Over the past couple of years, some industry pundits have predicted that tape is going away due to the increasing popularity of disk-based backup. It turns out that tape is not going away; it is shifting to an archival role. Companies are putting disk in front of their tape-based backup infrastructures, creating tiered backup and recovery systems.
The venerability of tape is well established. Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports, a research analyst firm specializing in tape, says more than 80% of all computer data is stored on tape. The cost of tape storage is declining at a 45% annual rate on a cost-per-gigabyte basis — essentially keeping pace with the growth rate of data. Although tape provides the most cost-effective method of data storage, it is not the fastest medium for recovering data.
Many of you are aware of the pain involved in locating archived data from tape. Even if you can find the data, it is a long process to restore the data. The intelligent combination of disk and tape can alleviate that pain. For instance, StorageTek now offers an all-in-one archive solution consisting of disk and tape. Although this product is not positioned as a backup solution per se, it is changing the role of archiving from a simple repository of old data to a consolidated and searchable collection of business knowledge.
A tiered backup architecture is a good way to provide speedy data recovery, and it can satisfy regulatory compliance requirements for data retention. Many traditional tape backup vendors have embraced disk-based backup while continuing to improve their tape backup products. Companies such as Quantum, Overland, and ADIC now offer both tape- and disk-based solutions. That is a wise approach, since both technologies satisfy unique backup and recovery challenges.
Tape would have shifted to an archival solution even without the popularity of disk-based backup. Information lifecycle management and regulatory compliance are the driving forces behind the changing role of tape. It’s important for the IT professional to understand that disk and tape technologies are not competitors — rather, they are complementary. By combining disk- and tape-based backup systems, you can improve recovery performance, satisfy data retention requirements, and protect your investments in legacy tape equipment.