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Tape Archiving Still Fits the Bill

By CIOReview | Friday, August 19, 2016

In today’s ever changing technological space, enterprises experience greater storage than ever before. This rapid growth stems from both structured data from enterprise databases, as well as unstructured data from a variety of applications. Magnetic tapes have been around for quite some time and their use and role in archiving and storage of data has never been in doubt. The main threat comes from disks, but the ability to store data for a longer period of time might just tilt the balance in favor of the tapes, as it provides users cost effective means for long term data retention.

Storage of sensitive data has always been an Achilles’ heel for organizations. Making the right choice and deciding on the ways to archive and store data, can be a tricky affair. Data archiving is a critical aspect of any business model and for many disaster solutions, tape still holds an edge over hard drive. Not only is it cost effective, its long term reliability is beyond any shred of doubt. This gives the data owners and IT executives the freedom to concentrate on driving business innovation. While some organizations have shifted to disks, others have adopted a more balanced approach embracing a mixed tape and disk approach. Tape has historically been the most reliable media for backup and archive support for the data center. Today, it continues to be pervasive in data centers of all sizes and shapes. The main role of tape has developed and evolved to long-term archiving and data retention. Many enterprises are using disks for short term backup and recovery in order to take advantage of the quick access speed of the disks. Tape still continues to be the mainstay of storage media for most disaster recovery plans.

The main differentiating factor that sets archiving apart from backup is the fact that backup refers to a series of files backed up to a tape, while in archiving, the online copies are not retained and the data is stored away elsewhere, for alter access. As the name suggests, archiving is done for the long term, whereas backup is done for quick retrieval.

The popular formats of tapes in use today are the LTO format supported by the Ultrium LTO Program, the T10000 series tapes from Oracle/StorageTek and the TS series enterprise tapes from IBM. One thing that goes favorably with tapes is the fact that they have a long shelf life of several decades. At present the storage capacity of tapes is as high as 8.5 TB. According to a study by Information Storage Industry Consortium (INSIC), the total cost of ownership over a five-year period for maintaining a 500 TB archive is approximately $1.5 million for disk as compared to about $250,000 for tape. This brings to fore the cost effective nature of tapes as compared to other devices. Reinforcing this fact, Clipper Group considered the com­parative costs of same-capacity disk and tape repositories and found out that tape offerings are about 70 times cheaper than comparable disk offerings.

Tips for Tape Archiving

With the growing volume of data at play, data archives have acquired a whole new dimension. There are certain elements that one should keep in mind while opting for a tape archive. Given below are some of the tips to be taken care of:  

  • Tapes should be stored in a comfortable place, free from dust and any source of magnetic interference.
  • If there’s a need to move the tapes from a climate controlled environment, then care should be taken for the tapes to acclimatize to the conditions.
  • Organizations should also keep in mind the right time to replace the cartridges or migrate to a different storage medium.

Data archiving landscape is changing rapidly and there is a growing sense among companies to keep a constant track of the ever-growing volume of data. With the revenues at stake, it’s not at all surprising that magnetic tapes are going all-out in their war against disk archives.

The role of the tapes in offsite disaster recovery scenarios cannot be undermined. Most companies now are opting for disk to store their data locally and, increasingly, in the cloud for faster recovery speed. In spite of these setbacks, the tape still holds an ace up its sleeve, as the offsite tape solution provides an additional thicket against a catastrophic disaster at a much lower price.