Dealing With Old Tape Media

Recycle Your Media Offers Environmentally Responsible Option

Over the course of many years, companies accumulate literally thousands of backup tapes. Many of them sit gathering dust for years until the day they need to be gotten rid of. So what do you do with them? Throwing them away is a dangerous business. Who knows who might happen across them and find customer records, Social Security numbers, credit card data, and more? Tapes must be disposed of responsibly.

When it comes to disposing of hundreds or even thousands of tapes, the only really safe way is to track what is done with each and every tape using serial numbers, providing written confirmation that 100% of the tapes have been destroyed or completely deleted. If business owners could find a way to ensure that occurred, they could rest easy knowing that tape data would never end up in the wrong hands.

Data Destruction Service

Recycle Your Media of Newport Beach, Calif., (877/798-2737; does just that via its data destruction service. Tapes are individually scanned, inventoried, and boxed for shipment, leaving a detailed receipt for all tapes removed, and secure transport with chain-of-custody records confirms status and delivery into Recycle Your Media’s secure facility to provide end-to-end documentation of all the steps followed along the transportation path.

“Tapes are individually numbered to help keep track of them from the get-go,” says Brian Musil, acquisitions manager for Recycle Your Media. “Tape owners are left with total assurance and documentation of a completed process for each and every tape.”

Such caution is required to eliminate the possibility of undetected interference with the deletion or destruction process. Recycle Your Media has to gain the confidence of existing and prospective customers so they are willing to hand over their confidential information.

Musil takes the entire cycle very seriously for good reason. According to IT analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group, lost or stolen data can cost a company anywhere from $25 to $150 per record. If a backup tape gets into the wrong hands, and it contains 1 million records, that equates to as much as $150 million. That’s not including other costs such as damage to reputation, loss of business, stock declines, and possible legal action.

Alternative Approaches

There are alternatives to the in-depth approach taken by Recycle Your Media. Some companies simply pack up all their tapes, haul them offsite, and burn them in an incinerator. Others mail them to another facility for erasure. There are even stories of firms that shred their tapes in the company parking lot, according to Musil. The problem with any of these methods is accountability. There really is no way to know—and prove to management, stakeholders, or perhaps prosecuting lawyers—that one or more tapes did not end up in the wrong hands.

“You have to verify [that] who you are doing business with is taking care of data disposal in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” says Frances O’Brien, a Gartner research vice president. “There are cases on record of companies hired to destroy data that just dumped it at the side of the road or in a landfill, and the customer then had to pay to get things cleaned up.”

While some suppliers physically destroy the tape, Recycle Your Media does not, in most cases. Instead, the company deletes everything with manufacturer-approved processes that completely erase the tapes so there is not the slightest trace of information remaining on them. According to Musil, the whole purpose of doing this is to minimize landfill usage, cut down on pollution, and support the environment.

The business model is simple: Recycle Your Media buys any tapes that are no longer needed by companies around the country. In exchange, it takes care of the delicate business of information destruction and does it in a way that provides ample evidence to outsiders. Recycle Your Media then sells the tapes to other users or destroys them if they have no remaining value.

“Our purpose of recycling media is to resell the reusable tape cartridge after we have securely and completely eradicated all of the data on the tape,” Musil says. “We usually purchase the tape media directly from the company that originally used the tape for backup purposes.”

An Example

Musil offers an example of how this works. Let’s say Recycle Your Media pays $10 per tape for a used tape that is in the LTO-2 media format. It might cost Recycle Your Media $2 per tape to perform an audit onsite and give a full report of chain of custody and evidence of destruction. That cost is then deducted from the value, and the customer would then receive $8 per tape. Thus, popular tape formats have an obvious value proposition.

“Bulk tape destruction creates potential security issues in the logistics of moving and handling large batches of tapes: Who has the tapes? Which tapes do they have? Have they all been destroyed? When? Every tape?,” Musil says. “The solution is certified data destruction. We can handle 100 tapes or 100,000.”

Written by Drew Robb