How to handle backup tapes

How to handle backup tapes

This article shows the best practices on how to handle LTO backup tapes in all its versions, avoiding problems, data loss, and damage.

Table of Contents

  1. Tape description
  2. Preliminary inspection
  3. Transport
  4. Storage
  5. Compatibility matrix: LTO Tape x Drive
  6. Cleaning Tape
  7. Best Practices

1. Tape Description

  1. LTO Cartridge Memory
  2. Label Area
  3. Write-Protector Switch
  4. Insertion Guide
  5. Cartridge Door
  6. Leader pin

The correct position of the leader pin.

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2. Preliminary inspection

All tapes must be inspected before being inserted into the backup unit or robot.

2.1. External Damage

In case there is any openings or damage to the cartage, the tape must not be utilized.

2.2. Spring test

Press the inner circle (as shown in the below image) and validate if the spring presents any resistance to the applied pressure. If that is not the case, the tape must be discarded.

2.3. Leader Pin

Must be inspected by sliding the tape side door (without touching the magnetic tape). If the pin is missing, loose or not in the correct position the tape must not be used.

2.4. Label

The LTO's identifying label should only be placed correctly aligned in the specified frontal area. No other type of label should be attached to the tape in no other place. Make sure the label is attached correctly and does not present tear or other issues that can present any risk of the tape getting stuck to the system (check below image).

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3. Transportation

  • Any transportation arrangements must provide protection against damage caused by falls and collisions
  • The tapes should always be transported inside their original case.
  • Appropriate suitcases must be used for transportation. Tapes have to be accommodated in a way to prevent any movement inside.
  • Suitcases suitable for transporting LTO tapes can be purchased from different venues.
  • Manually carry minimum amounts of tapes to avoid accidental drops.

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4. Storage

  • Storage should take place in order to prevent physical damage to the tapes;
  • Never leave the tapes on top of any hardware or system;
  • Before using the tape, allow it to cool to room temperature for 24 hours. Temperature and relative humidity must me noted.
  • Never leave the tape exposed to electromagnetic or electrostatic fields. This exposure can lead to data loss or make a new tape unusable.
  • Cleaning the storage location and pest control are also extremely important.
  • Do not expose the tape to moisture or direct sunlight.
  • Always transport or store tapes in the vertical orientation and within an appropriate case to avoid damaging them.

Table: Tape Storing Conditions

Environmental Factors


Operacional (Storage)

Arquivamento (Safe Room)



Between 10 °C and 45°C

Between 16 °C and 32 °C

Between 16 °C and 25 °C

Between -23 °C and 49 °C

Relative Humidity

10% to 80%

20% to 80%

20% to 50%

5% to 80%

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5. Compatibility matrix: LTO Tape x Drive

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6. Cleaning Tape

  • The cleaning tape has a life span of 50 uses, after this, it has to be replaced by a new one.
  • It is recommended that you use the auto-clean configuration (hardware or backup software) because this setting will run the cleaning tape in the preventive way.

7. Best Practices

  • Always inspect the tape before inserting into the drive or robot.
  • During an inspection, never touch fingers in the media. This can cause data loss and also transfer dirt into the unit.
  • Never apply labels out of the marked area. If the label is in the correct position but has damage, it must be replaced. Important: Never apply a label over another even if applied in the appropriate area. If you need to replace, remove an old one and apply the new one.
  • If the tape is dropped accidentally, it should be inspected. A fall might cause the release of the Leader Pin or damage the teeth of the lower gear.
  • Always pack the tape inside the case when not in use, always in an upright position and never stack them.
  • Never open the tape, because removing the screws and exposing it can damage it, and the assembly process is not simple.
  • Don't store tapes near magnetic fields, ex: x-ray, Electric power board, Transmission network, no breaks, etc.
  • Use only suitable cases with individual accommodation during transport, avoiding contamination by dust or debris. Never pack the tapes next to printers or copiers.
  • Allow a 24-hour for the tape to acomodate to the operating temperature and humidity before using new or stored cartridges.
  • Make sure all sides of the tape are dry before inserting it into the drive.
  • Never expose the tape directly to sunlight or humidity.
  • Eject media before turning off the drive.
  • Use PEPS / FIFO process to better balance the use of tapes, minimizing wear.
For more information, refer to Dell's LTO Media Handbook.
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Article ID: HOW12436

Last Date Modified: 12/07/2018 05:57 PM

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