and ensures continued data accessibility. When managed poorly, all data is kept and stored “just in case,” bloating IT budgets unnecessarily and increasing e-discovery risks and costs when an investigation, litigation, or merger & acquisition occurs.

What is information lifecycle management? 

The Storage Networking Industry Association ( defines Information Life Cycle Management (ILM) as:

  • The policies, processes, practices, services, and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost-effective infrastructure from the time the information is created through its final disposition.

  • Information is aligned with business requirements through management policies and service levels associated with applications, metadata, and data.

Interestingly, the word storage is not included in SNIA’s definition. While the definition is relevant to other technical disciplines such as assurance, security, enterprise architecture, etc., it is also designed to get organisations thinking about information management strategies, tactics, and methods.

More companies are using disk for on-site backup however, off-site tape capacity is expected to increase, due to the need to air gap backups backups because of ransomware.
There are many fundamental questions that are integral to the concept of corporate information management. What content is the organisation currently storing? Is it located on-site or at a storage vendor and if so, on which tape? What data is truly necessary for business continuity or legal purposes versus duplicate or irrelevant data that should be disposed of? Some information never expires and may already be in storage, such as proprietary drawings, prototypes, or formulas. If this, and other types of data, must be retained for longer and longer time periods, what is the plan to ensure it remains accessible as current technology becomes obsolete and the operational costs to maintain legacy systems purely for restoration purposes is no

longer practical?

If an organisation doesn’t address these questions via a well-defined ILM process, the default answer for both stored data and legacy systems automatically becomes “keep it.” As a practical matter, information about managing types of content is rarely tracked and communicated via an existing Service Level Agreement (SLA) and the unnecessary expense and risk multiplies.