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Research by Kroll Ontrack has found that nearly one-third of organizations have no insight into legacy data content, creating a potential compliance risk.

While IT departments are regularly asked to restore data from legacy tapes in response to compliance, investigation or litigation requests, not all are able to do so quickly, according to a global survey of 720 IT administrators by Kroll Ontrack. In fact, 30 percent of respondents do not have clear insight into what specific information is stored within their tape archive. Given the legal obligations and urgency often associated with such requests, organizations are putting themselves at risk for legal action or potential monetary penalties.

The study was conducted in the US, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Singapore and New Zealand.

The results demonstrate that IT administrators are regularly under pressure to access, identify and restore specific data from archive tapes, whether to support an internal investigation involving legacy custodian data, to respond to a regulatory request from a government agency, or as part of an ediscovery matter involving archived data. Almost a third (30 percent) of participants receive restore requests daily, weekly or at least monthly, and another 32 percent are asked to restore data from tapes at least multiple times a year. However, 22 percent of participants confirm that they cannot respond to restore requests as demanded by their organization and cannot consistently locate and access the desired data. 

“Most organizations are required by law to keep and maintain access to regulated data for a designated period of time,” explains Paul Le Messurier, programme and operations manager, Kroll Ontrack. “Therefore, maintaining access to legacy data and having the ability to quickly respond to data requests is crucial. Overstrained IT resources and the fact that nearly one-third of organizations struggle to even know or understand the data stored on their company archive or backup tapes is a real challenge and could put an organization at risk if it is unable to produce data in a timely manner.” 

When asked about the barriers to having clear insight into what information is contained in their tape archive, IT administrators cite the difficulty and time consumption associated with accessing or viewing tape content (43 percent), the fact that their organization no longer has the infrastructure in place (software or hardware) to access legacy tapes (24 percent), the expense of maintaining legacy infrastructure (18 percent) and damaged tapes (7 percent).

Additional key findings from the study include:

  • Backup protocols: Almost two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) archive data daily, but 38 percent do not. In fact, 13 percent back up their data only monthly or less, posing serious risks to their organization as they could lose data for a period of a month or even more and have no viable backup.
  • Legacy tape abundance and age: 34 percent of participants store more than 100 legacy tapes in their organization: that includes 12 percent who have more than 500 tapes. Further, over half (56 percent) of respondents manage tapes that are older than 5 years, while 34 percent manage tapes 5 to 10 years old, and 21 percent manage tapes which are older than 10 years. Even though the age of tape medium is not a certainty for tape damage or data loss, in combination with many read and write passes, poor handling during storage or the lack of the correct hardware or software can create serious issues.

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