Frequently Asked Questions
What are data tapes used for?
Data tapes (also called "backup tapes", “media tapes” or "storage tapes") are a type of storage technology that utilizes magnetic tape to store data.
As you might have guessed, data tape is a fairly old storage technology, even older than computers. While in the past, data tapes were quite commonly used in personal computers, by the 1980s and 1990s, personal use of data tapes was largely abandoned in favor of more customer-friendly technologies like the CD-ROM (rather, DVD-ROM) and internet-based (cloud) storage.
However, large data tapes are still widely used within enterprises, especially as a part of the HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management) practices.
HSM dictates that data (files and assets) must be moved from more expensive to less expensive storage media, and data tapes offer lower cost per byte of storage when compared to other storage technologies, especially HDDs and SSDs.
Are data tapes still used?
Despite the introduction of newer storage technologies like NVMe SSDs, as well as the rising popularity of cloud storage solutions, data tape (also called "backup tape" or just "storage tape'') remains a popular storage technology.
The data tapes are considered the most cost-effective technology for storing large inactive data. Data tapes offer bigger storage capacity when compared to hard drives (even more, SSDs) at a similar price. The latest generation of LTO (Linear Tape-Open) Ultrium (a popular data tape model) can now hold a whopping 18 terabytes of data in just a single tape cartridge.
A data tape, however, has a slower transfer rate than hard drives and especially SSDs, so it is more geared towards storing inactive data rather than critical data used in day-to-day operations that require frequent data transfers.
Also, data tapes are relatively easier to maintain and are more durable/reliable than standard hard drives. They are relatively compact (easy to store and transport) and cool faster than other types of storage devices.
Where can I sell my old data tapes?
While your options may vary depending on the type of data tapes you are planning to sell, your location, or other factors, basically, you have three major options in selling your old data tapes or other types of IT equipment:
1. Finding your own buyers on peer-to-peer marketplaces (like eBay). In this option, you have the most freedom in setting your prices and terms in offering your old data tapes, but it can be difficult to find the right buyer willing to purchase the goods at your terms. Also, since data tapes are mainly used in enterprise usage, finding buyers in this type of marketplace can be quite challenging.
2. Listing your storage tapes on classified sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or even Amazon. It's typically easier to find buyers on these platforms when compared to on peer-to-peer marketplaces, but you'll have less freedom in setting your prices and terms.
3. Selling your goods to specialist IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) companies that will take the data tapes off your hands. The easiest and quickest option and you can still sell your old data tapes at a fair market price. If your data tape contains sensitive/regulated data, these ITAD companies will also perform secure data eradication for you.
How to clean data from media tapes?
The answer to this question will vary depending on what you are planning to do with the old media tapes.
If you are just planning to throw the tapes away, then a surefire way to clean data from these data tapes is via physical destruction. Tape shredding is considered the most cost-effective and secure method to physically destroy a backup tape, and when the magnetic tape is shredded properly, the data stored within will be unrecoverable.
However, if you are planning to shred your tapes, there are two main concerns to consider. The first is that if the shredded pieces aren't small enough, it's possible to recover the stored data. The second, is that the shredded tapes may contain wastes that are not environmentally friendly.
Another option if you want to physically destroy your hard drive is to incinerate the tape. However, incinerating your data tapes will release chemical materials into the atmosphere, which may be forbidden in your location. Check your local regulations before moving forward with this approach.
If you are planning to sell or reuse the data tapes, however, then obviously, physical destruction is not an option, and a viable option to just eradicate the stored data without physical destruction is via degaussing.
Degaussing is passing the backup tape through a powerful magnetic field (with a degausser tool). This will rearrange the polarity of particles within the tape, which will ultimately eliminate any resemblance of the previously recorded data, and hence, ensure that data recovery is impossible.
ITAD specialist companies like Big Data Supply Inc. offer secure tape shredding services and will also provide a Certificate of Data Destruction for each of your backup tapes.
Do I need to delete data from old data tapes before selling?
If your data tapes contain sensitive and/or regulated data, then you'd want to securely delete this data from old data tapes to protect your company's (and your customer's) data privacy.
Depending on your industry and/or location, securely deleting data from your data tapes may be a legal requirement. If you are selling your old data tapes without ensuring secure data eradication, you may risk facing legal repercussions, and you may also lose your organization's compliance with relevant regulations (i.e., PCI-DSS). If your data is recovered by hackers or cybercriminals, you may also risk ruining your reputation.
A viable and secure option is to sell used tape drives to specialist ITAD (IT Asset Disposition) companies.
ITAD companies like Big Data Supply inc. will ensure that the data stored within your data tapes are completely and securely eradicated. Certified/accredited ITAD companies will also give you a Certificate of Data Destruction after purchasing your data tapes.
Depending on your industry and local regulations, a Certificate of Data Destruction may be considered a legal requirement.