How Tape Protects Data Integrity

In a previous article, “What is Tape? – A History and a Future”, we examined some of the basics of tape technology, past and present. We saw how new developments in the electromagnetic coatings used on tapes has resulted in higher recording densities and coercivity which means tapes can reliably store larger amounts of data for longer periods of time. But beyond these developments, tape also now offers some additional features that help insure data security to help meet compliance requirements such as those demanded by various government regulations like SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), SEC Rule 17 a-4(f) and eDiscovery situations triggered by litigation by private or public entities.

Compliance Demands

Organizations in industries such as health, pharmaceutical, energy, legal and financial, to name just a few, are required to retain various types of data for lengthy periods of time. Regulations like SOX, HIPAA and others at both the federal and state levels, define specific requirements such as maintaining a chain of custody, length of time various types of records or data must be retained, access control for various types of records, length of time to respond to eDiscovery requests and in what formats the data should be delivered. There is also always the possibility of litigation against an organization from public or private entities.

With the very heavy penalties imposed by these regulations, non-compliance is not an option for any organization, large or small.

Essentially this means organizations today need to store all their data for an indefinite period of time. They also need to insure that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected data are maintained at all times as well as securely storing this data in the most cost effective manner possible. Modern tape technology offers a means to accomplish these goals.

Tape Security and Control Options

Where security is concerned, current models of LTO tapes and tape drives provide strong security features to protect data on the tapes from unauthorized access or potential tampering with the data they contain. These security features are:

  • Encryption – LTO tape drives since LTO-4 offer a 256-bit symmetric key AES-GCM encryption algorithm implemented at the drive level. This enables compression before encryption, which maximizes tape capacities while delivering high performance during backups. Encryption helps ensure that only authorized personnel can access the data.
  • WORM – Write Once Read Many technology is now provided by a CM (Cartridge Memory) chip contained within the tape cartridge. With this feature, data can only be written to the tape one time. This means that data written to the tape is preserved in a non-rewritable, non-erasable and unalterable format that can’t be tampered with short of physically destroying the tape. It also appends data at the end of the WORM cartridge so that the full capacity of the tape can be realized with multiple write operations. This feature meets regulatory compliance requirements such as SOX, HIPAA, and SEC regulations.
  • Partitioning – Beginning with LTO-5, a new partitioning feature allows for ease-of-use and portability with LTFS (Linear Tape File System). Partitioning allows a portion of the tape to be used for indexing. This tells the drive the exact location of each file on the tape. The second partition holds the actual file. The indexing information is first read by the drive and then presented in a simple format that provides drag and drop capabilities. This feature helps enhance file control and space management.

The Bottom Line

Combined with the ability to store tapes off-line in a secure facility or storage vault, these new security and control features make LTO tapes a cost effective means of storing vast quantities of data for long periods of time while giving the organization full confidence in the security and durability of their data.

Sponsored by Fujifilm Dternity, Powered by StrongBox

Joseph is a Lead Analyst with DSMCS, Inc. and an IT veteran with over 35 years of experience in the high tech industries. He has held senior technical positions with several major OEMs, VARs, and System Integrators, providing them with technical pre and post- sales support for a wide variety of data protection solutions. He also provided numerous technical analyst articles for Storage Switzerland as well as acting as their chief editor for all technical content up to the time Storage Switzerland closed upon their acquisition by StorONE. In the past, he also designed, implemented and supported backup, recovery and encryption solutions in addition to providing Disaster Recovery planning, testing and data loss risk assessments in distributed computing environments on UNIX and Windows platforms for various OEM's, VARs and System Integrators.

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One comment on “How Tape Protects Data Integrity
  1. No Doubt that the functionality that LTO tapes can never be replaced as they have much more lasting features than disks, this makes them unique strong in upholding storage media industry, specially the WORM functionality in LTO 5 Tapes.

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