Surprise! Tape Still Plays a Vital Role in Today’s Data Center

Paul Gillin

Skeptics have said for years that tape has no place in the modern data center, but a new report dramatizes the critical role tape plays in a modern backup and data protection strategy.

Storage Switzerland, a leading storage analyst firm focused on emerging storage categories, big data, virtualization and cloud computing, says organizations can benefit from using tape not just for archive but for backup as well. The key is to align recovery strategies with realistic time needs.

IT leaders need to ensure data can be easily and quickly recovered when needed, but not all data demands the same recovery speed. Storage Switzerland makes the case that many organizations store too much data on expensive near-line backup media when most data could be moved to tape. Not only is that approach more economical, but it also contributes to business resiliency by enabling more recent backups to be safely stored offsite.

In a new ebook, Reintroducing Tape To The Modern Data Center, the firm states that the majority of recovery requests come from the most recent backup, and 95% of backup storage capacity is rarely called on for recovery. Storage Switzerland recommends that an efficient approach to backup uses high-speed flash storage for the most recent backups and archives the rest to tape, providing nearly limitless storage capacity while lowering infrastructure and power costs.

Disk is a good medium for facilitating rapid recovery in the event of a failure, but many organizations keep multiple backup versions to satisfy regulatory requests or for analysis. Their disk backup capacity can reach 10 times the size of their production dataset. It’s better to move much of that data to tape, the analysts say.

Storage Switzerland notes that only about five percent of recoveries are time-dependent and require the speed of disk. While these demands must be served promptly, they don’t require immediate availability. “Time-sensitive recovery from anything but the latest backup is unlikely,” the analysts note.

Recovery requests from older backups are often driven by disaster recovery or regulatory events, which rarely require instantaneous deliverables. Most of this data can be safely written to tape. In addition to the lower cost, tape can be taken offline or “air-gapped” to an offsite facility, enabling an additional level of protection against disasters or data-destroying cyberattacks like ransomware.

The best backup architecture is based on recovery needs. The firm advises IT organizations to invest in flash storage for the primary backup and move everything else to tape. This approach improves recovery times by eliminating the need for space-saving deduplication on disk, since tape’s ample capacity obviates the need for such measures. It also simplifies storage capacity requirements by enabling the organization to replicate data from flash to offsite disk backup for additional protection. Instead of storing multiple backup versions on disk, organizations can ship all but the most recent backups to dedicated tape vaults where air-gapped security measures provide an additional layer of protection. Modern data protection software can automate many of these tasks by moving data from backup storage to tape based on retention policies.

Storage Switzerland concludes that tape is essential to designing a flexible and resilient backup architecture that delivers the ultimate security and long-term cost benefits. When realistic recovery times are factored in, the benefits of tape become clear.

Learn more by downloading the ebook here. Storage Switzerland also hosted a related on-demand webcast where experts from Iron Mountain, Fuji Film and Spectra Logic shared their advice on the benefits of tape in the modern data center.

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