What Hillary Clinton Can Teach Us about Backup Tapes and Archiving

Backup tapes are often the ignored child in the data governance and eDiscovery world. It has been widely understood that tapes are burdensome and expensive to collect data from and are built only for the remote chance of needing them for disaster recovery and not legal purposes.

This week Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit is expected to order the review of emails from backup tape archives of Hillary Clinton’s email server. This will once again put backup tapes front and center in a high profile event.

When Clinton implemented an email server to control and manage her correspondence, her team hired Platte River Networks to host this environment. This is a third-party organization that has procedures in place to protect data and ensure it can be restored in the case of a disaster such as a flood or fire.

When the server was set up and Platte River engaged, all copies of Clinton’s email were captured by standard backup procedures and copied on backup tapes or disk based backups. This standard “IT” process is a snapshot of what actually happened and it is secure and tamper proof, and represent the factual record of the past.

In the case of Clinton and her email, these backup tapes are much more reliable than the records stored on local servers and hard drives that are accessible by many and easily spoiled (remember Lois Lehrner). So as Judge Walton knows, when push comes to shove, lets go to the backup tapes to understand what really happened.

Despite backup tapes having a reputation of being inaccessible and burdensome, information management company Index Engines makes them as available for collection as online records. Index Engines can quickly scan these tapes, index the contents of the email, and make it searchable and accessible without the use of complex third-party software or risk of corrupting the data.

“Data never dies,” said Tim Williams, CEO of Index Engines. “All modern organizations have robust data protection processes that make copies of everything and archive it on backup media to ensure it can survive a disaster. In cases like this, those copies represent the factual truth. They can’t be changed after the fact.

“We’ve assisted in countless legal cases where data was thought to be long gone, yet with a simple search of backup tapes using our software, the ‘smoking gun’ is quickly found.”

Organizations need to include these backup tapes in their data governance strategies and ensure they preserve and secure or properly remediate sensitive content before they are forced to produce it.


To learn more about securing your organization’s legacy tape data, contact info@indexengines.com.