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Tape data recovery is possible if you don't re-tape

As I wrote awhile back, LTO tape isn't dead and it's not even close to dying. It's a valuable part of many an enterprise's storage infrastructure, especially the mid tier and smaller company.

But like every technology it has its drawbacks -- despite some vendors' claims that no storage technology has drawbacks.

One beauty of tape is that it can be recycled -- a good thing as that obviously saves money.

One bad thing is that sometimes a tape is mistakenly re-initialized or re-formatted, bringing the tape marker to a point where it claims no data remains on the tape when, in reality, there is data and data that a company realizes it wants to save and recover.

"Depending on the quality of the back-up processes and the attention spans of storage admins, it's not unusual for tapes to be incorrectly wiped and placed back in the reuse pile," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

While King doesn't view it as a huge problem, he said it's great that there is a solution to recapture mistakenly erased tape-based data

That is, as long as no one re-tapes over the tape with new data.

As long as that doesn't happen Kroll Ontrack, a technology and services company that started off in 1985 as a disk drive software company, can help get the data back.

According to Jeff Pederson, manager of data recovery operations, his company is seeing an increasing demand for tape recovery and Ontrack is one of the few, if not the only, technology tools that can grab stored data on a reinitialized tape.

Customers can use the tool to get a listing of files and then, if necessary, have the data recovered.

"Many companies find tapes and think they're blank but need to be sure before putting them into operation. They need to now what exists on them in case they need it," Pederson said.

The best way to avoid such scenarios is to obviously make sure tapes are managed, stored and inventoried properly.

Pederson said a good backup and disaster recovery plan can also help enterprises from ever having to call for a diagnostic and tape recovery effort.

Tape recovery can be a costly endeavor. While tape itself may be cheap, another beauty factor, having to diagnosis tape data can run anywhere from $100 to $500 per tape. Actual recovery costs can range from $1,000 to $8,000 for a tape.

That can add up to a tidy sum if a box discovered in storage has hundreds of tapes.

But then again it's also a small price to pay if the data recovered saves a company a huge regulatory fine or litigation costs.

The big no-no is not ever overwriting on a tape unless you're sure it's clean and clear of data, or if the data on the tape isn't needed.

"Once you overwrite there' no way to get to that earlier stored data," said Pederson.

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