the bad news about tape backup

Why tape is not the best solution for large-scale backups, and the cloud now is.
Why tape is not the best solution for large-scale backups, and the cloud now is.
When it came out in the early 1950s, tape was revolutionary. And for decades, it was
the primary way data on large computers and, eventually, servers was backed up.
In the late 1970s, Commodore started using a standard audio cassette as backup for
the Commodore 64.
Tape was a lifesaver at that time. But it also failed in
tape restoration failures anywhere from 20% to 74%.
far too many cases. Even modern tape drives are still
Tapes, even when regularly stored offsite, are
far too prone to fail. That’s why you should replace
vulnerable while they are in the office. If one is lost or
your unstable tape backup system with a clean,
stolen, and you need to restore, you have to go back
reliable, fast and affordable cloud backup solution
to the previous day’s data. By the time all is said and
is essential.
done, you’ve lost two days’ worth of data.
There is another fundamental problem: Tape
One of the problems with tape is there are myriad
backups are, by definition, old even when they are
reasons they can fail. For one, tape backup is a
first made. That’s because tape is a very slow backup
manual and intensive process, and prone to human
and restore media. So if your restore is successful,
error. Backup schedules must be adhered to and
the restored data will never be truly up-to-date,
the tapes handled properly. An IT administrator
making tape more appropriate for disaster recovery
may forget to make the backup or be otherwise
than any kind of business continuity. And even
indisposed. The tape can be lost or stolen.
here, the cloud is proving to be a superior disaster-
Furthermore, tape is fragile; it can wear out, become
recovery technology to tape.
corrupted or break. Software problems can also
easy to spot.
Time is money, and if you have IT administrators
Even worse, because tape is a linear format, if just a
swapping and storing tapes, you are reducing your
small amount of data is destroyed, you may not be
earning power. The best time to do a backup is when
able to recover anything from that tape, or a logically
the network isn’t in full use – “off hours” – such as
related series of tapes. And the tape hardware can
nights and weekends. But that often means paying
fail, leaving IT once again in the lurch.
overtime, or dealing with aggravated admins forced
to work during their free time.
Most IT shops don’t test tapes, so they don’t know
the tape failed to backup properly. This becomes a
Whether backups are done outside of working hours
major problem when the time comes to restore the
or during the work week, you are dependent on the
data – and you find that you can’t do it!
admin getting the work done – and doing it right.
In fact, you can argue that all tapes will eventually fail,
just as our VCR and cassette tapes eventually wear
out with frequent use. And various reports have put
damage the data on tape, a problem that isn’t always
primary business to safeguard data so they can
keep customers and attract new ones? And who
Small to mid-sized businesses stick with tape
can afford the best security staff and tools: you or a
because it is the option they know, and it seems to
dedicated service provider?
be the cheapest. They often have concerns about
new approaches such replacing tape with disk or
The answer is now obvious. The cloud can be far more
going to the cloud.
secure than your own company because providers
need a security infrastructure to protect many
ESG, or Enterprise Systems Group, is one of the
customers, while yours is built to just protect you.
preeminent and unbiased storage researchers. A
recent ESG analysis spells out just how tape costs
Research is bearing this out. Microsoft® did a
add up:
survey of small to mid-sized businesses and found
that those who don’t yet use cloud services still
“A typical tape budget includes obvious capital
have that old bias – that the cloud isn’t secure. The
investments such as media to accommodate data
results show that 64% of shops not in the cloud have
growth and extended retention policies, and library
security fears and 45% still have the fear that that
replacements as warranties and leases expire. These
they won’t have control over company data. And
expenditures can rarely be avoided because they
nearly as many (42%) don’t think the cloud is reliable.
represent the corporate data insurance policy,” ESG
Actual experience is far different. Microsoft also
explained. “The operational expenses associated with
talked to companies that moved to the cloud, and
tape are less transparent: Staff is needed to manage
by a large measure these companies find it reliable,
tape media, rotate tapes, and reclaim unused
secure, and note that their cloud data is protected
capacity. Someone needs to monitor tape backups
with a great deal of privacy.
and reset them when, all too often, they fail.”
One reason for enhanced security is the cloud
Other costs? You may need to pay for vaulting offsite.
often offers state-of-the-art antivirus/anti-malware
And if you have older tapes based on legacy systems,
protection. In fact, a whopping 94% said the cloud
you need to maintain that hardware as well.
was more secure than on-premise solutions. In other
Besides hard costs like vaulting, there are other
findings, 65% of small to mid-sized businesses said
economic pitfalls. How much would a failed restore
the cloud was more reliable, and 62% said it offered
cost? First, you have to calculate the downtime, then
greater privacy (see diagram below).
try to imagine how much all that lost data is worth.
And long restores cost as well. With tape, the
performance dictates your recovery time objective
94% “more secure”
(RTO), which is the maximum amount of time
it should take to restore data and applications
65% “more reliable”
guarantees downtime, lost revenue and dissatisfied
62% “great privacy”
Customers are getting the message as tape sales
declined markedly in 2012, according to the Santa
Clara Consulting Group. The tape market was a bit
Adrienne Hall, general manager of Trustworthy
over $1 billion in 2012, down a whopping 30% from
Computing for Microsoft, said: “There’s a big gap
the year before.
between perception and reality when it comes to the
cloud. SMBs that have adopted cloud services found
security, privacy and reliability advantages to an
In the early days of the cloud, IT worried that
extent they didn’t expect.”
it wasn’t secure and they would lose control of
“The real silver lining in cloud computing is that it
their data. Look at it this way: Who makes it their
enables companies not only to invest more time and
function. With tape, your long RTO pretty much
money into growing their business, but to better
secure their data and to do so with greater degrees
The cloud isn’t just good for backup. It is now a
of service reliability as well,” she added.
superior solution. You no longer have to worry about
the infrastructure. Backups are automated. The data
And when it comes to backup, IASO offers an
is encrypted. Availability is higher than you could
additional benefit: Your data is doubly secure as it is
achieve on your own.
encrypted during transit and while in the cloud. And
only you have the key.
You maximize your time, and minimize your costs.
None of those scenarios is possible with tape
backup. If you’re not making the transition to cloud
The cloud is a real lifesaver and timesaver when it
backup, you’re doing your business a disservice –
comes to backup. While most consumers and home
and making your life far more difficult.
users will find a single cloud backup to be enough,
businesses need to take a different approach. Having
a single tier backup in the cloud is not enough.
There is a relatively new architecture known as
“hybrid backup” or “disk-to-disk-to-cloud” (D2D2C)
that is far superior. With this approach to backup,
your first tier is to an on-premise disk/s. There are
many advantages. First, this disk is probably already
in place, or should at least be. And being local, your
restores should be fast, especially if you only need to
restore small amounts of data.
The next step is to team the local disk with your
cloud backup and this is the beauty of hybrid backup.
If the local disk is somehow compromised you can
always restore from the cloud, and this is particularly
handy for disaster recovery. In some cases, restores
make more sense from the cloud, such as when the
device that needs the restore is remotely located and
the cloud offers an easier and faster approach. Best
of all, there is no need for tape!
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