To Tape or not to Tape?
I recently completed an implementation of infrastructure and networking technology at a client site and during the planning process we discussed the many options related to their backup strategy. We decide on a tape solution based on several factors including total storage needs, technical expertise to manage and the ever important price point. During the implementation someone not involved in the planning process asked “Why Tape? Isn’t that a dead technology?” To which I replied “Absolutely not”. Now here comes the slew of replies to try and ‘correct’ me but I welcome them whole heartedly.
Tape is one of the most tested and often considered ‘standard’ methods of backup to protect valuable data against disasters, hard disk failures and other really dumb things people do to their networks (aka deleting everything). Tape offers a place for a lot of data in a very small package that can deliver transfer speeds that rival the fastest hard disk available at a price that is significantly cheaper than equivalent storage on hard disk (when cost of drive and backup tapes are considered). And it can be moved from its drive, shipped, stored and used years later if necessary. Tape has been known to have a life of 15 years or more if stored correctly.
Have you started that reply yet? Does it have an argument on density? Throughput? Solid-state disks? Wait, wait …inconvenience of physically interacting with a tape drive? Or the big one, time to perform restorations of small data? Ok, we can legitimize all of those comments or arguments with loads of data from the various alternatives. Alternatives like Virtual Tape Libraries, Floppy Drives, Optical Media, Removable Hard Disks or even Cloud/Internet solutions. All of which have incredible merit for the right customer, the right storage needs and the right environment.
With a company’s ‘downtime’ everyone’s #1 enemy the legitimacy of a mixed backup or storage environment can make sense such as disk or offsite options. If you’ve done a full restore you know that the recovery process required for tape can be a time killer and sometimes complex. However I stand by the price advantage and security of the tape solutions.
PEI has an opportunity to work with numerous storage options which is a great position for recommending and designing the right one for our customers. Do I recommend tape to all my customers, absolutely not. However, tape will continue to be a vital tool of data-backup solutions going forward. It’s definitely not a “dead technology” however it has changed its position in the ecosystem of storage.
-Jennifer Smith, PEI