At Sipi Asset Recovery, data is a central part of what we do. Specifically, how we help our clients protect their brand, ensure that data is securely destroyed at the right time, and keep costs low while returning as much value as we can.
But the storage landscape is changing, and it’s changing fast. This means that companies are encountering new challenges when it comes to how those drives can and should be handled, from data security to end-of-lifecycle destruction.
Have you heard the term areal density? It’s what some might call the “holy grail” to companies that produce computer storage products such as hard drives. From a high level, this refers to the quantity of bits (information) that can be stored on a given surface area or volume of a storage device. In the pursuit of ever higher data storage capabilities as well as maintaining or increasing drive performance, new technologies have emerged.
SSD (Solid-state drive) and SSHD (Hybrid solid-state hard drives)
SSD’s have been around for decades – yet they continue to evolve as we speak. The first SSD was a 20 MB (that’s MEGAbyte) drive that sold for about $1,000 USD. Since then, it’s commonplace to see 128GB, 256GB, and higher capacity solid state drives in consumer devices – with capacities of individual drives in enterprise or data server environments easily surpassing 10TB. Some manufacturers, such as Viking and Seagate, have produced or are producing 50TB+ capacity SSD’s.
Hybrid drives, around since 2007 or so – combine technology from traditional hard disk drives utilizing magnetic storage with solid-state drives that use integrated circuits. The goal here is to maximize the balance between speed, storage space, and cost. However, it also means that the SSHD contains both an HDD and SSD component in one device.
MAMR (Microwave-assisted magnetic recording) drives
MAMR drives, as we’ll refer to them, employ technology that is under development. Manufacturers such as Western Digital are planning to ship drives utilizing MAMR technology as soon as 2019.
To simplify a very complicated engineering challenge: MAMR drives use something called a spin-torque oscillator. This is used to create a microwave field, increasing the ability of the drive to record at higher densities without becoming less reliable.
HAMR (Heat-assisted magnetic recording) drives
Another approach to increasing the storage of magnetic storage mediums is HAMR technology, which is being heavily touted by manufacturer Seagate. Seagate states that they are already shipping drives with this technology to customers for “integration tests,” and are seeing great results.
These HAMR drives are already achieving up to 2 TB per-square-inch areal densities. The key to HAMR is the laser, which introduces the “heat” part of the equation. The new media used in HAMR drives that allows for the smaller data bit size requires this. A laser light on the recording head heats up incredibly small spots on a HAMR drive’s media, enabling the bit to be written more easily. All of that happens in about a nanosecond.
What are the risks and challenges of these new drive technologies?
For any company using data storage (all of them) these new, higher density storage formats present a variety of risks and challenges in terms of security and safe destruction. Tried and true methods of wiping and destroying hard drives are quickly becoming “table stakes,” as well as simply being ineffective methods for these new drives. Here’s why.
Degaussing isn’t always effective
Degaussing is a common step in securely wiping or destroying hard disk drives involving a strong magnetic field that “scrambles” the data on the magnetic medium to the point it cannot be recovered or read. Degaussing is a very fast and efficient process.
However, degaussing doesn’t address the solid state components of SSHD drives – and is simply ineffective for pure SSDs. Furthermore, degaussing is ineffective on drives that utilize HAMR or MAMR technology – in other words, it can’t be used on the upcoming wave of future drive storage.
Destruction or shredding becomes less valuable with ultra-high capacity drives
Well, then we’ll just shred the drive then! It can’t survive that… right?
The issue presented by the new wave of storage drives is in terms of the raw density they offer. Even if the drive is shredded or destroyed, the ultra-high capacity and small bit size of HAMR and MAMR drives complicate things. With a significantly larger areal density, more data than ever before can remain on a tiny shred. Furthermore, decreasing shred size to reduce this problem given these higher densities is time-consuming and impractical.
Finally, with SSHD style drives, the SSD and HDD components must both be dealt with to ensure the drive is securely destroyed.
Data wiping with ultra-high capacity – another challenge
Perhaps a bit more straightforward is the issue of data wiping. Data wiping is a necessary industry standard, but with HAMR and MAMR drives, the data wipe times will increase even further than they are at today [PR: we should say something about how long a data wipe takes per TB, as an example?]
This makes a failed wipe even more costly to your business as well.
How to securely destroy UHC HAMR and MAMR drives?
There was once a time where there was no digital data, although it’s hard to imagine. During that time, if one wanted to securely destroy a document, what more certain way was there than simply reducing it to ash and cinder?
Emerging high capacity magnetic storage media -- well, that’s another story. You can’t simply drop a HAMR drive into a fireplace or smash it with the non-acronym type of hammer and rest assured that it’s securely taken care of.
Plus, the technology housed in them makes traditional data destruction methods either completely ineffective, unnecessarily risky, or extremely costly. What better way to destroy these drives than changing the state of their Earthly matter at the molecular level? The process is neither simple nor straightforward and requires a unique mix of expertise and resources to execute properly and at scale.
What new storage technology means for the future of secure destruction
There’s been no time where data security is of greater importance than it is now – meaning that it’s every company’s responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure compliance and 100% data security.
Making that even more challenging are this new wave of high capacity drives, which leverage exciting new technologies designed to increase data density as much as possible. This higher density makes destroying those data storage mediums in a secure manner much more difficult.
The experienced team at Sipi Asset Recovery can help at every step of the way, including the unique ability of Sipi FIREMELT™ to reduce even the most complicated storage medium to a molten liquid. This ensures safe, 100% secure, affordable, and scalable data destruction that will grow with your business – and the constant evolution of storage technology.