Data tapes, or backup tapes, are still one of the most popular storage devices used to store large volumes of inactive data, and they are popular due to a simple reason: cost-effectiveness.
A data tape can hold a much bigger storage space when compared to a traditional hard drive with a similar price tag, The popular data tape LTO Ultrium (LTO stands for Linear Tape-Open), for example, can hold 18 terabytes of data in just a single tape. The amount of data being recorded is increasing at close to 40% per year, but the capacity of hard drives is only increasing at less than 20% per year.
While modern hard drives and especially super-fast SSDs are much faster at transporting data, data tapes are still the favorites for storing inactive data.
However, the data tapes’ biggest strength in their massive storage size is also a double-edged sword. It can be quite challenging to maintain the security and integrity of the stored data due to its massive size, and another challenge comes when you no longer have future plans for the data tape.
Selling the used data tape for extra cash may seem like an obvious idea to maximize its ROI, but is it going to be safe? What if the buyer can recover the confidential data previously stored on the data tape?
With that being said, in this post, we’ll discuss all you need to know about how to safely sell your data tapes, as well as the other options you may have with the used data tape.
There are basically three basic options of what you can do to your unused data tapes: selling them for extra cash, reusing them to store data, or destroying them for extra safety.
Here are some considerations you should have before deciding on these options:
Selling is the ideal option for your data tape if an upgrade to a new data tape will benefit you at the moment, both from a performance and ROI perspective. For example, if there’s a new data tape available with better security, then an upgrade may be beneficial, so you can sell your old data tapes to help finance the upgrade.
Timing is an important factor if you want to sell your used data tapes to maximize their ROI. You’d want to sell the old data tape when the value is still relatively high, but at the same time, the price of the replacement data tapes should have gone down a bit (not brand new/still rare) so the upgrade won’t be too expensive.
If you have no short-term and long-term plan to upgrade the data tape, but for example, no longer have any use for the inactive data currently stored within the tape, then you can simply erase/rewrite the data and reuse the tape. Depending on the data tape’s model and brand, the manufacturer may provide instructions on how to erase and/or rewrite the data tape.
If it’s impossible to reuse or sell the data tape for one reason to another, then destruction of the tape (whether in the form of data eradication, physical destruction, or both), is necessary to ensure the security of your confidential data.
One effective way to totally eradicate the stored data within the tape is degaussing.
Degaussing is essentially a method of passing the data tape through a powerful magnetic field which is produced by a special degaussing tool. The magnetic force will rearrange the polarity of particles, which will eliminate any resemblance to the previously recorded data. Degaussing ensures that data recovery is impossible.
There are some data tape cartridges that can be reused after being degaussed, but most will not, so you’ll need to use a new tape cartridge. This is because most data tapes will have their “system instruction” data that is also destroyed via degaussing, so the tape cartridge will not be usable.
In most cases, degaussing is sufficient and you don’t really need to physically destroy the tape. However, if degaussing is not possible and/or too expensive for you, then there are other options you can consider:
- Shredding: shredding the data tapes is typically cost-effective. However, if the shredded pieces aren’t short/small enough, it’s technically possible for unauthorized parties to piece back the tape together and recover the data. Another issue is that shredding will result in waste that is not environmentally friendly.
- Incineration: a little bit more expensive than tape shredding, but is more effective since it will be 100% impossible to recover any data. However, burning your data tapes will release toxic materials into the atmosphere, which may be regulated in your area.
Yes, it is actually safe to sell unused data tapes so you can maximize its ROI.
However, especially if the data tape stores confidential and/or regulated data, you’ll need to make sure the data stored within the data tape is securely eradicated (erased) before you sell it. Or else, you may face legal liabilities and you may also risk your organization’s compliance with applicable standards or regulations (like PCI DSS).
If you plan to destroy your backup tapes’ data to sell them, a viable and secure option is to sell used tape drives to specialist ITAD (IT Asset Disposition) companies.
These ITAD companies can make sure the whole sales process is easier, and will ensure that the data stored within your data tapes are completely and securely eradicated. Companies like Big Data Supply Inc. will give you a Certificate of Data Destruction after purchasing your data tapes.
Depending on your industry and/or location, Certificate of Data Destruction may be considered as a legal requirement if you want to stay compliant with relevant standards and regulations.
It’s possible and totally safe to sell your data tapes and get some extra money to maximize your ROI, but it’s important to consider secure data eradication before making your sales.
Securely destroying your backup tapes is important not only in ensuring the integrity and security of your sensitive information but also to avoid potential fines and other penalties due to breach of regulations.
We’d recommend using the service of a reputable backup tape destruction (degaussing) service provider, or selling your unused tape drives to reputable ITAD companies that can provide certificates of data destruction.