How to properly manage legacy tapes

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What are legacy tapes?

In computing terms, legacy refers to those hardware or software which has been suspended but still has wide use and thus, is difficult to replace.

Data is being generated every day. Earlier, people had less medium to store data and didn’t have the knowledge as people have today about managing data. After tapes were introduced, it helped the IT industry and every type of industry to manage and store data. 

As time passed by, we got more advanced with the technology and surely our lives have become easier in terms of being a general public and also in terms of running a business.

Tapes were introduced about six decades ago and businesses and several types of industries have been using them since which means those tapes are there holding a large amount of data which are essential as it has the information about the entity it belongs to. 

Now, technology has paced way ahead, and therefore the tapes that were used a few decades ago may not be supported by the current technology and therefore they became legacy tapes.

Are you wondering can a device be functional for such a long time?

A brief introduction to the mechanism of tape.

Tapes are successful in fulfilling their claims due to the following reasons:

Inside the tape. 

Tapes have multi-layer security through hardware-based encryption. To store data on tape, the data first needs to be converted into an encrypted format and then only the tape will store the data. This is possible due to the symmetric key that encrypts and decrypts data onto the tape.

Tapes allow the data to be written once to the tap and can be read several times due to the Write Once Read Many features. This feature secures the data from being tampered with in the future and therefore prevents adulteration with the data. 

The tape helps in providing greater security due to a big factor that the tapes can remain offline. Tape can be suddenly removed from the tape medium in case of an attack and thus creating an air gap. Always being on the server and being connected to the network connection gives a wide span of time to the cybercriminals to access your data at any point that is why the offline feature helps in securing the data. Further explanation is given later in the article.

Tapes can have up to four partitions which allow the tape to support four different libraries.

The hardware of the tape.

Barium Ferrite. This material helps to increase the data density. This is developed by Fujifilm which allows the tape to be accessible for longer years. It doesn’t reduce any magnetic signal.

Areal Density. This helps in measuring the number of information bits at any given length of a tack, surface area, or in a specific volume of a computer storage medium thus has a direct relationship with the storage capacity. It also defines the size of the magnetic particles and tapes have very high areal density like 0.84 Gbit/in2.

Why tape storage is still considered a storage option?

Even after 60 years, the tape is still considered valuable drive storage to store confidential data. Despite being introduced years ago, tapes have been improved over the years and are differentiated by generation. 

The tape has been providing a few basic features over the years which is still required and beneficial to today’s world. Following are some features which prove to be beneficial for any industry which requires to store data in huge quantities:

Capacity. Tapes are being first used in the first computer in their auxiliary memory after which it had a rise in its demand from the large scale industries. The capacity of tapes increases with every new generation of tape and has a significant amount of difference. 

Since the recent tapes come with more capacity to store data, the company will reduce its number of tape devices, therefore, have more carrying capacity in their storage area.

  • Tapes have high transfer rates thus reducing time and increasing the efficacy of tapes.
  • Tapes also come with secured authorization and offline features which secures the data even further.
  • Tape is capable of archiving data therefore its users have to deal with fewer data at a time. 
  • The tape has more blocking energy meaning its magnetic particles are big enough to protect data from heat.
  • Tapes also generate less heat by keeping quiet when not in use and still being connected to an energy source.

Why do we need to properly manage legacy tapes?

Following are the reasons why legacy tapes need to be properly managed:

First of all, it is necessary that the company records tape inventories on a regular basis to avoid data leaks in the future. It can be possible to miss one or two tapes if not taken care of.

Companies that sold the tapes sometimes no longer provide services to repair the legacy and it can cause a high alert in business since companies would then need to go to a third party to access their data. Keeping up with the recent type will increase the chances of receiving service.

If tapes are not checked at regular intervals, there are chances that tapes can diminish their reliability feature and fail over time.

Hackers are now also keeping up their game in pace with the recent technology and security which means that there are chances that being the tape with the old type of security can increase the chances of being hacked.

Newer tapes have faster transfer rates therefore it will reduce the time needed to transfer data from one tape to another. Not to forget that if the legacy tape is from a decade ago then the time difference can really be felt.

Portability is a useful feature but if the person who is authorized to use the tape and access data from tape is not reliable it can lead to huge losses of data and finance as well. Also while physically transferring data or physically shifting the tape it is necessary to be done carefully and avoid damages. 

Being the tapes have magnetic strips, it attracts particles in the air which can tamper with the data.

How do tapes still manage to be legacy tapes?

Even after the blockages of being a legacy tape, it still manages to be useful because of the following reasons:

It is reliable for 30 years which means that if a company opts for a tape storage solution, the data stored will help the company to give back 30 years-old data.

It has less error rate compared to disk storage which makes it more reliable in terms of quality data.

Its huge capacity benefits its user as apart from being useful as archive storage it also doubles up backup storage which is capable to store exactly the way it reads.

Also, tapes have started to be compatible with the previous generation of LTO and are expected to be compatible with the upcoming generation of LTO as well.

How to manage and store legacy tapes?

Keeping tapes in check will also aware the user if they need to be replaced.

Ask the already hired IT personnel in the company.

To retrieve data from legacy tapes, contact the manufacturer company if they still provide a service in case your tape device has been damaged or not functioning properly.

Otherwise, contact an IT solutions department and hire a professional who will access your data for you and thus provide a third-party service with their tools and software.

Only give access to trusted personnel and only let the legacy tape be handled by experienced personnel.

Managing tapes and more.

Not only tapes but other mediums and drives used for storage in the business and the technology used by the company should be handled with care every time. This way company will be saved from losing money due to the mishandling of devices. The necessity of being careful starts when a potential buyer wants to buy a device and select a technology or a device that can meet the user’s requirement as closely as possible which includes being concerned about the environment as well. Also company’s need to be made aware of how the devices used in the company need to be operated. This would prevent hazards, losses and cause less damage to the environment.

As technology comes with rapid advancement every year, new designs have been implemented which uses metals. Although a very amount of metal is found in any one type of device several devices are manufactured every day and several are dumped every day as well.

Some users do not even how to safely dispose of the devices thus, ending up in landfills and increasing soil pollution, water pollution, and air pollution. There are several ways to dispose of devices depending on whether you want to dispose of or give the device a new purpose. We really need to consider our decisions regarding choosing devices, not only because our decisions will cost us the earth but also because our wrong choice of the device can also cost us our own money.