When I first entered the world of managing teams that provide, data backup services for open systems, the options for data protection were very limited. Basically, all primary data was backed up to tape, or ‘virtual’ tape, then promptly packaged up and sent offsite to satisfy company ‘disaster recovery’ requirements. It was not unusual to receive requests to back up data on tape for 7+ years (or my favorite, “infinite”), depending on the compliance rules for the data type being protected. Backup rules were simple: Back up everything, every day, and keep it forever. OK, not always forever, but you get the point. Imagine how quickly the mountains of tape piled up in offsite storage warehouses.
Fast forward 10-15 years, and now data is exploding in data centers. The Information Technology teams and business units that created the ‘rules’ for retention in data centers years ago have either retired, or moved to different companies. Thousands of old tapes sitting in offsite warehouses today were created on infrastructure that may or may not be in place in your data center today for restore purposes. The sheer volume of data that is produced today begs the question, do you need to keep all your backup data for long retention periods, or just some of the data for long term legal reasons? Is keeping data for longer terms a liability for litigious action, or a protection against it? Is your old data on tape encrypted (not likely given that encryption services were not offered years ago)? Should it be encrypted under today’s standards? Who makes data retention decisions in your organization? How long is long enough? Three months? One year? How long is too long? The questions can go on and on, so I’m sure you get the point.
Regardless of who is making these decisions, or the reasons for keeping data for long term on tape, the point is, make sure you know what those reasons are, otherwise you may be writing large checks for long term data protection that may not be needed, or worse yet, even usable at the end of the retention period. Meet with your business owners and review your backup policies periodically. Review your old tape data to determine if it still needs to be retained. Ensure that you’re using the latest technology available to protect your data at the right price point. There are many options available out there for protection that will meet or exceed your requirements, and potentially save you money as well. Bottom line, don’t be shy or overwhelmed by your environment. Start asking the hard questions and begin making smart decisions about what to keep and how long to keep it. You’ll be surprised at the opportunity for savings.