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Are Your Data Tape Archives Searchable?

Enterprises build data archives for a variety of reasons, but whether your business aims to keep long-term copies of historical data or comply with retainment obligations, your archives are only useful if they’re accessible. Older data tape formats can create issues here — many tape formats aren’t easily indexable, and without near-perfect recordkeeping, an enterprise may need to load and review data from hundreds of tapes in order to find required files.

Of course, data tapes offer the lowest cost-per-gigabyte and longest storage lifespan of any physical storage media. They’re clearly the best choice for data archives, but the benefits of tape storage can quickly erode when your enterprise needs to devote manpower and other resources to restoration.

Fortunately, many modern data tape formats like LTO-8 can be configured for indexing and easy searching. Even if your enterprise uses a legacy tape format, you have options to make your archives accessible — but ideally, you’ll build your archival strategy before you actually need to locate and restore files.

Total Data Migration can help your enterprise migrate legacy formats to indexable alternatives, dramatically limiting the long-term cost of your archives. To get started, contact us for a free consultation or read on to learn about the features of current-gen data tapes.

Modern data tape formats can be used to create indexable archives.

Data tape manufacturers are certainly aware of the need for searchable archives, and they’ve responded to that need by implementing novel features.

Recent versions of Linear Tape Open (LTO) format standard, including LTO-8, may use Linear Tape File System (LTFS), which supports partitioning for an index. This partition allows the tape drive to find the precise location of individual files, greatly reducing the cost of restoration. IBM’s TS1160 tape drives and media are also compatible with LTFS.

LTFS can allow for faster data access times when files need to be extracted from archives — including during ediscovery operations — but enterprises should still maintain a separate index. Otherwise, personnel will still find themselves searching through years of tapes to find the target data. A qualified data migration partner can make this initial index much easier and more affordable.

Legacy tapes should be migrated to current generation as soon as possible.

Many enterprises still rely on legacy media like AIT/SAIT, DLT, DDS, and even reel-to-reel formats. Migrating tapes requires a significant investment, and businesses may simply allocate those funds to other projects — after all, the data is safely stored in archives. Why spend money to migrate tapes to current-generation formats?

Again, any cost savings can disappear immediately when files need to be accessed. Your enterprise may need to source hardware to access tapes at scale, and finding specific files can be frustrating — and expensive — when the data set is relatively large. Additionally, if you’ve upgraded your data backup software or changed other components of your IT infrastructure, the legacy data may need to be converted. Here are a few tips for managing costs.

Assess your data archives at least once per year.

Consider whether data restoration will be feasible, and when necessary, migrate tapes to newer formats. Test your current archive infrastructure by asking questions; could you easily locate all of the files of a certain type, or find files from a specific date range? What resources would you need to allocate for an ediscovery request?

Make sure you’re prepared to restore archives to an isolated environment.

This is important in ediscovery requests, but isolated systems also ensure security in other applications. Many enterprises do not plan for isolated data restoration, which create significant vulnerabilities when a request arises.

Pay attention to data usability.

Searchability is a key consideration in any archival strategy. Fortunately, modern tape formats provide drag-and-drop file restoration comparable to hard drives, flash drives, and other consumer media. However, to take advantage of these new technologies, you’ll need to migrate tapes to LTO-8, LTO-9, TS1160, or another modern tape format as early as possible.

A tape migration partner can help migrate archives to newer formats while building robust indexes of each tape library and cartridge. Total Data Migration can help your organization make the switch to LTFS, or if you prefer working with a legacy format, we can provide detailed indexes to make data restoration easier and less expensive in the future.

As leaders in data tape restoration and migration, we maintain an extensive library of tape drives, and our experts can build a migration plan that works with your business’s unique needs. Contact us via email or call 1-800-876-3376 to get started.