Another storage security misadventure: Secure your backup tapes!

Now that it's the start of January, I probably should be looking at the storage excitement that 2006 has already brought us, such as what's happening at Storage Decision and CES in Las Vegas. But 2005 went out with a bang that's impossible to ignore.

The bang I'm referring to is not from the traditional year-end fireworks (I wish), but from the latest shocking news in storage security -- or rather the lack thereof. As you may have heard, one of the Marriott companies, Vacation Club International, admitted just before year's end that it had lost track of backup tapes containing sensitive data of more than 200,000 customers.

It's only fair to clarify that according to the company press release, only those customers involved in Marriott's timeshare vacation program should be affected by a possible disclosure. So if you happened to be only a hotel guest, your personal data should not be at risk.

I refer to this as a "possible disclosure," because thieves rarely leave a note about their actions, and a month-long investigation didn't reach any conclusive evidence that the tapes were stolen or data on them misused.

For its part, Marriott is still suggesting that the tapes could simply be lost, and noting that the tapes "require specialized equipment to access content." The company is taking predictable damage-control steps, including sending notes and offering complimentary credit-monitoring service to affected customers, and promising that measures have been taken so that similar mishaps won't happen again. Yeah, yeah, yeah... we've heard that before.

Doesn't this have the sound and feel of a recurring nightmare? How many more embarrassing news articles will we see before everyone realizes that putting sensitive customer data on unprotected media (were those tapes encrypted?) is a no-no?

If you acknowledge the problem and are looking for backup security alternatives, fret not: My inbox is full of advice (especially in the wake of similar incidents) on how to remove or reduce the risk of data disclosure from tapes.

Avamar Technologies, for example, suggests that you can eliminate tapes from your backup procedures using its line of Axion products to cover every aspect of data protection. Or you can look at the services offered by companies such as Arsenal Digital Solutions , and transfer data between your datacenters and a remote vault safely and elegantly via high-speed connections.

These are just two examples of the many data protection options that don't necessarily rely on the tape-backup paradigm. That's not to say tape backups should be eliminated; they're still a respectable, if antiquated, approach but should not be used as a panacea for every data protection need -- especially when your customers' personal information is at risk.

Perhaps it's not too late to make a resolution for 2006: If you are involved in your company's data backups and reading about the Marriott misadventure sent a shiver down your spine, promise to review your approach to data protection ASAP.

Your customers and your company will be grateful. Drive your data safely.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mario Apicella

Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?