Tape vaulting: Best practices to consider for offsite tape storage

David Chapa discusses some best practices for tape vaulting in this Q&A. Find out how to negotiate SLAs, tape vaulting pricing and the importance of encryption.

Many organizations send their tapes offsite to a tape vaulting service for data protection. Tape vaulting services will come to your company, pick up the tapes, and store them until you need them. They also often provide you with a workflow, audit trail and online tracking. But depending on how often you ship your tapes to a tape vaulting site, tape vaulting services can get expensive. In addition, it’s important to specify what your service-level agreement (SLA) requirements are, or you may not get your tapes back on time or when you need them.

In this podcast, David Chapa, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, discusses some best practices for tape vaulting. Find out the costs of tape vaulting services, how offsite tape storage costs are determined, how to negotiate your SLAs, and whether or not you should encrypt your tapes before you ship them offsite. Read his answers below or download the MP3.

Listen to the tape vaulting Q&A

How frequently do tape vaulting services pick up? And does it typically cost more to have more frequent pickups?

The frequency of the pickup really is going to depend on the customer. In the past when I was consulting, one of the customers that I was consulting for had a daily pickup. There were some groups within that organization that were a little more stringent with their data protection policies, and so the vaulting services would be there twice, sometimes three times a day. But yes, increasing the frequency of the pickups will increase the cost. Every time you have a trip charge, that’s going to end up on your invoice.

On the flipside, if you don’t need them to pick up as often, does it cost less?

Typically, yes. There’s a single trip charge for a pickup and a drop off, and usually there’s an exchange of tapes coming back and tapes going out. That trip charge is typically fairly consistent from my experience.

How are other costs determined in tape vaulting?

Back in the day when they would just hang tapes, they would call that open reel storage. That language has continued forward to today. Basically, your costs are going to be determined by a couple of things. If you’re going to have an open reel or open tape storage on a rack, that’s one cost. If you’re going to have the tapes just remain in the steel gray case to ship them out of your facility, that’s a different cost, and typically that’s a lesser cost. And then there’s the tape recovery cost. If you need a tape to come back, there’s a cost for the offsite or vaulting vendor to either open up that steel gray case and pull out the specific tape, or bring back the entire case. Again, it depends on the amount of labor involved and the real estate that you’re taking up with your tapes.

How can you make sure you can get tapes back in a timely manner? Are SLAs negotiable?

SLAs can be negotiable, and again, it’s going to be determined based on that trip charge. What I always recommend to customers is to determine what your own SLAs are internally. When you are declaring a disaster, determine the time you need to recover within before you start losing considerable amount of revenue from your core business operation. Then, use that number as your core negotiation point with your vaulting vendors, and come to a mutual agreement.

So they can be negotiated, but again, when you start looking at vaulting vendors, the challenge is on that trip and the person that’s bringing the cartridges back out to you. Will they be there in time? Will they get stuck in traffic? Will there be other challenges that you didn’t take into consideration? So you can definitely negotiate it, but there are also all of those other variables as well.

Is encryption a must for offsite tape vaulting?

This is something I’ve been saying for several years. When data gets legs it needs to be encrypted. Now there are certainly types of data that may not be critical, but then I would argue why you were sending that data offsite to begin with. If you’re sending data offsite and it’s leaving your facility, I strongly suggest that it be encrypted.

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