Since it’s close to Halloween as I write this, I thought I’d start with some “horror stories” I have heard about how IT persons, who should know better, have stored or placed their irreplaceable computer tapes in “harm’s way” resulting in the inability to read the data on the tapes. They quickly learned that using offsite tape storage with proper environmental conditions was the best solution.

–        Before they were our client, the IT Director was taking their company backup tapes home. It was summer and very hot and his wife asked him to stop off at the market and pick up a few items. Well, the heat buildup in his car was enough that when he came back and got in his vehicle, the tapes had warped. What if they had a problem and had to use their backup tapes but they were unusable? How much time, money and embarrassment would that have cost their company?

–        Another client before storing their tapes with our company had placed their backup tapes on top or an electrical control box.  Yes, the magnetic field scrambled and erased a lot of their tapes.

Another client stored their archival and backup tapes in the basement of the building. During the winter, a water pipe burst and the water sought the lowest level which was in the basement. You can guess the rest of the story.

To view these stories and others Data Loss Horror Stories, Click Here.

So, what is the”rule” for safely storing these sensitive computer tapes? Here are some guidelines:

–        Use and store magnetic tapes in a clean environment.

–        Avoid contamination of the tapes by dirt, dust, fingerprints, food, cigarette smoke and ash and air born pollutants.

–        Keep tapes out of strong sunlight and avoid contact with water.

–        Do not store tapes on radiators, window sills, electronic equipment or machinery.

–        Do not store tapes in high temperature and humidity levels or low temperature and humidity levels.

From a document put out by the Council on Library and Information Resources comes this critical advice, “Storing magnetic tape in a clean, controlled environment is the most important precaution you can take to extend the life of the media. High temperatures, high humidity, and the presence of dust and corrosive elements in the air all affect the physical components that make up magnetic tape and can result in the loss of readable data through decreased magnetic capability and deterioration of the binder or backing of the tape. Too low temperatures should also be avoided. Rapid temperature changes are also undesirable as they introduce stresses in the wound tape pack. Tapes that are to be played in an environment different from the storage environment should be allowed to acclimate to the new temperature.”

Storage at high temperatures (above 74 degrees) increases tape pack tightness. This results in distortion of the tape backing and an increase in permanent dropouts as wound-in debris are forced into the tape magnetic layer. Many layers of tape before and after the debris can be affected by impressions of the debris. Layer to layer adhesion, known as tape blocking, also can result after long term storage at elevated temperatures.

Storage at high humidity results in increased degradation of the binder as a result of the higher moisture content of the tape pack. Fungal growth is also possible at high humidity and temperatures.

From the above mentioned document, “Changes in both temperature and humidity can also cause mistracking problems. Substrates will expand or shrink with the changing temperature and humidity just as metals do in heat or cold.”

Here is another reason to store these sensitive tapes under the proper temperature and humidity levels – fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels can cause major problems. Tape is wound under a considerable amount of tension. A reel of tape can be permanently damaged if the tape pack tension is too high or too low, tape layers can slip past each other, resulting in pack slip, cinching, or popped strands on playback.

Current industry standards suggest storage of tapes at about 65 degrees and 40% humidity. Lower temperature and humidity levels are recommended if the equipment in the storage area can provide these lower levels not to exceed + or – 5 degrees or RH%. Just an air conditioner or heater will not do. A sophisticated heating, ventilating, air filtration, and air conditioning unit is the industry standard for maintaining the correct environment for these sensitive tapes.

For 46 years the Perpetual Storage, Inc. vault has been storing these sensitive computer tapes under the proper temperature and humidity levels and with air filtration for thousands of clients without any problems.


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