3. Preventing Information Loss: Multiple Tape Copies

As already discussed, this report is primarily concerned with preventing magnetic tape from degrading prematurely. However, it is worth mentioning the use of multiple copies as another strategy for preventing loss of information. Recorded information can be lost because the medium on which it is recorded has deteriorated to the point of being unplayable. Information can also be lost if the tape on which it is recorded disappears (misplaced, stolen, destroyed by fire or flooding, and so forth). Both types of loss can be prevented by maintaining more than one copy of the information and storing all copies in separate locations.

If funds are available, it is preferable to maintain both access storage and archival storage of important information. As the names imply, the access environment keeps the recording readily available for playback. Archive storage involves a separate environment designed to maximize the longevity of the tape. Refer to Section 5.2: Storage Conditions and Standards for a more detailed discussion of these storage conditions.

The quality of care a magnetic tape receives should be commensurate with the perceived value of the information contained on the tape. Refer to Section 4.1: Tape Costs and Longevity for more information. In reality, a library or archive may not have the budget, the personnel, the time, or the space to maintain two copies of all of the recordings in a video or audio tape collection. In this case, the value and use requirements of individual tapes in the collection should be assessed and prioritized. Those tapes considered the most valuable and most likely to be used should be duplicated and the originals should be placed in an archive environment. If duplicates of information are disallowed, some or all of the collection could be placed in an archive, but this would greatly limit access to the information. In instances where the information is considered extremely valuable, it may be worthwhile to maintain several copies of the original in the archive along with the original tape.