The role of storage has undergone dramatic changes in corporate America over the last few years. Changes within the IT environment include the growth of such dedicated storage architectures as NAS (network attached storage) and SAN (storage area network). These changes, combined with ever-increasing amounts of data, have led companies to view storage as a critical and strategic element to their long-term business success. Tape drives and media play an important role in ensuring that all of this critical data remains safely backed up and archived.
The Price Of Lost Data
It can be difficult to put a precise price tag on data loss and system downtime. Value can vary greatly depending on the size of the business and the importance of the lost data. Nevertheless, here are some typical benchmarks in terms of dollars:
- The downtime for PC LANs (local area networks) could cost $18,000 per hour.
- The downtime for UNIX networks could cost $75,000 per hour.
At prices like these, companies should make protecting their data a top priority. I'd like to suggest that there are a variety of things IT professionals can do to ensure that a company's purchase orders, financial records, business contracts and agreements, leases and other irreplaceable documents, as well as e-mail, database files, networks, and operating software are secured. These involve investing in good backup, archive, recovery, and storage plans. However, one of the most critical links in this process is the quality of the backup media itself. In talking to end users with mid-range and enterprise computer systems, we discovered that the reliability of storage tape is a concern for IT people, which is not surprising considering that more than 100 GB of valuable company information can be written on a single tape.
Another issue on users' minds is how to ensure the tape is truly factory fresh. Used or recycled tape can introduce a host of issues that can result in functionality and security problems, including:
- data loss due to low signal-to-noise ratio
- shorter archival life
- computer viruses
- damage from mishandling or poor cartridge storage condition.
All it takes is one sector of corrupt or infected data to wreak havoc with crucial records.
DLT tapes that incorporate a security seal assure end users that the DLT tape has not been used and then resold without their knowledge. The security seal also offers another benefit - it's environmentally friendly. The seal limits the waste and potential for data center contamination associated with other types of packaging.
Take Care Of Your Data
But even if a tape is factory fresh, it's up to IT professionals to ensure proper care. Peter Brown, a tape analyst with International Data Corp., reports that often the most basic, sensible handling of tapes and drives is ignored. He noted one recent example in which an IT staff person ate a donut in a tape library room, causing contamination and data loss. If handled correctly, storage tape has an archival life of more than 30 years. There are some basic rules of thumb that staff should follow when using storage tape media:
- Media Acclimation - If tapes come from a different environment, allow them to stabilize for at least 24 hours before use.
- Control the Environment - Maintain and observe temperature and noncondensing relative humidity for both the operating and storage environment in which you use the tapes. Also, keep the surrounding area clean.
- No Magnets - Keep tape cartridges away from magnetic sources.
- Clean the Drives - Many recording/reading errors are temporary and can be corrected by periodically cleaning the drive.
- Protective Cases - Tapes should be kept in their protective cases when not in use.
Protecting stored data, the lifeblood of a company, is common sense, yet it's remarkable how many businesses fail to take the simple steps listed above. With just a little care and planning, valuable information can be safely stored for decades to come.
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