Upgrading Your Media Storage Solution
February 27, 2012
Is it time to move from your proven and reliable tape storage strategy to a digital backup system? The answer may surprise you.
Thankfully, some things never change—and this holds true even with storage technology. When you’re searching for the optimal storage medium for your data backup, recovery and archiving needs, three critical criteria have remained the same for decades. You need to consider:
- Durability: You need your information—and its storage environment—to withstand the test of time.
- Accessibility: Is the information available to those who need it on demand?
- Capacity: Your storage plan needs to grow along with your business.
Diving Into the Details
Within each of these categories, there are, of course, smaller considerations. For example, storage technology has made stunning leaps in the past two decades. PC users who remember the tiny 100MB hard drives—enough to hold about 30 songs—in their $3,000 computers will chuckle at this recollection.
No matter the medium—tape, magnetic disk or optical disk—capacities have increased astonishingly. Meanwhile, prices have plummeted, making budgeting mercifully easy.
The more interesting question today is durability, the length of time you want—or are required—to maintain your records. Twenty-first-century regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (enacted in 2002) outline stringent and legally binding rules for records retention, depending on the type of information or its industry. That’s where the issue of durability versus accessibility comes into play.
Durability’s conflict with capacity arises from technological changes. Improvements in the capacity of classic magnetic tapes became possible as simple and stable ferric oxides were replaced by more advanced but less stable particles. The development of ever-smaller data tracks has hurt as well. Optical discs have become more delicate, evolving from the reasonably stable dyes used in CD-Rs to less stable dyes that react to smaller wavelengths of laser light. A Blu-ray Disc, for example, requires the optical head to sit extremely close to the disk to resolve the minuscule data pits and tracks that provide 25GB per layer.
Testing described by storage industry veteran Terry O’Kelly in an Iron Mountain newsletter yielded some interesting results that speak to the fragility of the latest technologies. For instance, with the most recent high-capacity, high-definition disks, O’Kelly says, “today’s early samples are best suited for grocery lists and not for anything expected to last longer than that.”
The Tradition of Tape
Ironically, all this analysis of delicate cutting-edge optical media forces us to consider the benefits of tried-and-true tape backup, known for its high capacity and low cost. Many people think tape is outdated, but in reality, it’s right on the cutting edge.
The use of tape is preferred over technologies such as internal disks, external disks and even the cloud. In fact, tape’s lead is expected to grow by 45 percent annually through 2015. And tape continues to become more robust: Each generation of LTO cartridges has roughly doubled in capacity. LTO-4 Ultrium tapes hold eight times the capacity of the first 100GB LTO tapes, launched in 2000. Even in this new era of “big data,” there’s no danger that tape will be unable to handle large data sets.
As we move into the future, managers of huge data backups and archives will use whatever mix of solid-state media, disk and tape they need for proper storage. There’s no reason to choose just one. The trick will be to develop management tools that match the right type of data to the right type of storage. Tape’s role in this scenario will be to provide petabytes of backup at the lowest possible cost, helping data centers make sense of their budgets in this new world of supersized storage.
 “Big Data Drives Rebirth of Tape Market,” EnterpriseStorageForum.com, 11/7/11
As you evaluate your storage media options, you’ll find that it’s easy to make the case for tape backup as an essential component of your media storage plans, today and in the future.
- Tape offers low migration cost and long lifespan, which add up to a lower total cost of ownership.
- Tape remains a preferred method of compliant offline data protection. Access to archived tape can be automated easily through tape library systems.
- Tape’s 30- to 40-year shelf life is longer than any competing storage technology.
- Tape offers easy portability—crucial if your company plans to grow or move.
- Tape’s ultrahigh capacity continues to grow and scales relatively inexpensively.
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.
Meeting HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley’s Discovery Requirements
Duking It Out: Remote Data Transfer vs. Offsite Tape Backup
2012 Outlook: Compliance and Your Data Backup Services