SIDF Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about SIDF:

What is SIDF?

SIDF, System Independent Data Format, is the media format used by a variety of tape and optical disk backup companies. The SIDF specification focuses on representing system data and file data and metadata for all types of operating systems and platforms in a media independent common format. SIDF also addresses the media labeling, media indexing and session indexing.

Backup products bearing the SIDF logo are certified to read and write tapes and optical disks using the international standard cross-platform removable media format, ECMA-208.

SIDF is the first major new file and label format approved by an international standards body in over a decade. Because fields are recorded in a tagged-field format, the SIDF tape standard is ideal for interchange between vendors, interchange between operating systems, and interchange between versions of operating systems as they change over time.

What is ECMA-208?

ECMA, the European Computer Manufacturer's Association, adopted SIDF in December, 1994. ECMA committee members include the largest manufacturers of computer systems in the industry: Apple Computer, Compaq, Digital, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Kodak, Sony and Sun. The ECMA specification for SIDF, ECMA-208, covers the foundation of SIDF. A few platform-specific attributes are noted in the "informative" section of the specification and considered SIDF Association extensions to ECMA-208.

The full ECMA-208 spec as published by ECMA is now available in HTML (2.6 Megabytes), Microsoft Word format (400 Kilobytes), rich text format (800 Kilobytes) and postscript (1.1 Megabytes).

What is ISO/IEC 14863?

ISO, International Standards Organization spec ISO/IEC 14863 is ECMA-208 with comments.

Voting for Approval were: Belgium, Brazil, China, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland, Korea (Republic of), New Zealand, Romania, Sovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA.

The USA added several comments to it's approval, suggesting clarifications and wording changes.

Japan alone voted to disapprove, citing as a technical reason that, in their opinion, existing standards were sufficient and adding another standard will be undesirable.

By virtue of sufficient majority, ISO/IEC 14863 passed.

ECMA will be responsible for addressing all comments.

What is the SIDF Association?

The SIDF Association is an official organization dedicated to promoting the growth of the tape and optical disk storage industry. The association is a non-partisan consortium comprised of storage industry leaders who contribute both administrative and technical resources to fulfill the committee's objectives.

The SIDF Association was formed to overcome the technological obstacles of data storage products in the computing industry. Historically, proprietary storage products have been incompatible across manufacturers' products. This incompatibility exists among a single manufacturer's products on different operating systems, and among product versions. The SIDF Association addresses cross-product compatibility, cross-platform inter-operability, and many other technical barriers which are obstructing industry growth.

Association members include Cheyenne Software, Colorado Memory Systems, Dantz Development, Emprise Technologies, Exabyte, Hewlett-Packard, Legato Systems, Mountain Network Solutions, NovaStor Corporation, Novell, Seagate Storage Management, Stac Electronics, Sytron, and Symantec. Prior members Arcada and Palindrome have merged to form Seagate Storage Management.

Which companies support SIDF?

Novell SBACKUP, Palindrome Backup Director, and Stac Electronics RemServe sponsor the SIDF Authorized Testing Lab for data interchange. Certified products demonstrate the ability to read and write data on a tape in full compliance with the published SIDF standard. Companies supporting SIDF include Atempo, Arcada, Cheyenne, Legato, and Symantec.

How can I get a copy of the spec?

Contact the SIDF Administrator, Andy Larsen,, VOICE: (847) 577-7200 or FAX: (847) 577-7276.

The spec can be viewed here, or you can download it (see below), or you can also request a free printed copy from

SIDF Documents via FTP:

There are several subdirectories containing such things as meeting minutes and the documentation (docs). Within the docs directory there are directories based on the various revisions document by date, 208_YYMM. As of this writing, the subdirectory 208_9412 contained the latest specification document:

For more information, see The ECMAnews home page

How can I participate in the discussions?

SIDF Association meetings are publicized through the internet using the same list-server used for the technical discussions, To subscribe send email to with the word "subscribe" as the subject. For help, set the subject to "help". To unsubscribe, send email to with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject.

Use: for posting content to all subscribers.
Use: for talking to the robot that manages the list.

ECMA TC-15 meetings take place 3 to 6 times a year at various locations in the US and Europe. For more information, contact the ECMA secretary general, Jan van den Beld at

Should I become a member of the SIDF Association?

Any interested party can become a member of the SIDF Association. Members pay dues to defray the administrative costs of the facilitator. Voting members are expected to attend SIDF meetings. Associate memberships and Enduser membershipsare also available. To receive a complete packet describing SIDF contact:

For SIDF-certified products

Copies of the official SIDF logo are available in TIFF, GIF, BMP, and PICT format at:

This page created and maintained by Jim Gast (

Updated November 2000