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Is Tape Back Up Still Relevant?

by Sally Rozumalski

As the years go on, tape is not going away. In fact, the technology behind tapes is improving! The question is: are there enough discussions taking place about this retro back-up method?

Tape backup is far from dead, but it’s not exactly making the front page in today’s technological climate.  As tape back-up has been around for nearly half a century, it's easy for organizations, especially new companies, to pass it over in favor of newer storage media like such as cloud or disk back-ups.

However, tape still has a prominent role in data centers today. It’s still one of the most reliable and cheapest ways to retain data, and it's the best way to store information and keep it from a possible malware breach. Tape services have seen improvements in technology in recent years as well as services revolving around it. Clearly, tape is alive and well, so why is it that tape is perceived as irrelevant?



Why Tape Isn’t Seen as a Relevant Option.

The idea that tape is a storage media of the past stems from disk backup companies looking to eliminate competition and or focus on newer technology. It’s equally likely however, that tape back-up companies are simply not getting the word out there. Education on tape benefits is crucial, if there is a lack of knowledge, a newer storage solution may appear to be the better option.

Often people believe tape is a dying media because they simply don’t hear a ton about it. People can’t embrace something they know nothing about. Many companies don't adopt tape ultimately because IT administrators are not familiar with it.

Without knowledge of how tape back-up works, more often than not, the thought process is straightforward. Either it is believed tape is no longer relevant or it’s not clear on how it would fit into a system already in place. There’s a gap in knowledge that isn’t fully being addressed.



Lack of Experience With Tape

A huge reason tape is an unknown is that it’s primarily found in data centers. It’s not in customers hands often and so their experience with it is slim to none. Not to mention a lack of updated education materials.

In the last 15 years tape has experienced vast improvements and has become more reliable efficient, unlike its older counterpart. These new changes that have improved tape as a back-up solution have not been promoted well. So how would a customer know it is a better solution than its older model?



If Tape Is Still Relevant, Is it For Everyone?

The short answer is no.  While tape is cost efficient for storing mass quantities of data for long-term retention, it is not easy to access the data frequently. For quick and easy access, either cloud or disk are the better option for backing up and restoring data.

Tape is a cheap solution, but when you're dealing with mass quantities of data that you will also need on hand frequently, the recall costs and time to pull tapes doesn’t make sense.

Tape has the lowest cost per gigabyte of all the different storage media and much lower energy cost, and its offline capabilities make it uniquely suited for safekeeping data against malware.  Not to mention it’s much easier to move. Plus, in the event of a disaster, it’s quicker and easier to physically transport tapes containing backup data than to download multiple files from a cloud.

Often companies with lots of data will look to move away from cloud storage and into tape to save money. While there isn’t a specific amount of data that suggests a company should move off the cloud and look for an alternative, it’s often times around 5 PB of data.



The Future?

Tape is still a great back up option for holding onto data for long periods of time and is still cheaper than most anything else.  Such long-term storage needs will ensure that tape will continue to have a role to play for many years to come. 

While there’s been poor advertising for tape in recent years, the medium is still a force to reckoned with, and one that will have a significant role to play in data archiving and back- up for many years to come.


LACyber is a division of Lincoln Archives providing comprehensive Data Breach Defense Services. Lincoln Archives and LACyber are proud to be a part of Lincoln Family of Companies serving the Western New York Community since 1914.

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