A Note on Tape Age and Wear:
Media tapes commonly have a long shelf life. Their ability as a cold storage media is one of the major reasons people pick tapes. Often, tapes are written over, and over again. This can affect them mechanically. Luckily MWTS can read the small RFID chip on each tape to review its usage history. The report includes retries and tape errors. When tapes get old and accumulate wear and tear, they can begin to produce these errors. This can be a sign that the integrity is starting to go.
Please see an interesting article published by Dell
A cleaning tape does not necessarily remove material from the tape reader like a VHS or earlier LTO standard of tape, modern LTO tapes often do little more than run past the reader to give the drive activity. An LTO cleaning tape will reset all of the factory internal registers and optimize the performance based on wear. A true cleaning may require a dismantling of the drive entirely, and skillfully treating the drive.
A common fault among tape library and tape drive users is the airflow through a tape drive, drawing dust and other contaminants through the drive and potentially depositing them on loaded tapes, or the tape read/write components. In areas with high contaminants in the air, this can be an especially troublesome issue. The shelf life of you media will be reduced.
The tape rides 0.02 microns above the head, smoke particles can be found in sizes up to 8 microns, and with 2400ft of tape inside an LTO tape, the chance that your media can run through a stray particle of debris is very high. The chance it will be transferred is too very likely, and a backup with multiple passes can quickly move debris around from media to head and collect particles on the head elements.
Is it time for you buy new media?
Many factors should be considered when thinking about media replacement. Try answering the following:
How often you use the media?
If you use the media a lot, like frequent backups that overwrite, you should consider replacing that media. Each tape only has so much life back and forth. Tapes can collect debris the longer they are used and the more hours they are exposed. Old and dirty tapes could put a lot of strain on your machinery.
How important is the data?
If you’re only storing regular backups and you’re not finding you need to clean your drive often, then maybe you don’t need to be so on top of your backups. On the other hand, you may be storing important data, that may not be backed up somewhere else, are you comfortable archiving that data on a tape that may have been exposed to contaminates and overwritten a hundred times before taking your data?