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Backup Tapes & Fireproof Cabinets

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Question: 
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?
Answer: 

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 BankersOnline.com 6/2/03

First published on 06/02/2003

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