Losing data can be catastrophic for a company, regardless of how big or small it is. Recovering from such a devastating blow can set the evolution and growth of your company back too and so avoiding this is synonymous with running a company in today’s modern world.

Tape drives are just one option for saving, storing and archiving important data but, avoiding tape drive failure is important too. Here we have collated some of the best hints and tips for preventing this from happening… and saving your invaluable data in the process!

Tape drives are robust and reliable in the main but…

Don’t overwork your tape drive

These drives have a specified ‘duty cycle’ and this will be an indication of the workload the drive can endure on a day and, in some cases, nightly basis. For this reason, it is essential you invest in a tape drive with the correct capacity for your business.

For example, investing in tape drives that have a duty cycle of 50% will mean that they soon become overwhelmed in a situation where they are operated 24 hours a day, as opposed to 12 hours. Getting the right advice to get the right product for you and your business (or home) is essential!

Data transfer speed

pic1Not many people realise that there needs to be compatibility between the transfer speed of data from the computer system to the tape drive. Wear and tear on the tape tends to happen in cases where the transfer of date from the computer system to the tape drive is significantly lower than the speed of operation of the tape drive.

When this occurs, the tape drive will effectively go into a ‘start/stop’ mode which places an inordinate amount of stress of the tape. As the drive waits for information, it will stop but as the data starts to arrive again, it kicks back in to action.

The tape may be able to tolerate this every now and then, but a continual ‘start/stop’ motion will cause it to quickly malfunction. In other words, the quality of the date recorded on the tape is severely degraded, almost unusable in some cases.

Poor handling and storage

On one hand, technology is robust and yet, it can be sensitive and liable to ‘break’ or be compromised in the event that it is not handled or stored well.

Dropping tapes and storing them in places where temperatures fluctuate wildly can mean that the quality of the tape, along with the data that is stored on them soon becomes compromised.

Many companies also operate policies where tapes are stored off site and whilst this is an excellent idea, the storage facilities need to be conducive to the tapes retaining the data and integrity. Not many people how easily the tape itself can be contaminated; fibres form carpets are attracted to the magnetism of the tape and these small, almost invisible to the naked eye fibres, can cause problems with the tape itself.

Clean environment

And it is these contaminants that are worthy of closer examination when it comes to malfunctions of recording data and information on the magnetic tapes. Dust, fibres and the like can float in the atmosphere undetected and so operating the tape drives in a clean, hygienic, almost sterile place can significantly lengthen the life of both the tape, and the drive itself.

Keeping the tape drive clean

On one hand, tape drives need cleaning but, did you know that being too fastidious in keeping it clean can actually decrease its lifespan. And so, many experts suggest a request-based approach to cleaning rather than a firm rota that is adhered to without deviation. There are cleaning tapes that can perform this function and these should be used once, and then discarded.

Check humidity and temperature

Tape drives and the tapes are sensitive to humidity and temperature; just as rough handling, dropping tapes etc. can compromise their ability to record information, so can fluctuations in humidity and temperature levels.

Normal ‘safe’ operating temperatures are between 10° and 45°, with storage being smaller tolerance range of 16° to 35°. Humidity should be between 20 and 80%, although this drops to below 50% for when tapes are archived.

Retire tapes that are old or error-prone

In many case, corrupted data or inefficient recordings are on tapes that have seen far better days in terms of their age and the number of times they have been used! But, it is surprising the number of times companies carry on using tapes that have recorded significant errors in the past.

Tapes are relatively inexpensive, and commonly used by various companies across the globe but it is sheer folly to carry on using tapes that have shown themselves to be defective!

And finally, if failure does occur then it is important out find out why – and correct it immediately.