The Importance of Tape Backup in Modern Data Storage

In this digitization era, businesses generate enormous amounts of data every day. It is more than necessary to store this information, but it is also vital to protect it from loss or damage. Although cloud storage has become increasingly popular, many businesses still use tapes to store their data. This seemingly obsolete technology is more than a cost-effective approach; it provides better safety by allowing off-premises storage.

This obliterates the risk of data breaches and rampant cyber-crimes with cloud-based storage models. Therefore, this blog post will discuss the significance of tape backup in data storage and its role in modern data storage. In addition, it will demonstrate its comparison with different data storage methods to understand why tape backup is a good choice when some situations arise.

Tape Backup: Why are businesses using this old cargo

For several decades now, tape backup has been a popular method of data storage due to its excellent reliability. Backup tapes offer a range of advantages, i.e., their cost effectiveness, high storage capacities, durability, and long service life, compared with the other ways to store data.

  • Cost-effectiveness compared to other storage options

Compared to other storage options like solid-state drives (SSDs), or hard disk drives, tape backup is cheaper for storing large amounts of data. The tape backup has a higher storage density, allowing more data storage in one tape. Also, they are recyclable, so there’s no need to buy new ones when you want to back up your data.

  • High capacity and scalability

Tape backup offers a lot of capacity and scalability. For instance, the latest LTO 9 tapes allow storing up to 45 Terabytes of uncompressed data. Also, you can add more tapes if you need a more considerable amount of storage. Moreover, the linear scalability of the tape backup allows the addition of more tapes, thus increasing storage capacity.

  • Durability and longevity of tapes

Tapes are exceptionally durable and may last for a considerable period. Unlike hard drives or SSDs, there are no active parts on tapes, so they have a lower risk of damage. In addition, tapes can be stored in optimum conditions that may extend their lifetime. Tapes last up to thirty years, which is a significant advantage in the long-term archiving of data.

  • Reliable and secure backup option for disaster recovery

For disaster recovery, tape backup is a reliable and safe option. It offers a backup solution to restore your data in a disaster such as cyber-attacks, fires, or floods. Backup tapes may be stored outside, making it possible to recover data via backup tapes even if a disaster damages the primary data center.

Tape backup keeps evolving over the years.

Tape backup solution has operated for decades, evolving from the earliest reels to today’s cartridge-based tapes. As time passed, it became a more attractive option for enterprises due to the advancement of tape backup technologies.

Historical development of tape backup technology

In the early 1950s, IBM introduced a tape backup system. In the past, businesses used this solution to store data on magnetic tapes, initially meant for audio recording. However, technology has evolved, and tapes have become the instrument for data storage. Initially, there were only a few megabytes of usable storage capacity in tapes. However, their capabilities increased over the years and became popular backup devices.

Advancements in tape backup technology over the years

Advances in tape backup technology have been made significantly over the years. High storage capacities, fast data transfer speeds, and encryption are available on the most recent tapes. Additionally, modern tape backup solutions come with features like WORM (Write Once Read Many), which makes the data immutable and prevents any changes. This is particularly helpful with compliance with legislation such as GDPR or HIPAA.

Modern tape backup solutions vs. legacy systems

Modern tape backup solutions have significant advantages over legacy systems. They offer faster data transfer rates, higher storage capacity, and improved durability. Additionally, modern tape backup solutions come with advanced features like data encryption, WORM, and LTFS (Linear Tape File System), which makes it easier to manage and access the data on the tapes.

How tape backup has encroached on modern data storage

Despite the increasing popularity of cloud storage, many businesses still need tapes to store their data. Tape backups are an essential part of many companies’ data storage strategies.

Tape backup plays a crucial role in hybrid cloud environments and legal compliance scenarios

In hybrid cloud environments, tape backup has a significant role to play. Hybrid cloud environments use a combination of cloud-based storage and on-premises, and tape backup provides an additional layer of security and redundancy to the storage architecture.

You may use tape backup to store critical data on-premises while using cloud storage of noncritical data in a hybrid cloud environment. This includes a 3-2-1 fallback strategy, which means keeping two copies of data on the server in different places; while holding third offshoring where it can be quickly recovered.

The legal compliance of tapes is another critical role played by tape backup technology. It is a crucial requirement of larger companies to keep records, and it can last for decades. Despite the likelihood that this information would be required to be accessed, it is possible that companies that use tape storage also should keep these tapes in good condition. Neglecting to do so could result in severe legal complications.

Use cases for tape backup in modern data storage

In modern data storage, there are various use cases for tape backup. One of the most commonly used cases for tape backup is disaster recovery. In case of disasters, tape backups provide a reliable backup option that allows for the recovery of your data. In addition, tape backup is a cost-efficient way to archive for extended periods. As was mentioned, tapes have a life expectancy of up to 30 years. They are an ideal solution for storing data that must be kept for long periods.

Likewise, tape backup is very cost-effective if you need to archive large amounts of data. The tape cartridges are more potent than most external hard drives and are much cheaper per gigabyte of storage. Furthermore, tape backup is a safe way of storing sensitive information, particularly in sectors subject to strict regulations, like healthcare and finance. Tape cartridges may be encrypted to ensure the data is only available to authorized personnel.

Finally, the backup of tapes is essential to the disaster recovery plan. Recovering your data from a tape backup and resuming business in case of an emergency or cyber attack can be done quickly.

Did Tape Backup pale in comparison to other data storage methods?

Regarding data storage, businesses and institutions can choose from many options, such as tape backup, hard drives with HDDs, solid-state drives (SSDs), or cloud storage. The selection depends on several factors, such as the amount of data, budget, level of security needed, and speed of access to this information. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Tape backup has several advantages over other data storage methods, such as cloud computing and external hard drives. Storage in the Cloud can be costly and time-consuming for large amounts of data, even when readily available. In addition, when you store data online depends on an internet connection, so if your Internet connection is slow, the transfer speed may be low. External drives are a convenient backup option but offer less longevity than tapes and may be easy to fail.

Tape backup has its challenges, but they are avoidable

While magnetic tapes have been a reliable way to store data for decades, there are particular difficulties you need to consider when considering this solution.

Limited capacity

The limited capacity of tape backup compared to other storage solutions, such as hard drives or cloud servers, is one of the most critical challenges in this area. Tape backup has a fixed storage capacity that depends on the tape cartridge’s size and the tape drive’s capabilities. Depending on the technology, an individual tape cartridge may contain between a few hundred GB and 2 TB of storage capacity. You can use more tape cartridges for backup to deal with the capacity shortage. Moreover, you may use compression algorithms to maximize the storage capacity for each tape cartridge.

Slow Data Transfer Speeds

Compared to other storage solutions like hard drives and cloud storage, tape backup is the slowest speed for transferring data. The transfer rate of tape backup relies on the solution used, the tape cartridge’s size, and the tape drive’s speed. You can invest in high-speed tape drives or use compression algorithms to reduce the data you need to move if you want to tackle the slow transfer problem. In addition, to minimize the impact of slower transfer speeds, you can set up automatic backups when there are no peak hours.

High Cost

Tape backup might be more expensive than any storage solution for the first investment necessary to buy a disk drive or cartridge. Similarly, it can be expensive to maintain and replace outdated cassette cartridges and tape drives. You can save money by purchasing a used or refurbished tape drive and cartridge to address the high-cost problem. Furthermore, to minimize the required number of cartridges and prolong their lifetime, it is possible to optimize your backup strategy.

Data Restoration Time

Restoring data from tape backup can be time-consuming, especially for larger datasets. The time needed to recover data depends on the speed with which the tape drive will read, the size of the cartridge, and the amount of data to recover. You can use an indexing system to rapidly retrieve and find particular files to deal with the problem of restoring data at a reasonable time.

In addition, to make it easier for people to access critical data more quickly, you can set up a simplified backup strategy comprising tape and other storage equipment like the cloud.

Final Thought

In modern data storage, tape backing is of vital importance. Although the popularity of cloud backup has grown, tape backup offers several benefits over other storage methods, such as cost-effectiveness, high capacity, durability, and long life. Also, the option to backup tape for disaster recovery is a reliable and safe one. For businesses that wish to safeguard their data for the future, tape backup will continue to be a valuable option, given ongoing storage needs.

text written by:

Paweł Piskorz, Presales Engineer at Storware