Blog | January 25, 2013

6 Reasons Why Tape Storage Won't Die

By Jay McCall

Attend any BDR (backup and disaster recovery) webinar or training session, and you'd swear tape backup was about a week away from extinction. Statistics are cited about how tape is a leading culprit of data corruption. Plus, when you consider the fact that solid state storage is gaining traction in the enterprise, it seems even more believable that tape really could be on its way out.

However, when you step back and look at the evidence, a whole other picture emerges. According to a recent article from CIO magazine, tape backup continues to thrive in many enterprises, not only as a cost effective, long-term data archiving option, but even in newer applications such as virtualization and video.

Even though fewer tape media is in circulation and tape library shipments are on the decline, the reality is that storage capacity on tape media continues to double every few years. When you combine the latest tape media with the latest compression technology, you'll find tapes can now handle more than 6 TB of data. Plus, tape technology is getting faster, it's more economical than hard disk drives (HDDs), and it uses less power, according to Enterprise Strategy Group's (ESG's) research. The same analyst group's research uncovered that 25% of enterprises use tape as a primary backup medium, another 56% incorporate it into their backup strategy, and only 2% of those surveyed back up directly to cloud storage.

In addition to the three reasons outlined earlier regarding tape's staying power (i.e. 1.) increased capacity, 2.) less expensive than HDD media, and 3.) a greener option compared with operating HDD equipment), here are three more reasons tape isn't going away any time soon:

4.) Cloud bandwidth limitations. Sure, cloud backup is all the rage, but several VARs and MSPs I've talked to have confirmed that many of their clients' bandwidth limitations make it impractical. This is especially the case for businesses located in rural areas with antiquated infrastructures. On the other hand, it's very economical to overnight a tape containing multiple  terabytes of data to a secure, off-site location.

5.) Industry regulations and tax laws. As various industries attempt to clamp down on fraudulent activity, while at the same time improving customer/patient service, businesses are required to archive more and more documents and data for longer periods. Tape continues to be the best media of choice for such needs, as it can sit idle for years without needing any electricity or drive maintenance.

6.) LTFS (linear tape file system).  many opponents of tape technology side slow read/write speeds as a reason for wanting to do away with this technology, but advances in tape indexing, such as LTFS, directly address this objection. LTFS allows the tape library to collect metadata on each tape, which significantly speeds up file retrieval times.

If you're a VAR or MSP that sells data backup/storage solutions to your customers, I'd love to hear about your experience with tape technology as well as your thoughts on how important this media is to your business. ♦[hr] Do you see tape backup becoming/remaining an important part of your BDR offerings?  (click one)

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