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Setting the record straight on recertified media

Hesitant about using "used" media? This expert insists that not everything you hear about used media is true.

What you will learn from this tip: That not everything you've heard about used media is true.

Misconceptions abound about the reliability, security and cost effectiveness of recertified media. However, data center professionals are quickly starting to realize that many of these dated misconceptions are no longer valid.

Misconception #1: No matter what you call it, all recertified media are created equal – and none of it is good.

Data centers in the market for recertified media encounter terms like "used," "recycled," "reconditioned," "reclaimed" and "remanufactured." But there is no consensus about what each of these terms means and there have been no parameters established to ensure quality.

To this end, many purchasers of this so called "recertified" media have had bad experiences. There are unscrupulous vendors who buy used media and immediately resell it – without employing proper methods to clean the tapes or eliminate the data saved by the previous user.

However, there is a class of vendors that truly "recertifies" media. These vendors use an authentic approach – relying upon multi-step processes and thorough quality controls – to match methods employed in the 100 percent certification of newly manufactured media. As a result, recertified media often meets or exceeds industry standards for new tapes.

Misconception #2: Recertified media are not consistently reliable.

Because industry experience with "used" media has often been unsatisfactory, data center professionals assume that recertified tapes are unreliable.

Vendors that specialize in truly recertified media, however, recognize they must be able to ensure that the media they offer is as good as – if not better than – new media. The key to accomplishing this can be found in the degaussing and testing procedures they employ. State-of-the-art software developed by the leading vendors produces recertified tapes that meet or exceed acceptable error-level criteria. Improper degaussing and testing, on the other hand, results in tapes with functionality and security issues, like short archival life, low signal-to-noise ratios and damage from mishandling or improper storage.

The leading providers of recertified media also test used cartridges on the original manufacturers' drives, and perform evaluations to ensure that error levels fall into an acceptable range. Many vendors are able to offer recertified media that are actually more reliable than new products, since they test each individual tape full length. New media, on the other hand, is typically batch-tested.

Misconception #3: Recycling media raises a host of security issues.

Many data center professionals are concerned that proprietary information about products or plans, secure data like credit histories or reports, or confidential material like medical records may be compromised when media is recertified. These fears are valid if a vendor fails to take the proper steps to securely transport and store the media before it is processed, or completely eliminate previous data before reselling. For instance, some vendors use only weak degaussers that do not destroy all data on the tape. Others cut corners by erasing only the first portions of the tape – which are the sections most commonly accessed – instead of the full length. These vendors may refer to the media they provide as reworked, reconditioned or remanufactured.

Truly recertified media is subjected to a high oersted degausser for the full length of the tape. Plus, they make appropriate accommodations for media that require special handling. When dealing with high capacity DLT tape, for example, these vendors will use equipment with a high degaussing force and pass the cartridge through multiple times to ensure complete erasure. The media is then recertified, whereby a write/read is performed full length to determine tape quality.

Recertified media yields many benefits

When the factors that have contributed to these misconceptions have been addressed, data centers soon realize that recertified media offer a wide range of benefits. The most obvious of these benefits is a significant cost savings. Industry experts estimate that buying recertified media can reduce tape expenses by 25 to 50 percent or more, depending on the type of tape used and age of the system.

In addition, the existence of a viable recertification market means companies can sell surplus media to a recertification vendor, and turn these idle resources into revenue. A data center may migrate to a new system, for instance, leaving it with boxes and boxes of obsolete cartridges than could be a valuable resource to other centers that are still using the previous system.

Finally, the use of recertified media offers data centers all the advantages of participating in other recycling programs. Data centers can enhance their overall recycling objectives by putting tapes – which are oil- and chemical-based – back into good use in the marketplace.

Without a doubt, data centers must be cautious about purchasing media that don't meet recertification standards for reliability and security. However, to overlook this resource entirely is not a good business decision. Truly recertified media – cleaned, degaussed and tested by reputable vendors with experience in new and used media – can prove to be a valuable resource that contributes to the cost effectiveness of a well-managed data center.

About the author Marvin Howell is the vice president of media sales for Graham Magnetics, a division of Atlanta-based eMag Solutions, an electronic discovery company specializing in accessing data from a variety of archived sources.

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