Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Best practices for handling LTO cartridges

LTO (linear tape open) cartridges require special care to protect the high density media. This article discusses best practices for ensuring that improper storage and handling does not shorten the length of the cartridge's life or damage cartridges such that they cause other problems in the library.

General Media Handling:

  • Stack no more than six cartridges at a time when carrying them outside of their individual plastic cases.
  • Never throw or drop cartridges, even when they are still inside the shipping material.
  • Do not place items on top of a cartridge, as the weight could deform the cartridge.
  • Never allow the leader block and tape inside the cartridge to touch or be exposed to airborne particulates.
  • The barcode label must be affixed only to the label slot (immediately to the right of the write-protect switch). Do not place the label elsewhere, or put other labels on the outside of the cartridge.
  • If the barcode label falls off, do not place the tape in a drive until the label has been replaced. Otherwise, residual adhesive on the cartridge could contaminate the drive mechanisms.
  • Do not place dirty or damaged cartridges in the library or drives.
  • Keep cartridges away from magnetic fields in excess of 8000 A/m.
  • Do not degauss a cartridge. Degaussing erases the servo tracks on the tape, rendering the cartridge unusable.

Operating Environment:

The following environmental specifications should be observed:

  • Temperature: 10°-45° C (50°-113°F)
  • Humidity (non-condensing) 10-80%
  • Maximum Wet Bulb temperature: 26°C (79°F)

Dropped Cartridges:

If a cartridge is dropped, the media has most likely been damaged even if the cartridge shows no physical harm after a visual inspection. Cartridge edges might be damaged, or internal mechanisms (such as the leader pin or braking mechanism within the cartridge) might have been jostled out of alignment. Load or unload errors will occur when a cartridge has a misaligned leader pin.

In order to protect the integrity of the data, copy the data from a dropped cartridge onto a known good cartridge and then retire the cartridge that was dropped.

Receiving New Cartridges:

  • Inspect new cartridges upon arrival for obvious damage.
  • Do not use tapes that look like they may have been damaged in shipment.
  • Allow tapes to acclimate to the data center's temperature and humidity for at least one hour before you use them, preferably longer if they were exposed to extremes in temperature or humidity in transit.

Transportation of Cartridges:

When shipping cartridges from one site to another, make sure the media is packed sufficiently to protect the tapes from shock, vibration, and extremes in temperature and humidity.

  • Cartridges should be packed in individual containers. If containers are not available, use padded, moisture-proof, polyethylene bags.
  • Pack cartridges snugly in a rigid box with impact protection.
  • Pack cartridges on their edges rather than stacking them on top of each other.

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