With the latest technology improvements for data storage, tapes are no longer the ideal method for backing up. However, there will always be a use for them, and some companies still rely on tapes to store their mission critical data. If you have to use tapes as a method for backing up, follow these steps to ensure the process runs smooth.


After you have written to the tape, make sure you verify that the data was written correctly and not corrupted. Most companies – due to time constraint – will only do a quick verification through the backup software. This can lead to failures.

Make sure to do a full back up AND a full verification at least once a week. This will take longer, but will give you a better idea if the data was corrupted on the transfer to tape. And not to mention, it will let you know if the tape is bad to begin with.

Disaster Recovery

Why do you back up your data? Most assuredly it’s to prevent loss in the event of a natural disaster, to meet compliance requirements or to manage human error.

Tapes must be stored offsite. Some IT managers take them home or use a service that provides a fire-protected storage facility. You probably have to have a catalog system and rely on the service company to ship you the tapes when needed.


I have seen companies that store tapes in a room where on the other side of the wall is a large generator that produces electrical fields that can scramble data on the tapes. Store tapes in a stable environment. Keep them away from extreme temperatures, humidity or anything magnetized.


Use a rotation method for your tapes. This means use more than one tape so you are not using the same one over and over.

Most companies use a five day rotation. Use a different tape for each day of the week, and then do a full backup on Saturday.

When the next week begins on Monday, use the Monday tape from last week. This will preserve the tape lifecycle. Plus, if you had a corruption, such as a virus you didn’t catch for a couple days, you can go back to the previous tape or back before the virus was first introduced. The worst is trying to restore from a tape that you backed up with the virus…OOPS!


Keep up with maintenance of tape drives regularly. Clean your tape drives so dust and particles don’t transfer to the tapes. This process is usually done every 12 to 18 months.

Tape drives will fail, so make sure you have a maintenance contract with the tape drive vendor. It’s easy to send a drive back and get a new one. However, the tapes that the drive was writing to may have been affected in the process, and that data could be lost forever.

If you’re using tapes in your storage and back up procedures, what methods are working for you?