Services Rid Users of Tape Storage Dangers

RenewData is the latest to offer services that help users move data off tape storage

October 4, 2007

4 Min Read
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Let's be blunt: Tape doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to e-discovery. While industry experts consider tape a viable alternative for enterprise backup, when it's time to retrieve stored data during litigation proceedings, tape's a no-go.

"You're basically asking for disaster if you rely on backup tapes for long-term preservation of business records and documents for search and retrieval," says Mark Diamond, CEO of IT consultancy Contoural. Very few companies, he says, have the facilities to recover specific items of data from 100 to 2,000 backup tapes -- especially with expensive lawyers waiting in the wings.

In an effort to avoid the kind of needle-in-the-haystack nightmare the above scenario conjures, organizations are turning to service providers for help. And, in turn, they're getting assistance in moving years' worth of data stored on tape to disk -- or deleting it altogether.

This week, for instance, RenewData, which specializes in legal archiving and e-discovery services, unveiled a Backup Tape Liability Management Service for users nationwide. RenewData loads customers' tapes into drives equipped with software that reads the data, reduces it by file de-duplication (more on that momentarily), and reserves what needs to be saved on disk -- or on tape for disaster recovery purposes only. RenewData will also destroy data that doesn't need to be saved.

If anyone has questions about the methods used to organize and/or destroy data, RenewData will offer court-ready evidence of its methodology and conformance to legal standards. A so-called Media Content Database Report, for instance, can be filed in response to specific aspects of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1).RenewData has specialized in legal data recovery services since its founding in 2001. The Austin, Texas-based company now has 225 employees and claims as customers "several hundred" law firms and other kinds of organizations that turn to its services in the course of preparing evidence for court or in response to regulatory requests. In all, the company says it processed over 18 petabytes of data in 2006.

"We help companies as they move data into an archive or from one generation to another generation of archive," says Jeff Overton, director of product management at RenewData. "We're focused on old, tape-resident documents... We help you be proactive in advance of litigation."

RenewData has relationships with a range of vendors to support its services, including Attenex, Index Engines, Isilon, and Symantec. The company also partners with the oddly named iCONECTnxt, a firm that enables it to offer Web-based legal evidence hosting as an ASP reseller. Despite all the partnerships, RenewData claims the value of its services comes mainly from its own software, not any of the individual tools it may use to help customers in various situations.

One of the value-adds RenewData claims is the ability to de-duplicate files and data using an algorithm developed as part of the U.S. NIST National Software Reference Library. This spec uses hash values to identify files that can be eliminated from legal evidence because they're simply binaries, executables for common applications, or ancillary programs that come with most apps. RenewData claims it adds its own filters based on user-specific criteria.

RenewData provides an archive of its own for customers, but the company's wares are also compatible with third-party email archiving software, such as EMC, Postini, and Symantec, and Overton says RenewData's software supports a range of other .pst ingestion formats as well.RenewData prices the service by the number of tapes a customer presents, how quickly they need the job done, and how much data inventory will result. The company's pitch is, apparently, that if users are willing to spend up to $3,600 per tape on manual retrieval, they'll spend 15 percent to 25 percent less per tape on RenewData's service. Translation: $540 to $900 per tape.

Other companies involved in e-discovery or data migration services are starting to offer similar services. Seagate's Recovery Services, for instance, include tape-based data organization and migration. Seagate has been offering the service through its acquisition of ActionFront Data Recovery Labs last year. Zantaz says it's offered a similar service since 2005. Even Iron Mountain says its data restoration services come with de-duplication capabilities similar to the ones RenewData offers. And Socha Consulting, an industry research firm specializing in e-discovery, lists more than 20 other firms on its site.

The vendors claim these services are in demand and growing fast, as users seek help with the demands that regulations and lawyers are placing on their ever-growing data stores. All indications are that this area will heat up even more.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Attenex Corp.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Index Engines Inc.

  • Iron Mountain Inc. (NYSE: IRM)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

  • Postini Inc.

  • RenewData Corp.

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • Zantaz Inc.

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