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08/12/13
FAQ’s and Answers About Tape Back Ups and Media Rotations

Most everyone in business today knows they need a comprehensive records management system in place to protect their organization’s data. The creation, capture and retention of data are part and parcel to doing business in today’s information driven world. Magnetic tape back ups are widely used to securely back up and store vital information.

Fritz Pfleumer invented the first magnetic tape in 1928. The German-Austrian engineer designed the medium to record sound. Magnetic tape has seen many changes and improvements over its long history. The first use of magnetic tape to store data coincided with the use of computers in the 1950’s. Despite magnetic tape’s early 20th century invention it continues to provide 21st century solutions to large volume data storage.

media rotation, tape rotation, data storage, data back up, records management

What are the attributes of magnetic tape storage?


Cost- One of the main reasons magnetic tape is still used despite the invention of digital storage devices is cost. Magnetic tapes are more economical per bit than their modern counterparts.

Large Capacity- Magnetic tapes can store up to five terabytes (TB), which is equal to five trillion bytes. One terabyte can store the equivalent of 60 piles of typed paper stacked as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

Long Life- Manufacturers of magnetic tape site a 15 to 30 year lifespan for the medium under proper storage conditions.

Stability- Magnetic tapes are not volatile making them a popular choice for persistent long-term storage.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle- Magnetic tapes reduce the square footage of storage space needed to retain data compared to paper files. Magnetic tapes can be reused and or recycled. This benefits not only your bottom line but also the environment.

What is Tape Rotation?

Tape and media rotation schemes are devised to minimize storage and tape use while securely backing up vital data. The most basic plan for comprehensive data storage would be to back up your data daily for offsite long-term storage. However, that will require a ton of tape and a lot of square footage in the media vault, not to mention unnecessary redundancies in your data. Therefore, incremental back ups are often employed to only back up the changes made to existing data since the last full back up. When stored data is no longer needed or is redundant magnetic tapes can be rotated and used again, commonly known as back up tape rotation. However, there are more secure schemes for managing and storing data than incremental back ups.

Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS)- GFS offers security through redundancy as well as easy implementation. At the end of each month a full back up of data is put on tape and stored offsite. This master back up is called the Grandfather. Then on the last day of each week a full back up is performed and stored off-site. This weekly back up is labeled Father. Finally a daily incremental back up is performed known as the Son, which can be stored on or off-site. This media rotation scheme based on a five-day workweek will require four Son tapes, three Father tapes and a Grandfather tape each month.

Six-Tape Rotation- This is a simple scheme that is easily implemented however it is not as secure as GFS because it lacks redundancy. Six-tape rotation is appropriate for small businesses or those that don’t have large volume data retention needs. Incremental back ups are performed Monday through Friday using five tapes. The sixth tape is also labeled Friday but it is a full back up of all data and should be stored off-site in a climate controlled media vault.

Tower of Hanoi- This rotation scheme is complex but very secure. Five tapes are labeled A, B, C, D and E. A full back up is performed on tape A every other day. Tape B is used for backing up every fourth day. Tape C is used to back up every 8th day. Every 16th day a back up is performed on the D tape. The E tape is alternated with the D tape. Because this scheme doesn’t operate based on the workweek it can easily be forgotten thus most businesses that require the Tower of Hanoi scheme outsource their tape rotation and storage.

Larson Records Management maintains a climate controlled media vault with 24 hour monitoring to secure your data from fire, flood theft or damage. Records management and data storage is our core business. We have tape rotation plans to fit any size business or budget. Larson’s dedicated professionals can help you determine which tape rotation scheme is right for your data needs. Call Larson Records Management today to get started on protecting your vital information.

Does your business employ tape rotation for your data retention and storage? How has it helped streamline and securitize your records management plan? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.




Tags: backup data storage tape back ups data recovery

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