Tape Archiving: The Classic Choice that Keeps on Going
September 9, 2011
You’re not listening to music on eight-tracks or cassette, nor watching movies on VHS. So why are you still archiving to tape? Because it’s still wise to include this flexible, cost-efficient technology in your company’s data backup plan.
Though tape has long served as a primary means of data backup for companies of all sizes and categories, some businesses now prefer to use online methods or other options for their primary backup, and enlist tape as a secondary or even tertiary line of defense. It’s the fallback option when all else fails, and for good reason: Tape is still highly reliable. A lot of companies agree: The September 2010 Aberdeen Group® report “Off-Site Storage and Computing: Keys to Successful Disaster Recovery” reported that 75 percent of all Best-in-Class and Industry Average organizations are still using tape.
Here are four reasons why tape remains a solid option:
1) It’s Simple
Although training is a must to get your staff up to speed on tape-related hardware and software, that applies to any method. And at its core, working a tape backup system is only slightly more involved than making toast. Typically, the person running the backup system needs to remove, label and store the finished tapes, then add a new tape to keep recording data—and that’s it. Of course, there are best practices in doing this that should be spelled out for your employees.
A system’s associated software eases the backup process. And if and when the time comes, software makes data recovery after an emergency a simple task. You can do a full system restore or retrieve individual documents or folders. Backups and restores can work around your schedule; you won’t have to worry about network connections or Internet access.
2) Exceptional Security
During the past few years we’ve all heard of security breaches at major firms, including credit card companies. Government agencies haven’t been immune to these woes, either, as Wikileaks so frighteningly pointed out. The financial and public relations consequences of these lapses can be devastating—and sometimes even fatal—to a company.
The good news about staying with your tape system is that it provides a strong, secure solution against these kinds of perils. You can also encrypt backup tapes, then store them in a secure, offsite facility, well out of hackers’ reach. It also makes great sense to set firm guidelines regarding who can access your tapes, how they are transferred back and forth between your company and an offsite partner’s facility, and the environmental conditions under which your partner stores those tapes.
3) The Reliability Factor
It’s true: Tapes can be finicky, especially when they’re neglected. However, when you partner with a trusted data backup and recovery service to store your data, that’s not an issue. Housed in the proper storage containers, transferred in climate-controlled vehicles, and placed in dust-free, climate-controlled vaults, tapes remain equally as stable as other forms of backup media, if not more so.
To ensure reliability before setting up a tape storage system, carefully create a workflow. Too many companies leave their tapes in poorly labeled boxes in the basement or a forgotten storeroom, with no system of accounting; tapes are too sensitive for that. Consider electromagnetic shielding for your backup area, and invest in a dust filtration system to keep tapes in optimum shape. Or partner with a data backup and recovery service that understands proper tape care.
4) Indisputable, Lasting Value
To understand the true value of a tape backup system, take a long view on storage and recovery. Tape drives are purchased once and become a better value every year you use them. A tape can be stored for perhaps 15 years, and you won’t need to transfer its information to a new medium. This bypasses migration costs.
Now that you understand the many virtues of tape, you can work with a partner to determine its role in your backup scheme.
Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.
Q: How are businesses using tape backup systems?
A: Tape backup systems proved themselves long ago as a primary backup solution for organizations of all sizes and verticals. However the role of tape is in transition. This once-primary backup medium is now being cast as a secondary or tertiary backup solution (the so-called “backup of the backup” or “backup of last resort”) as well as a long-term archiving alternative. What’s more, despite tape’s characterization as a legacy technology, tape cartridge sales continue to increase.
So what role does tape play in your backup mix? What role will it play in the future? Before you decide, ask yourself:
- Can another storage medium save my company money? (Before you say yes, calculate electricity costs for any new equipment.)
- Would other formats ease our staff training process?
- In the face of a system failure, what’s the most reliable format?
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