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Digital Preservation: How To Protect And Care For Your Data Storage Media

Aug 17, 2007
When you stop and think about it, it's amazing how much of a company's profitability is tied up in its archived information. 99.9% of the time, the right bit of critical information is there when we need it so we tend to take data storage for granted. Like anything else, digital preservation media such as magnetic tape media and optical disks have a finite lifespan. But ultimately, it is the way in which you protect and care for your digital media that determines how long the data will keep its integrity. In this article we'll discuss ways to care for your various data storage media to increase its lifespan.

Tape Media
Tape media is one of the first forms of digital data storage and is still heavily used today. One of the reasons why tape media is so popular, aside from its dependability, is that that tape media is a mature media. Unlike the newest fad in digital storage media like the mini disk, devices that read tape media will most likely still be prevalent years down the road.

Before recording on new tape media, it's best to send it through a full forward and rewind cycle for the purpose of equalizing the tape tension. In order to keep the tension retained while in storage, archived tapes should be put through a full forward and rewind cycle every year or two. When handling tape media, it's essential that the magnetic tape always remain encased and never touched. Not only is the tape in jeopardy of being torn or stretched, but oils on the skin can destroy the stored data over time.

As for storage tape media, optical disks, or solid state media, it's critical that the media be stored in its correct case. Tape media cases are designed to protect the tape media from harm by magnetic fields. When possible, choose archival quality cases for tape media that are designed in such a way that they don't emit chemicals over time that could damage the tape media. Even if these archival cases cost a bit more, they're well worth the few extra cents.

Optical disks
The top layer of the underside of an optical disk is where the data is stored which is why it's so important only to touch optical disks on the outer side edges. Optical disk cases are designed to prevent scratches and should remain in their cases at all times. Preferably, cases should be made of heavy plastic and disks should never be stored in a paper sleeve alone.

If you do need to clean optical disks, use only optical disk cleaning solution and a lint-free cloth. Never wipe in a circular motion around the circumference of the disk. Instead wipe the cloth across the disk from the center hole to the outer edge. Take care with the label side of the disk as well. Only use a soft-tip marker with water soluble inks and never write on the disk with a ball point pen or a fine tipped marker.

Both tape media and optical disks should be stored in cool, dry environments that are free of smoke and protected against insects. Temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors must be rigidly controlled. The temperature in your storage room should be between 60 and 68 degrees and humidity maintained between 35% and 45%. Still, even with proper care, digital storage media doesn't last forever. The life expectancy for tape media is around 20 years and about 10 for optical disk. To be safe and to keep your data in the best shape possible, you should recopy tape media every 10 year and optical disks about every 5 years.
About the Author
Author is a writer for Sunstar CO. who specialize in data
storage and disk backup solutions
. For more information you can visit http://www.SunStarCo.com.
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