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Incinerating Data Tapes is Secure, But Expensive

Proper media sanitization is an important component of a well-rounded archival strategy. However, it’s not necessarily straightforward. Degaussing tapes can leave data intact, and shredding data tapes with commercial equipment isn’t a secure solution.

Tape incineration is a much safer method. It’s approved by the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency, and it eliminates any chance of data recovery by eradicating both the tape and its cartridge memory (CM) chip. However, tape incineration has several major issues at scale.

When setting up a secure data destruction plan for your enterprise, you’ll need to consider these problems. Here’s what you need to know before sending tape cartridges to the incinerator.

Tape incineration can be expensive for larger projects.

Incineration operators are often limited to handling a certain amount of data storage media per day, since incinerating magnetic tape can have ecological ramifications (discussed in greater detail below). A large tape incineration project can take time, which can lead to larger-than-expected expenses.

Longer media sanitization processes also create security vulnerabilities. The longer that the tapes sit in a queue, the greater the chances of a compromised chain of custody. Some services offer extensive chain of custody reports and records to verify security, but this level of oversight also adds to the cost.

Tape incineration carries significant environmental concerns.

All organizations have a responsibility to use eco-friendly waste disposal methods wherever possible, and incineration cannot be “green.” Incineration of electronic waste releases toxic substances that can pose threats to human health and contaminate soil, air, and water.

E-waste is a growing concern, and the electronic and magnetic components of tapes can produce pollutants like lead, cadmium, and mercury. Plastic incineration generates dioxins and furans, both of which are carcinogenic. According to the EPA, dioxins can also interfere with hormones and cause reproductive and developmental problems.

Because of these environmental concerns, many states have strict laws controlling the incineration of electronics. Even when incineration is cost effective, enterprises are limited by laws and regulations — in other words, incineration is rarely the best choice.

For cost-effective data tape sanitization, use the right approach.

Your company’s tape disposal methods should be secure, affordable, and environmentally friendly. Incineration is secure when performed correctly by a company with substantial experience, but it’s often much more expensive than anticipated. The environmental effects of incineration are considerable, and at scale, tape incineration is impractical for numerous reasons.

Of course, other sanitization methods have their own problems. To manage your enterprise’s tape archives, look for a partner with significant logistical experience. Tape disposal requires a working knowledge of both modern and legacy cartridge formats, and providers should be able to supply evidence that the process was handled correctly.

Total Data Migration offers options for organizations of all sizes. Some of the benefits of our tape disposal methods:

Secure degaussing performed by experienced operators. We verify erasure, including on cartridge memory chips left untouched by degaussing equipment.

A comprehensive chain of custody. By maintaining a chain of custody, we provide assurance that your tapes will remain secure throughout the disposal process.

Tape migration solutions. Many enterprises need to dispose of tapes when migrating to newer formats. Total Data Migration can help your operation manage both migration and disposal, simplifying the project substantially.

Environmentally friendly tape eradication. Instead of incinerating tapes, we use alternative methods that limit the environmental impact of disposal.

If you need a secure media disposal solution backed by decades of experience, our team is ready to help. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today via email or call 1-800-876-3376.