New Threats to Data Ignore NAS Storage Systems
As a society we have this belief that digitally stored data is functionally eternal. When NASA recorded data from a Mars rover and stored it on old tape, when companies send essential legacy data for offsite storage, when we migrate non-essential files from a home NAS storage system to CD-ROMs and DVDs for safekeeping, there is the assumption that it will be there in five or ten years when it’s needed. But as widespread computer ownership nears its third decade, more entities are finding that physical degradation is a major problem. No matter how well a business manages the data in its SAN storage, the risk of an old drive dying remains.
Running the headline “from Bits to Dust,” Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek blog took a look at the issue of the various modes of data loss and what they means for individuals and businesses. The fundamental reality that everyone must come to grips with is that current storage technology has a shorter lifespan than we used to believe. Tape from the 1970s and 1980s may already be beyond repair. CDs and CD-ROMs can reach complete failure conditions in as few as five years, and five to ten years is the accepted life if this medium according to manufacturers. Removable storage is often exposed to moisture and magnetic radiation that causes sometimes-irreparable damage.
This reality should have one immediate impact on the business world hoping data removed from its NAS storage systems and SANs is safe; it needs to reexamine the storage and physical nature of all essential older data and assess the risk of loss due to physical degradation. Tape is unreliable, even newer tape, unless fail-safes are in place. Hard drives in tier three storage need to be monitored closely and protected. So the message is old in some ways. Redundancy of essential data is essential.
There are other ways we are losing our data as well. Storage formats like the floppy are increasingly difficult to access, even when they are in perfect health. And the process of continual data migration is far from infallible. Even using the newest technology, companies across an array of industries have begun reporting remarkable data integrity compromises just from the process of transferring it from one drive or storage medium to another. When these losses are not caught before the original drive is overwritten, the loss is as permanent as when a CD corrodes. There are software solutions that improve fidelity, but the risk is there. Again, the lesson should be caution and redundancy when dealing with mission-critical data, whether it’s financial records, customer account information, or the chemical structure of pharmaceuticals.
Data loss is a little bit scary, partly because we’ve been led to believe by manufacturers and the drum of the digital age that digital conversion is the secret to immortality. Convert a book, scan a photo, backup an email, and you will be able to access it forever. But from the smallest home computer user to enterprise level NAS storage systems, the picture is much more complex and vulnerable. Maintaining essential data requires data redundancy strategies be applied to archived data just as it is to current, mission-critical files.