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Significance of Tape Automation: Time vs Cost

By CIOReview | Thursday, June 29, 2017

Earlier this year, when Quantum systems announced significant enhancement to its Vision software, the clamors of the tape automation world could be heard. Tape automation until recently had been the playground of big budget IT departments. Small and medium scale businesses struggled with the conventional methods that involved inserting tape cartridges into individual tape drives. However, with the advent of autoloaders and small tape libraries, Small and medium businesses (SMBs) now have the prerogative of deploying tape automation solutions. Automation solutions reduce the risk of human error in backups and eliminate traditional methodologies. However, before foraying more into tape automation, it pays to know more about data backup and how automation eases the process.

Data Backup

Data backup refers to the process of transferring data from an organization's primary storage to a separate storage device, such as tape drive. This process ensures that the original data can be restored in a scenario of data loss, hence averting overall losses in business and productivity. An archive, on the other hand, refers to permanent data backup, which is kept off-site.

Files that change frequently such as data files must be backed up on a daily basis. However, periodic maintenance and backup of the entire system is also essential in case of a  catastrophic disaster. The periodic backup must include system files that contain user information and other quintessential business information. The answer to how often should data backup be undertaken, however, is dependent on the strategies that organizations employ.

How Long Should Data be Stored?

Many believe that data should be stored forever while others beg to differ. However, storing data indefinitely adds burden to the infrastructure of an organization as it creates storage space issues and demands procurement of new hardware, hence adding additional cost to business. There are many best practices put forth by technology pundits, but the answer to how long data should be stored is entwined with an organization’s business requirements.

Some of the best practices pertaining to data storage time-frame are listed below:

  • For data files that changes frequently, most recent files should be stored. As the previous data becomes obsolete, tapes should be overwritten and reused.
  • The entire backup of the system should be stored in an off-site location. This will facilitate the recovery of entire system in case of disaster.
  • Legal files such as tax records, contracts, personnel files, patient records etc. should be stored for a specific period of time as defined by compliance regulations.

Tape Automation: How it helps

Conventional storage methodologies that include inserting of tape drives in cartridges manually extract a lot of labor and hampers employee productivity. Tape automation mechanizes the entire process of data backup. Typically, a tape automation device, tape autoloader, contains a tape drive and multiple tape cartridge slots. A robotic mechanism moves tapes between the slots and tape drive. Backup software controls the autoloader and instructs it to insert the correct tape ahead of beginning a backup or restore. Every tape has a unique barcode through which the backup software confirms the correct tape.

The convenience of tape automation can be realized if an organization has remote offices and the clerical staff is responsible for most of backup activities. As the autoloader can identify correct tapes through the encrypted barcodes, remote monitoring and verification through autoloader remote management web page is possible.

Labor Savings through Automation

Manual exchanges of backup tapes and engrossing employees in backup processes imposes approximately fifteen minute interruption of an employee's primary duties. This amounts to a total 65 hrs lost productivity per year. Tape automation reduces it to 15 minutes per week, which translates to 13 hrs per year, thereby adding 52 hrs of productive time for employees.

Although it's difficult to quantify, reducing business risk by deploying an autoloader yields great ROI. Consolidating backups is more reliable, easy to manage, and cost saving option compared to purchasing individual tape drives for each system.