Marrying old with new: is tape and cloud a match made in heaven?

Tape is a tried and tested backup medium and it has stood the test of time – more than half a century – because it has a lower cost than disk, it is reliable, and can store data for up to 30 years.

But the industry’s love for tape is not quite as unconditional as it was even five years ago. In fact, in the last few years tape has taken a bashing. Users have voted with their wallets, and more organisations than ever before are opting for cloud storage and backup over tape.

The drivers for this shift are simple: the nature of business is changing. Yes, organisations still need to store their data securely, but the pressures on their backup and recovery products are now much more sophisticated – and tape just isn’t up to the job – right?

>See also: The rise, fall and re-rise of magnetic tape

It’s true that decisions are expected sooner, service level agreements are more demanding and compliance is much stricter. In an increasingly fast-paced, connected business world, there’s literally no wriggle room when it comes to data. But if the worst happens and the data is lost, will backing up to tape put you an organisation at a disadvantage?

Data is the most important asset to a company, which can’t afford to be without it even for a few hours. But although the insatiable demand for data has driven CIOs to choose super-fast flash and cloud storage, businesses are starting to remember the value of data durability – the ability to recover data stored years ago. And with innovations in media density, performance and reliability, tape is once again back in the storage mix.

However, the fact remains that no one wants to search through reams of tape to find the data they need when that data is critical to the day-to-day running of the business. So what does this mean for CIOs?

Put simply, it means the demands on them are even greater. With budgets and expectations heading in opposite directions – lower and higher respectively – CIOs are already doing an amazing juggling act. Now they need to get the balance right between tape, the stalwart of backup and recovery, and the faster new kids on the block, to create a slick, cost-efficient hybrid recovery infrastructure.

The benefits of getting it right are huge – not simply in terms of cost savings, but in the actual recovery of data. Recovery is the point here, and it should come first.

Because tape’s been around for so long it’s industry standardised, making it compatible with other recovery technologies and much easier to integrate into a hybrid data centre. Choice and competition are huge.

And although disk is faster for random access reads, tape is often better for sequential processing applications.

That’s not to say that tape is enough.

Cloud, for example, offers potentially unlimited storage capacity at an affordable cost. It’s scalable, and much more flexible than tape. Leading public cloud Amazon Web Services and Google Nearline storage are just two low-cost examples, offering a simple pay-as-you-go subscription pricing and no upfront investment costs for a secondary site, equipment and personnel.

Recovery time is also a major advantage: users can access cloud storage from a central console and initiate recovery almost immediately. And deduplication and compression techniques mean CIOs will be making efficient use of available network bandwidth.

A properly balanced tape and cloud hybrid offers more cost-efficient recovery, while continuity planning can be much more ambitious. It means that when that call comes to say the organisation’s crucial data is lost, it will be much quicker and easier to find it. But that it’s also stored for a serious amount of time and crucial older data can still be recovered.

And it’s not just the CIO who’s rethinking the recovery mix – this move towards hybrid solutions has implications for backup and recovery vendors too.

Already, traditional tape and disk vendors are looking for hybrid solutions, which draw upon multiple tiered cloud architectures that offer the flexibility to meet each customer’s requirements.

These are products that take the best of cloud and traditional storage products, such as tape, to offer a low-cost, reliable, scalable data protection solution, with challenging RPOs and RTOs.

In the meantime, the CIO has to decide between concentrating on one recovery product that doesn’t quite do what’s needed, and getting the balance right in a fit-for-purpose hybrid data centre.


Sourced from Christophe Bertrand, Arcserve

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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