'LoJack' For Backup Tapes?
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A new spin on tape storage management could be near with Fujifilm testing technology to help its large corporate customers use GPS to keep track of their backup tapes -- whether they're in storage or in transit.
The imaging and media giant is beta testing a tape-sized device that can help companies pinpoint their backup tapes to within meters.
"The genesis of this product was we were watching the news reports just like everybody else in this industry," Rich Gadomski, vice president of marketing for Fujifilm, told InternetNews.com. "So we wondered why there wouldn't be a tracking device to help keep track of these assets. And that's what we eventually developed, and are testing right now in the Tape Tracker."
The resulting device is a military-grade GPS system, 1,000 times more sensitive than a conventional GPS receiver, housed in a standard half-inch Linear Tape Open (LTO) data tape cartridge. It can help storage managers monitor the shipment of cases of tapes to offsite storage, and instantly locate them if they are lost or stolen.
Losing a set of backup tapes can ruin your whole day. Just ask anyone at Bank of America or Ameritrade. In both instances, tapes containing hundreds of thousands of personal records were evidently lost en route to or from their backup storage sites.
"The latest generation of [LTO] has encryption in the drives," Gadomski said. "But this is an additional way to mitigate the risk."
The demands of tracking a case of tapes require a great deal more than just your average consumer-grade GPS system, spokespeople said.
The Tape Tracker "uses a lot of the military technology that you wouldn't find in a consumer [GPS] device," said Dan Greenberg, new product planning manager for Fujifilm. QinetiQ is "creating a version of their device enhanced for this particular application to be the most sensitive device possible."
"When you've put it inside of a case and have it inside of a truck, and it doesn't have a clear view of the sky, you'd call that a challenging environment for this sort of device," Greenberg said. "But this device has been fine-tuned by QinetiQ to perform optimally in that type of environment, and we've been experiencing some impressive results."
Using an embedded mobile phone, the device sends out periodic reports on its location. Through a Web console, managers can track the movement of the device and its case on a map, and access satellite imagery of its location. The unit can also be programmed to wake when a case is moved, and alert managers if it leaves a designated geographic area, like a storage facility or a warehouse.
Greenberg said the product is in testing with a number of large customers in the financial services sector and other industries, and the test is being expanded to additional customers before its official launch in first quarter. The system should carry a price tag of around $1,000, he said.