The lifespan of a tape cartridge may surpass twenty years or over 5,000 “load/unload” cycles, an impressive result for a magnetic media. Even if the numbers look so huge, tape cartridges need to be maintened correctly or they’ll wear out much much faster, even in a few months.
There are few rules to follow to protect your tape cartridges and their precious content: the data.
1. Keep them in their plastic cases
Dust and dirt will ruin your tape. Keeping them in their plastic cases, when they’re not in the drive, will protect them. Don’t take them directly with your bare hands and maintain the environment clean. They should not be allowed to lay flat.
2. Temperature and humidity
Tape cartridges will last longer if stored in a stable cold and dry environment. Maintain the temperature below 23° Celsius degrees and the humidity under 70%. Tapes must be protected from direct sunlight and hot air.
3. Magnetic fields
Magnetic fields can corrupt data written on a tape. Electric motors or old-school display produce strong magnetic fields. Store your tapes far away from other electronic gear, better if in a metal shelf with doors: the Faraday cage will isolate them from magnetic fields.
4. Don’t move them often
The lesser you move a tape cartridge, the longer will be its lifespan. When you move your tapes to a new facility give them the time (24h) to be acclimated to the new environment.
5. Check the data periodically
It’s a best practice and it could save you day in case of disaster.