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Kroll Ontrack Warns That Keeping Your Dark Data (Tapes) in Good Standing Requires a Strategy Beyond Hope

Tape is not dead. The 60-year-old storage device is the medium of choice for storing a company’s dark data, defined by Gartner as information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes. Tape archives contain dark data that could potentially be monetized through the harvesting and analysis of data; however, Kroll Ontrack, a leading provider of data recovery and ediscovery products and services, received nearly 300 tape inquiries in 2013 related to legacy tapes where most of the customers did not know what was on the tapes and required a tape catalog and restoration.

“Tape is a popular dark data storage medium because it is cheap and relatively easy to store,” said Jeff Pederson, manager of data recovery operations, Kroll Ontrack. “Situations, however, commonly arise, which require IT administrators to access and retrieve that data using up-to-date software, hardware and a current, organized tape catalog. This is where organizations tend to get in trouble. For example, a recent Kroll Ontrack survey of 600 resellers revealed that almost two-thirds of respondents (60 percent) said that customers have requested legacy tape services, but that they don’t currently provide them.”

The following five common situations define the tape recovery market:

  • Compliance: Bound by industry regulations as well as a corporation’s own document retention policy, a tape or series of tapes are put back into circulation before their end of life (compliance) date, effectively deleting data that is required for compliance purposes.
  • Litigation: The legal department requires data to be collected from tapes the company no longer has the software for or the hardware resources to extract the data in time to meet the deadline provided.
  • Migration: A new backup software is purchased, requiring a large volume of tapes and thus man hours to migrate to the new software.
  • Damaged: A natural disaster causes damage to a set of tapes, requiring cleanroom techniques and parts to recover the lost data.
  • End of Life: A corporation let their tape software license lapse or disposed of tape reading hardware, and the entity no longer has the hardware or software to perform the recovery.

“Storing data on tapes does not mean that data is obsolete. Dark data on tapes is an enterprise goldmine, which requires care and continual vigilance,” added Pederson. “Whether it is auditing, indexing and cataloging tapes that are unmarked or required for compliance; providing software or hardware to access legacy tapes; or recovering data from damaged tapes, Kroll Ontrack has a dedicated Ontrack Data Recovery R&D staff that has been building and improving upon cutting-edge tape recovery tools that work independently of backup infrastructure/software for more than 20 years.”

Kroll Ontrack recommends the following tips to protect your tapes or enhance the chance for a successful recovery:

  • Keep legacy hardware and software for all types of tapes in storage.
  • Make sure your tapes are correctly labeled and cataloged so they can be easily located when needed.
  • Test your tapes at least once a year by reading a random sample.
  • Store tapes in a dry place and off of the ground. If tapes happen to get water damaged, keep them wet until they are received by a data recovery company.
  • Securely delete tapes that have reached their end of lifecycle leveraging a degausser since “normal” deletion will not be sufficient.
  • Keep the contact information for a third-party company who provides a comprehensive list of tape services.

For more information regarding common tape recovery scenarios and how to avoid them, Kroll Ontrack is offering a webinar on May 22 at 1 p.m. Central. Further, for a complete list of Kroll Ontrack’s tape services, visit:

About Kroll Ontrack Inc.
Kroll Ontrack provides technology-driven services and software to help legal, corporate and government entities as well as consumers manage, recover, backup, search, analyze, and produce data efficiently and cost-effectively. In addition to its award-winning suite of software, Kroll Ontrack provides data recovery, data backup, data destruction, electronic discovery and document review. For more information about Kroll Ontrack and its offerings please visit:

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