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Backup Tapes & Fireproof Cabinets

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We store our backup tapes in the same type of fireproof cabinet that we use for loan files. Does this provide adequate protection for our tapes?

One of the great misnomers in physical security is the term "fireproof." Bankers will tell you that the bank's loan documents are stored in a "fireproof" cabinet. Not entirely true.

Most "fireproof"cabinets are actually "fire resistant" or "fire-rated." This means that the cabinet will protect its contents for a certain period of time based on the temperature of the fire.

Look at the label on vaults and cabinets. This is normally a rating made by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). What is the rating of the cabinet you are inspecting? Is it a Class 350 or Class 150? What's the difference? 200 degrees Fahrenheit and possible destruction to contents of the cabinet in a fire.

For example, in a fire where the temperature reaches 1700º Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a Class 350 cabinet will reach 350º F, suitable for paper but disastrous for magnetic media such as tapes, diskettes, CD-ROMs, etc. Think of putting a backup tape in your oven heated to 350º. Likewise, in a fire where the temperature reaches 1700º F, the temperature inside a Class 150 cabinet will reach 150º F----suitable for magnetic media. So, as you can see, all fire-resistant cabinets are not created equal.

Simply remember a good rule of thumb, 350 for paper, 150 for magnetic media.

In addition, always avoid a "single point of failure" and make sure that your most current data is physically separated by a reasonable distance (e.g., backup tapes stored at a branch a few miles from the data center).

First published on 6/2/03

First published on 06/02/2003

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