Survey Says: Backup Tape Is a Benefit to Small Business Goals

Topics: Offsite Tape Vaulting

Tape isn't just a go-to technology for the Fortune 500. Its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and reliability make this backup
classic a natural for small business data backup and recovery, according to a recent joint report by Iron Mountain and Spiceworks.

FAST FACT: About 70% of IT professionals cite security as their most important consideration when selecting a third-party tape backup service provider, according to a March 2013 joint report by Iron Mountain and Spiceworks.

DID YOU KNOW? Compliance rules may compel your enterprise to retain all sorts of data—not just spreadsheets and databases. Email, social-media activity, sensor data, financial transactions and website content are all subject to federal, state and/or industry regulations.

Well into the 21st century, we're driving 1960s-inspired muscle cars, drinking microbrews and, yes, backing up our critical business information with tape backup systems.

Clearly, the classics endure for a reason. But despite the stability of tape backup systems, some small business owners have trouble understanding just how well a backup strategy that includes tape can serve their business goals. Part of the problem: Many entrepreneurs mistakenly think tape backup is a tool of the Fortune 500 enterprise rather than a small business option.

But the real misperceptions about tape among IT pros at small and midsize businesses stem from the fact that many simply aren't familiar with it. To get a handle on the gap between perception and reality, Iron Mountain commissioned a survey in March 2013 of 412 IT pros at small and midsize businesses about their views on tape storage. Among the findings: 73 percent of those who don't use tape said they believe it is an "outdated technology"—indicating that they are not up to speed on the latest breakthroughs in tape or its future roadmap.

The bottom line: If you're in charge of IT at a smaller business and you're not using tape, you should get educated on the technology's triple-pronged proposition of cost-effectiveness, efficiency and reliability. Here's why:

SMBs: Staring Down More (and New) Data
Small and midsize businesses face a tough challenge—the amount of data they're creating, processing and storing is growing more rapidly than ever. Consider this eye-opener: Storage sales will grow at a rate of more than 30 percent every year between 2013 and 2017, according to a spring 2013 IDC forecast as cited by PC World. At the same time, IT managers in smaller companies are juggling new kinds of data—burgeoning email archives and social media posts, for example.

IT budgets of smaller companies are increasing, rising an average of 19 percent in the first half of 2013, according to a May 2013 Spiceworks survey. Even so, just throwing hardware at the problem doesn't make it any easier for the IT pros whose job it is to back up and store all that data.

Most large enterprises deal with these challenges by relying on tape storage for at least some of their data backup and recovery needs. But are small businesses following their lead? Reviewing the results of the study by Iron Mountain and Spiceworks, it's clear that many SMBs are unaware of the full benefits of tape in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Fact: Tape Developers Continue to Innovate
Is tape a dead end? Far from it. Tape is always advancing, as shown by continued innovation in tape formats. With the advent of LTO-5 and now LTO-6 technologies, tape continues to make significant advances in longevity, automation, capacity, security and transfer rates.

Beyond formats, tape manufacturers have even more new tricks up their sleeve. For example, LTFS (Linear Tape File System) works in conjunction with tape technology. LTFS opens up new opportunities for tape, since it makes tapes look like drives on your network. This means you can access them with the same ease as disks. Thanks to LTFS, tape stands to play a larger role in data storage strategies for businesses of all sizes.

Fact: Tape Is Cost Effective
The IT pros who count on backup tape embrace its cost-effective ways. In fact, when asked why they use or plan to use tape as a backup and recovery solution, 43 percent of survey respondents cite cost. It's one of the most well-known benefits of using tape, particularly with less frequently accessed data. Even as the cost of disk-based storage continues to come down, tape still makes a powerful play—especially in the SMB space—because of its cost-effectiveness. In fact, the total cost of ownership for disk backup and archiving applications is 10 times or more than tape, according to a 2012 white paper by consulting firm Horison Inc.

Fact: Tape Is Durable
Almost a quarter of survey respondents cite tape's longevity as a medium and its ease of storage as key selection considerations. Tape is one of the most reliable storage platforms, especially when it comes to maintaining data integrity over the long term. Tape can store data successfully for 30 years or more under the right conditions, according to industry vendors.

Fact: Tape Fits Into All Kinds of Storage Environments
Deploying tape in your business isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Underscoring tape's flexibility, the survey found that 94 percent of respondents using or planning to use tape are doing so as part of a hybrid solution. That means small businesses can find the sweet spot for the right combination of storage technologies that will work best.

Tape continues to play a valued role in the backup and storage mix, even as technology options expand and evolve. That's why the majority of SMB IT pros who use tape feel it's either "very effective" or "extremely effective" at meeting their organizations' data archiving, data retention, data recovery and disaster recovery needs.

If you haven't considered tape-based backup for your business, take another look at this constantly evolving yet well-established medium. While it might not get your pulse racing quite as fast as a '69 Stingray could, you'll likely be pleased by its unique powers.

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