When was the last time you used a floppy disk? 

It may not seem long ago that a computer would have a floppy drive, but the reality is this technology has long been made redundant. Floppy disk technology was first introduced 50 years ago, when “Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night was the number one single in the US, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version) made its big-screen debut.


Where have all the floppy disks gone?

Surprisingly, the floppy disk isn’t quite extinct. It is still in use, though very rarely.  In fact, some Boeing 747-400 planes require 3.5-inch floppy disks to update the navigational databases. In many of Tape Ark’s projects we regularly find that floppy disks in need of liberation still exist in companies with long data retention policies have had to archive their legacy data collections in physical storage facilities. This “archiving” or “box and forget” approach has created a problem for today’s data storage custodians as their collections continue to grow over time, and even the metadata about the information stored on the floppy is limited or non-existent, and no one knows what the data is and this leads to the decision to just keep on paying the storage costs. Interestingly, if you copy the data off of your floppy disk and put it in the cloud it will cost you 0.0000009 of a cent per month.  That is about 1 million months of storage for 1 dollar!

You can’t value what you have if you don’t even know what you have it

In its day, the floppy disk was a big player for a short period (thanks to Moore’s Law), but today the media is at a standstill.  Given the floppy disk was the “USB Hard Disk” of its time it was used for primary data storage as well as for backup and data transfers between computers. For many organizations that are required to retain their legacy media collections, the floppy disk contains an array of historical data such as installations of old applications and files that span multiple disks or proprietary data that you can never be re-acquired. 

No matter how you look at this technology or others of the same ilk like DDS1, DLTs, and earlier LTOs, if you have it in your archive media collection and you are required to retain its data, then data migration is a priority. 

When to migrate at risk storage media

To assess the risk of data degradation across a media collection, Tape Ark applies a unique risk profile to each tape media type using a rating scale between 1–10; 1 being low risk of tape degradation and data loss, and 10 being high risk. The tape media collection is assessed from high to low risk and depending on an organization’s objectives for their media collection, recommendations are put forward as to how best to minimize the risk of degradation, tape obsolescence, and orphaning.

When evaluating a media collection, Tape Ark applies a rating to assess the risk profile of the tape media for data loss:

  • The media manufacturer.
  • Year of media manufacturing and age of media.
  • Media end-of-life and volume of Passes (the number of times the media can safely pass over the drive heads before their condition deteriorates).
  • Any known historical media and drives issues or problems during its period of use.
  • Does the drive or device that can read or write the media still exist or is it the end of life. (If there is no one manufacturing the devices, then you have a sure sign that the media needs liberation)
  • Our unique expertise in reading and restoring data from legacy media and hard drives.

What to do if you have floppy disks as part of your tape media collection?

We strongly advise taking immediate action if you have or think you have floppy disks as part of your tape media collection. As a first step, we highly recommend undertaking a Comprehensive Media Audit (CMA). A low-cost, low-touch solution uniquely designed to provide a detailed assessment of your recording media collection so informed decisions can be made on the relative importance and value of the data, and how best to treat your collection to align with strategic business objectives and retention policy requirements.

The in-depth examination provides accurate information to make decisions:

  • An accurate count of all the media and types in the collection.
  • Analysis of the volume of data for each media is then used to determine an accurate cloud footprint of the collection and the necessary cloud storage requirements.
  • A risk profile of each media type enables enhanced media sequencing for priority processing to avoid exposure to data loss, tape obsolescence and orphaning.
  • Identification of duplicated media items to avoid ingesting multiple copies to the cloud.

We all understand the power of data. For today’s data custodians of yesterday’s data, now can look beyond and see the possibilities of that data in use, not just in storage. And the question of whether to retain the data or not can now easily be answered.