Understanding the Importance of Tape Migration – Part 1

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 by Michael Nuncic


No other storage medium is lasting longer than tape. What is great news for everybody who is archiving data long-term because of legal or regulatory reasons can cause big problems for IT administrators years later. Considering in some industries require companies to keep data for 20 years or longer - who can be sure that the original backup solution (hardware and software) is still available for that amount of time? Moving data on legacy tapes through tape migration can help to ensure the longevity of that data.

Why companies need tape migration

  • Tapes can store data for a long time, but not forever i f they are not stored properly. For example, if they are in a damp environment, the data on the tape can vanish. Also, tapes can attract dust and other material which could rub the surface and destroy data. Therefore it is best practice to maintain regular checks of the condition of the tapes which hold important data. If tapes are old and hard to read, it is wise to migrate the data to a new tape immediately.
  • Tapes with outdated or uncommon formats which store business relevant data or need to be kept for legal obligations, should also be migrated to a more common tape format. An old IBM tape format should for example be migrated to the latest LTO version available.
  • Data stored on tape in a backup solution which is outdated is also a good candidate for migration, if the information is still useful or mandatory. Keeping track of necessary drivers for all old operation is complicated and could seem almost impossible.
  • Tape hardware which is hard to maintain or repair is also a reason for migrating the data to a newer tape backup environment.

And the list goes on and on…

In many cases migrating important data from one or many tape backup solutions or tape formats is mainly done in order to simplify the tape management process, reduce the workload for the responsible employees and reduce costs. It is a more than a necessity, it is a strategic data management decision.

The benefit of tape migration is clear

Consolidation of all tapes on one main tape based backup solution in one format with only necessary data stored on them, that is mandatory because of legal or business reasons. Those tapes (or the data) which has reached their end of life should be securely deleted and destroyed afterwards.

Now that the reasons for a tape migration project are evident, we will explain in detail what steps a “typical” project consists of in the second part of this blog article next week.