Will Cloud Backup Kill Tapes?


BackupThe maxim goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Not to be satirical here, many IT pain points are the results of resolving problems the wrong way, conforming to the “good old standards and practices” that long dominated IT operations manuals. In a conformist culture prevalent in most parts of Asia, it is not a surprise that many IT organizations still rely on tape storage as their last line of defense against data loss, even putting both their career and organizations at risks when it comes to meeting stringent regulatory compliance requirements.

There are two distinct camps on data protection: tape backup and disk-based backup. Like all extremes, these two positions are the bookends to a whole lot of other data protection practices. The diehards of tape storage call out the achievement of over 60 years of tape technology innovations that provide cost-efficiency and resiliency for meeting compliance requirements. After all, as price per gigabyte for tape storage continues to fall, long-term data retention on tape as a cost-effective storage tier seems to make sense.

With today’s explosive data growth, business-critical applications, backup and recovery software and backup storage media have to streamline their end-to-end performance in order to resolve IT challenges such as meeting shrinking backup windows and compliance requirements, identifying and eliminating backup bottlenecks, managing complexities and lowering operational costs. One of the main culprits of backup bottlenecks points to tape backup infrastructure. The concept of backup servers exists because of the need to perform tape backups. With every new application introduced or increase in data volumes, the pool of backup servers will need to grow in tandem. This means costs will increase due to additional backup software licenses, server hardware, software and hardware maintenance, and manpower even though tapes are relatively low-cost. Not only does it not resolve IT challenges, it is just not scalable and sustainable.

Disk-based backup, on the other hand, is now seen as a replacement of tape backup because of the benefits of data deduplication, higher ingestion rate, faster and more reliable recovery, ease of management, eDiscovery, and lower operational costs. With disk storage costs on the decline and direct integration with enterprise applications, purpose-built backup appliances (PBBA) such as the EMC Data Domain Deduplication Storage Systems, offer greater cost savings with the elimination of tape and backup server infrastructure. Backup as-a-Service (BaaS) service consumption model can only be made possible with disk-based backup infrastructure.

Cloud backup enables IT organizations to reduce CapEx and OpEx while eliminating tape in their environments by using private, public or hybrid clouds for long-term retention. This extension of disk-based backup strategy yields far greater cost efficiency and investment protection benefits than tape-based backup. Could the adoption of cloud backup be the final nail in the coffin for tapes?

Did I also mention that regulatory compliance guidelines have never mandated the use of tape storage but “media storage”? Is it presumptuous on the part of IT professionals or is it truly “good intentions”?

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