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Do You Know Where Your Cartridge has Been?

  • With increasing pressure to reduce spending, more and more professionals are turning a critical eye toward their data storage costs.

    "It seems like the data media is the cheapest part of the equation and, in a way, it is," said Bob Daly, co-owner of Polyline. "But you are storing valuable information on this media and losing this data can be catastrophic for a company."

    You've probably seen the statistics before. According to 2001 Cost of Downtime Survey Results, it would take 19 hours and cost $1700 to retype 20 MB of sales data. Imagine if your data tape held something that can't be so easily replaced, such as an archive of audio masters or a backup of graphically-intensive publishing projects.

    Many companies are looking toward recycled or recertified data tapes as a cost saving measure. Business owners need to carefully consider the risks involved before taking this option.

    Care & Handling History

    When an authorized dealer buys from direct from the manufacturer, we know the product has been taken care of, from manufacturer to distributor to end-user. New tapes are sealed in shrink wrap in a factory clean room and stay sealed until they are delivered to your business.

    Companies that recertify tapes have the ability to reject tapes that were not shipped properly. They cannot, however, control how the tapes are stored prior to shipping. You don't know if the original owners continued to store the cartridges in the proper temperature and humidity, or if they just tossed the cartridges in a cardboard box until it was time to ship them to the recycler. History has shown that the most likely cause of a tapes' early life failure is handling damage.

    Scratches, Debris & Cross Contamination

    Data storage media can feature densities of more than 500 tracks on a half-inch wide tape. Tracks are not only smaller and closer together but also closer to the edges of the tape. Debris-caused errors that were recoverable in the 1980s and 1990s can cause catastrophic problems today.

    Small scratches on data tape may be able to operate for a short time. Over time, however, the scratches can deepen, possibly even kicking up debris from the tape itself. That debris can get lodged in the heads of your drive and contaminate every other tape that goes into it.

    Warranties & Protection

    Companies that have business continuity insurance policies covering equipment and data-loss incidents need to know whether their policy will cover loss of data on a backup that was performed with recycled media. Policies that typically cover the costs of losing data because of physical disaster or hardware or media failure often carry exclusions that specify that no coverage will be provided for loss due to excessive media wear.

    Business owners will also want to review the warranties of their backup equipment. Using recertified media may nullify their manufacturer's warranty.

    Bait & Switch

    While Polyline strongly discourages its customers from using recertified data media, a well-informed consumer has the right to weigh the risks and benefits of using recycled data tapes. A more insidious issue is the less-than-honest resellers who sell recertified tapes as new.

    "We've seen recycled tape that was sold as new product and repackaged in such a way that it looked identical to new media," said Daly. "That's why we always emphasize the importance of getting to know your distributor. It's important that customers feel confident that the product they receive is the product believed they were paying for."

    Protecting Yourself

    There are several things consumers can do to protect themselves from substandard products:
  • Buy your data media and packaging from a manufacturer's authorized distributor, such as Polyline.
  • When selecting a distributor, try calling the dealer on the phone first. You want a distributor that not only publishes a phone number, but can actually be reached. You also want a distributor that has media experts who can answer all your questions.
  • When selecting a distributor, check out how long the company has been in business and see what other products the company is currently offering. It is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a steady supply of substandard products. If someone is dealing in substandard media, they may be offering a variety of seemingly unrelated products to keep a steady income.
  • Finally, Daly reminds us, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a really good price on the Internet, don't jump at it -- call and ask questions.

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