Why Tape Backup and Archiving Are Business Necessities

Topics: Data Archive

You face many choices in data storage media, from cloud to disk to tape. Each comes with pros and cons. Of them all, tape is an absolute necessity. Here's why.

Despite a proliferation of options, tape backup and archiving has passed the test of time repeatedly.

Tape is a business necessity, even in the emerging age of cloud storage—as its reliability and low total cost of ownership (TCO) and robust security are well known. In addition, tape's ability to hold extremely large amounts of data inexpensively makes it the only storage medium able to keep pace with the steady rise in the size of the world's data stores.

Without tape, it would be impractical for information storage systems to keep up, at least without soaking up a prohibitive share of IT budgets.

Despite these advantages, tape is by no means standing still. Recent advances have boosted its capacity and made it even more reliable and easy to access. For example, Sony's new tape process stores more than 185 terabytes (TB) on a single tape cartridge, compared with the 2.5 TB held by LTO-6, the current standard.

"You'd need about 3,700 Blu-ray discs to hold that much data," says writer Larry Greenemeier in a recent Scientific American report.

Tape media reliability has even surpassed hard disk drives in bit error rate. Bit error rate sounds complex, but it's simply a measure of the total of number of expected erroneous bits as compared with the total number of bits received. The bit error rate for enterprise LTO tape is rated between 1x1019 and 1x1017, compared with 1x1016 for the most reliable enterprise Fibre Channel disk drive, according to the Tape Storage Council 2014 report.

Of course, other factors affect reliability, and where backups are updated frequently, disks have an advantage in that their read-write mechanism is better suited to constant starts and stops. But for quarterly backups or archives to be set aside for years, tape is the answer: It makes very little sense to keep large, static backup images on disk, consuming power needed for data retention, cooling and maintenance.

In addition, the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) offers file-and-folder structure, similar to that of hard disks. And each cartridge has an index to the contents, making recovery easier should the enterprise tape catalog go down following a disaster.

Tape Excels for Large-Scale Data Transfers

Tape handles mass data transfers better than WANs or the Internet because of bandwidth limits, even during normal usage. Following a large-scale outage, Internet bandwidth—and even availability—can become further constrained.

Tape can be stored offsite easily, then synced and accessed online through easy-to-use interfaces. An experienced third-party offsite data storage partner can handle the details for your company, including 24/7 data availability, disaster recovery and backup services, media care, and dedicated transport with a documented chain of custody.

There's good reason why tape has passed the test of time. If anything, recent advances make the case even more compelling. Tape:

  • Offers better drive reliability than disk drives
  • Has rapidly expanding cartridge capacities
  • Beats disk's device data rate
  • Has the longest life of any digital media
  • Features LTFS for greater functionality and ease of use
  • Uses less energy than any other storage technology
  • Rivals disk-based acquisition cost and TCO

Contact a storage expert at Iron Mountain to learn how offsite tape storage can help your enterprise meet the challenge of the ongoing information deluge.

Do you have questions about data management? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain's Data Management team. You'll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.


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