Tape has been around for 50+ years in various formats and the current most popular format is LTO tape that holds up to 30TB on a LTO-8 tape. Initially, tape was designed to loads computer programs, today, however tape is more commonly used for backup. Although the market for tape storage is declining year on year it still has a place in the computer industry. No other storage media holds as much data as tape, it delivers the lowest cost per GB, is removable and portable.
Backing up to tape
We live in a 24×7 connected world and there are many technological choices we need to make when we back up data or do we need to bother at all. Many companies over the past few years have completely done away with tape and just use disk to disk for backup or backup to the cloud, there are many arguments for and against using tape. We believe that tape still has a place in the backup environment and the following will hopefully assist you in making this decision.
Definition of a backup
A system backup should be able to backup the complete operating system including files and applications. From this, you should be able to restore your last backup and recover to this point in time. You should also be able to restore individual files or emails.
I have heard this so many times I have lost count. If you go back 12 years then yes your ability to read a tape due to corruption, lost leader or backup software was more common. With tape storage today the error recovery rates are higher than that provided by disk drives and robustness of the media make tape as reliable as any other form of storage technology. Disk drives fail are easy to corrupt through failure or maliciously and the rebuild times on RAID storage systems is becoming a huge headache for companies as drive capacities for both SSD and hard disks now exceed 16TB!
The middle ground
A compromise for using tape for backup is a disk to disk to tape backup solution whereby your data is initially backed up to hard disk and then at a pre-determined time this is then sent to tape. An advantage of this type of solution is that file restores can be performed much faster than tape and you could hold 1 months worth of backups on hard disk. You could if the budget allows purchasing a data deduplication system to condense your backup data by 20:1. These compression ratios are achieved by creating hashtags for duplicated blocks.
Tape has always been seen as unreliable but with advances in tape head technology and newer LTO tape formats an unprecedented phenomenon is the improvement of the data integrity. LTO-6’s Bit Error-rate is 1x 10’17, while the enterprise SATA hard disk is 1x 10’15. This means you can write 100 times more data on an LTO-6 tape than on a hard disk before the risk of a write error.
Disk to Disk only Backup
With D2D solution we backup to local disk and replicate the data offsite. This works, but it is dependant on the amount of data we need to transfer across our WAN link within our transfer window. Should something happen to the WAN link mid-way through a transfer, can you carry on from when the link broke or do you start from scratch? This is where data duplication can play a bigger part of your backup strategy as the data we need to transfer is drastically reduced. With any WAN-based replication, your telecoms links need to be robust and guarantee transfer speeds both ways.
Continuous Data Protection
The historical problem with backups is that they are only taken once a night and if something happened to your system after your backup you could lose 23+ hours of data. With continuous data protection, your data is secured up until the last “minute/second/hour”. These backup solutions typically use disk to disk storage for the speed of backup/restore and an element of tape to take critical information offsite. They have become very sophisticated in the way the data is backed up and overcome the issue of taking a backup once a day.
This works fine if you are only backing up a small amount of data to the cloud and your WAN links can handle the transfer rates. Cloud backup provides a convenient way to store data in the cloud and protects it. Issues arise when you lose a server and need to restore multiple terabytes across the WAN. To over come these short comings we provide solutions that backup locally to on-premise disk storage and then this information is replicated to the cloud. Allowing you to restore data locally in the event of data loss or server failure.
Advantages of tape
We understand that tape has been around for 60+ years and whilst sales have been on a decline for a number of years it still has many advantages over alternative technologies.
- True portability
- Ideal for 10+ years archiving of data providing it’s not kept in a Green house
- Lowest cost per TB
- Faster backup speed than hard disk
- Higher capacity with the smallest storage footprint of competing technologies
- Easy to duplicate
LTO Storage the future
Any backup solution should not rely solely on one technology and it should be a combination of all of the above. A backup should allow you to recover to a point in time with the minimum of disruption and in a timely manner. LTO storage still has a great future ahead providing it is being adopted in the right way with the correct software. It is predicted that by 2027 a single LTO tape will hold 100TB’s of data!
How can we help?
We work with some of the world’s leading tape storage companies to provide solutions to enable your organisation to grow, data delivered faster and reduce unnecessary expenditure.
If you would like to know more call us on +44 (01256) 331614 or complete our form below.