Having a Heat Wave? Changes in Climate Really Do Impact Tape Backup Technologies

Topics: Offsite Tape Vaulting

With proper standards in place, you can provide for most any environmental peril while also accounting for aging or damaged tapes.

Nothing lasts forever. And backup tapes are no exception, particularly if Mother Nature has her way. As the long-term after-effects of Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan show, nature can be fickle—and destructive.

But it’s not just extreme conditions like hurricanes and tsunamis that can wreak havoc on your stored backup tapes. Extreme temperatures and moisture levels are more likely to cause irreparable damage, because you’re not on guard for them as you would be for an impending natural disaster.

More than 75 percent of Best-in-Class and Industry Average organizations use tape backups, according to a 2010 Aberdeen Group report. And while they’re certainly durable, long-lasting media, they’re not immune to damage. That said, how certain are you that your company’s backup tapes are protected from extreme temperatures and humidity, now and in the future?

A lot rests on your answer. Litigators and financial auditors don’t care whether corrupted backup tapes or misplaced files prevent your company from responding quickly and fully to discovery and audit requests. Likewise, regulators don’t care why you can’t prove you’re in compliance with regulatory guidelines that govern your business. You’re likely to still face fines and penalties.

Location, Location, Location

Whether you follow a do-it-yourself plan or solicit the help of a partner to store backup tapes, you should ensure that they are stored in the best location possible. First and foremost, backup tapes should reside offsite. That way, if a natural disaster compromises equipment and data in your office, your backup tapes won’t suffer the same fate. Preferably, your tapes should be housed in facilities in an area not prone to floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters.

Adjust the Thermostat

If your offsite storage facility is a mini-storage unit off the highway in the next county, give yourself a pat on the back for at least selecting an offsite location. But in short order, you’ll need to find storage facilities with climate conditions specifically geared to protecting and preserving tape. Tape lasts longer in a cool, dry environment that is—consistently, without interruption—protected from the elements. Any storage facility should also guard against magnetic waves. And no matter how safe your tapes are, they must be accessible on demand. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Remember, too, that even under the best conditions, tape, like any other medium, will degrade over time (though when stored under optimal conditions tape has a potential lifespan of 40 years), so you should consider building tape replacement into your backup strategy.

Make It a Team Effort

Sound like a lot to consider? It is. Safely backing up and storing your tapes offsite can drain internal resources and prove overwhelming. An experienced third party partner can provide these and many other services:

  • Scheduling backups. Many backup strategies fall short because backups aren’t conducted regularly or are interrupted mid-stream. Your partner can help schedule backups and coordinate with transportation efforts.
  • Arranging transport. Instead of hiring a courier to ferry tapes from your office to an offsite storage facility, trust your partner to provide secure pickup and delivery.
  • Tracking your data. With bar codes and inventory lists, you’ll always know where your backup data resides. Look for a partner with a Web-based application that lets you track delivery, scheduling and reporting.
  • Swapping tapes. If backup is done offsite at a colocation center or remote location, your partner can send someone out to swap tapes and transport them.
  • Securing tapes. A trusted partner should have rock-solid security measures in place at every point along the way—from tape swapping and transport to storage and access.

A third-party partner should have the expertise, technology and facilities to accommodate your storage plan—and protect your tapes against both tampering and the elements.

Isn’t it time to void that mini-storage contract?

Iron Mountain: Partnering with Mother Nature

Twenty-two stories below a picturesque setting in rural Pennsylvania sits Iron Mountain’s archive and data center, which includes the high-tech Room 48 data center. Acknowledged for energy efficiency, the underground facility leverages the geothermal conditions of this former limestone mine to provide customers’ vital records with a safe, climate-controlled home.

The facility boasts some impressive statistics, many which apply to Room 48:

22 stories (200-plus feet): The underground depth of this energy-efficient data center

4,100 square feet: Room 48’s footprint

1.5 BTUs: The amount of heat per square foot absorbed by limestone per hour

2,000 years: Estimated lifespan of photos, microfiche, paper and other records protected in the facility

55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit: The temperature range in Room 48

20 percent: The increase in cool-air distribution

Iron Mountain Recommends

Here are a few questions to ask before signing on a with a data backup and recovery partner:

  • Does the facility store all materials in a secure, climate-controlled vault?
  • Has it installed redundant services (e.g., generators, emergency lighting) in case the power fails? Such features set a backup location apart from a simple basement or storeroom your company could host on its own.
  • Is the space clean and cool, and also shielded against unseen threats like magnetic waves and other less obvious potential problems? Can the provider guarantee fast data retrieval—and is it willing to stipulate service level expectations in writing?
  • How responsive is the partner’s customer service? Is there a 24/7 emergency response line? What is the chain of command in responding to your needs and requests?

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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