Tape backups represented a technological wonder in their day, but that day has passed. Anyone who has used tape for a primary backup solution will recognize immediately the challenge it represents, for both individual file restoration and full Disaster Recovery (DR). At the same time, anyone using Cloud-based solutions like Backup as a Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) will wonder why anyone still uses tape. Let’s take a look at some of the problems with physical tape and how they are eliminated with Cloud services.

  1. Physical tape is, well, physical. While tape capacity has increased dramatically over the years and the space required to store them has correspondingly decreased, they still require space when not in the drive. Cloud backups are typically stored on disk, so the space requirements are further decreased. Also, if a physical tape is not filled, the unused space remains unused and wasted, since appending to physical tape requires spooling the tape to the end of the original data, and it requires coordination to make sure the data is of the same storage needs (on- or off-site, retention, etc.) With disk storage, adding data to an partially filled volume is just what we do.
  2. Physical tapes are subject to jamming. This is not a factor with disk storage. Yes, disks will die, but through the use of RAID or mirroring on the disk storage, recovery is simply a matter of replacing the failed drive and allowing the storage controller to rebuild the data.
  3. Physical tapes require physical handling and are subject to being lost or stolen. As with any physical item that has to be moved from place to place, there is a potential for loss or theft. This risk increases with every touch point such as movement within your data center, or between off-site storage or recovery sites. Organizations spend significant man-hours tracking and auditing tape movement, even when using automated silos on-site. Cloud backup and DR services utilize secure network connections for movement of data with nothing physical to lose.
  4. Physical tapes are subject to read failures…always at the worst possible times it seems! Even if you have a successful backup, appropriately stored, and able to be obtained and mounted for restoration of data, there is always a chance that tape will suffer a read failure. While failure to be able to restore data is never good, it can be especially painful when executing your DR plan. With Disaster Recovery as a Service, your data will already be in the Cloud and ready to recover to the target systems.

Don’t take this wrong and assume there is no value for a tape backup scenario. It is largely dependent on factors like the size of your operation, and your comfort level with Cloud computing. But for most organizations, if you have more than just a handful of PC’s to back up, physical tape DR will pale when compared to Disaster Recover as a Service. And for very large corporations, tape solutions can be beneficial by keeping dozens of people employed, and help off-site storage services remain viable. The choice is yours on how you will spend your resources for backups and DR, and how you will staff your IT support. But if you are still using physical tape for backups and to support your DR plan, it is certainly time to take a look at Cloud services like BaaS and DRaaS. You may just find dramatically more efficient and simple services at lower costs than you are currently paying, with significantly reduced risk of lost data or failed recovery!

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