3 Reasons why tape should be included in your DR strategies

A IT engineer / technician / consultant insert a backup tape in a backup robot in a rack. Shot in a data center with blade servers and disk enclosures.

Repost – I wrote this article on LinkedIn and it got picked up by IDM.

By Andrew Ysasi

I frequently hear chatter about using tape technology online, at conferences, and even in meetings that can be summed up in one statement, “Tape is dead.  It is old technology and the Cloud, or an appliance, can do it all.” 

For those of you who disagree, I’m with you.  However, the Cloud is here to stay and can offer significant advantages over traditional computing.  Further, the Cloud provides additional benefits to disaster recovery, data protection, and data backup/recovery that tape does not.  However, abandoning tape without looking at all of its benefits is a hasty and possibly costly decision.

According to LTO.org, approximately 90% of Fortune 500 companies have tape implemented in their infrastructures, so there is some credence to consider that tape should be part of the discussion.

I’m not here to stand on my virtual soapbox pontificating tape is better than using the Cloud for backing up data.  I do hope to provide some insight about tape that can aid you in making a decision about continuing to use tape or investing in tape as a solution.

Below are the three reasons to consider tape:

Cost

According to LTO.org, the cost per Terabyte when using LTO-6 media is $US8, and the cost per Gigabyte is $US.08.  “As the price per gigabyte for tape storage continues to drop, LTO plays an increasingly vital role in the data centre for a range of unique datasets and stages in the data lifecycle,” said Rob Clark, Senior Vice President, Quantum Corporation.”

“The cost of energy alone for the average disk-based solution exceeds the entire total cost of ownership for the average tape-based solution,” said David Reine, senior analyst with The Clipper Group.  Source

If you don’t need to have the data available, why have it on spinning disk?  How often do users really get into data that is over a year old, and/or is the data required to be kept? The answer about the data on your own network may surprise you.

Aside:  For those reaching for calculators to determine the cost to store files in Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, I don’t consider storing files on these types of mediums as a sole viable backup solution for organizations.  Why? If those services became unavailable or lost your data where is your backup?  Treat these solutions like files on your desktop that you can access anywhere. Just don’t consider them as your backup because they aren’t responsible for protecting your data-unless you are paying them to do so.

Portability

Veeam is a company that has burst onto the Cloud Backup marketplace.  They have claimed that 50,000 companies switched to Veeam in 12 months.  This is an impressive number.  However, even Veeam sponsored an article, written by Orin Thomas, contributing editor for Windows IT Pro, that supports the concept of using tape as a means to move large amounts of data.

“An advantage of shipping tapes off-site in a courier van is that even though it is an old technique, it’s a very effective method of moving terabytes, even petabytes of data from one location to another and can, in many cases, be much faster than transferring the same amount of data over the Internet.”

Further, tape provides a solution to not only be offsite, but off network as well.  Tape can also aid in recovering from ransomware attacks.  Source

Efficiency

“DreamWorks Animation estimates it saves 15 to 20 kilowatt hours per petabyte of spinning disk eliminated, lowering data centre ownership costs by implementing a tape-based active archive solution.”

Hard to argue that tape uses less power than archiving data to spinning hard disk.  Knowing that LTFS enables tape to be mounted and used as an external drive, there are even more benefits (note the pros and cons of this is a whole post unto itself that can explored here).  It is important to note Blue-ray disc and solid state technology are being considered for data archives for companies, like Facebook, that require petabyte-level storage solutions.  For a more in-depth look into comparing tape vs. Hard disk and Optical Disc, checkout the article written by Wayne Tolliver @ Shock Sense. Source

Tape isn’t a perfect solution on its own.  Chain-of-custody, encryption, wear, and physical damage are concerns that need to be addressed.  With the proper plan these concerns can be overcome-much like the concerns around using the Cloud.  Further, why protect information you don’t need?  Having a solid information governance program to address data no longer required can reduce risk and help control expenses around storing and protecting data.

So what is one to do?  Orin Thomas, author of the article referenced earlier sponsored by Veeam, said it best, “By partnering with an organization that is experienced with cloud backup and recovery, it’s possible to find a balance that’s right between the cost of cloud storage and the speed at which data can be recovered from the cloud. Often you might find you need a mix.”

Oh…and don’t forget to test your backup…regardless of what you are using.

Source

2 COMMENTS

  1. Happy New Year, Andy!

    Yes, tape is likely to be less expensive per byte forever*. But having others take care of things out in the Cloud (vapor trail?) can make certain folk feel relieved. On the other hand cloud-based capabilities are growing fast, and ambitious users are finding all sorts of new functions and levels of safety. Either way, tape will be around up front or behind the scenes “forever”.
    p.s.- I do realize you know more about all this than I 🙂

    Have a great 2019.

    *not literally but for a long, long time.

    • Hi Chris! Thank you for the comment. I think many on this site can contribute to this topic and I’m very happy you chimed in! There are benefits of using the cloud as a backup medium. Hopefully, the article didn’t come off as tape is the end-all-be-all of backup. Issues such as data growth, bandwidth, encryption, and recovery time will continue to be long-time considerations of a DR or BC plan. Happy New Year!

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