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10/29/2008
05:39 PM
Howard Marks
Howard Marks
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Imation Finds Scary Data On "Recertified" Tapes

Last month I wrote about my general misgivings about selling used data tapes for reuse. My New Yorker's general skepticism left me dubious that the few dollars I got for sending a box of tapes via UPS or FedEx to Joe the used tape salesman was worth the risk that some of my data might make it to Christopher the identity thief. Today I got a press release from Imation reporting that they purchased around 100 "recertified" tapes from "leading recertifyers as found on Google" and found recoverab

Last month I wrote about my general misgivings about selling used data tapes for reuse. My New Yorker's general skepticism left me dubious that the few dollars I got for sending a box of tapes via UPS or FedEx to Joe the used tape salesman was worth the risk that some of my data might make it to Christopher the identity thief. Today I got a press release from Imation reporting that they purchased around 100 "recertified" tapes from "leading recertifyers as found on Google" and found recoverable data on 30% of them.I know Imation would like nothing better than the used tape market to dry up so they can sell more new tapes so this data has to be taken with a grain of salt but I can't see them out and out lying about finding account and credit card data from a major bank, and medical data from a hospital including patient names, SSNs and diagnoses on "recertifed" tapes.

Acording to Imation's VP (remainder of actual title too long to type) Dr. Subodh Kulkami they gave their test crew standard tape drives and commercially available data recovery software so this is the logical equivalent of buying hard drives or laptops from eBay and running OnTrack's data recovery software. They didn't use electron microscopes or other No Such Agency level spy toys.

Given the fact that you can't degauss (bulk erase) and reuse LTO tapes becuase they use magnetic servo tracks on the tape to position the tape drives heads (SDLT uses optical servo so they can be degaussed and reused) the cost of really wiping the data off an LTO tape is significant. Writing blank data to an LTO-4 tape ties up a $2300 drive for 2 hours, and reading it back the same so a single tape drive could only wipe 6 tapes a day per drive.

I'm not surprised that tape resellers grossing $10-20 a tape aren't spending $2-3 of those dollars doing a full write-verify pass on every tape even if they imply they do.

Even if they did there's still the risk of damage to buyers tape drives from contaminated or damaged tapes. At Storage Decisions I was approached by a salesman from a recycler, he claimed that new tapes were dangerous and could shed oxide while his tapes were "broken in" and cleaned before being sent out. Binder and magnetic material shedding is primarily an issue with the edges of a tape (the part that's damaged when a cart falls from a 6 foot shelf to the concrete floor. Since recyclers can't remove the tape from the ultrasonically welded cartridge they'd have to build a Rube Goldberg contraption to examine and clean the tape edges that would cost beau coup bucks.

No doubt there are legit tape recertifyers along with honest politicians and straight shooting used car salesman. There's just no easy way to know which ones they are and Imation's legal department wouldn't let Dr. Kulkani tell me who they were.

But in today's tight economy I know some of you are thinking about the 400 LTO-2 tapes that will reach the end of their data retention period this year, the money you could get for them, and the cash you'll have to shell out for LTO-4 tapes and thinking about it.

All I have to say is don't do it.

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