Users to Get Cleanup Help for Dirty Tape

New methods for cleaning tapes are in the works.

Responding to enterprise users increasing data recovery needs, several new technologies for cleaning and inspecting storage tapes will debut next year, officials at Bow Industries Inc. said last week.

For 40 years, users have invented ways to clean and monitor a tapes health. "Unfortunately, almost nobody obeys the rules" regarding how long tapes should be used or what physical conditions they should be kept in, Bow President Dale Wysong said. About 70 to 80 percent of tapes are usable when theyre brought out of archives, and that figure needs to go up now that companies face compliance laws, he said.

To help, cleaning units with built-in autoloaders debuted earlier this year, so users dont have to stand around feeding tapes, said Wysong, in Manassas, Va.

Early next year, Bow will sell systems with high-speed photography equipment. That gives users a record, stored on disk, that can in turn be sent over a network and analyzed, Wysong said. It was initially built for military and government use, he said.

Tissues that clean the media are made of filament polyester, with sapphire burnishing applied to the tapes oxide side, Wysong said. "Systems that are computer-controlled and monitored will launch in six months," he said.

Technologies in the prototype stage use vacuums to grip the tape more gently than mechanical methods can, and they will be commercially available in about a year, Wysong said.

Chris Loehr, vice president and manager of technical services for Local Oklahoma Bank, in Oklahoma City, has had problems recovering digital linear tape and advanced intelligent tape formats. "We were finding that the tapes—even if theres something tiny messed up with them—the job will just quit," Loehr said.