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Server-based backup vs. tape

For small businesses (with a total hard drive capacity of all machines between 500-1000 GB) does buying expensive and slow tapes even make sense anymore? With hard drive prices dropping below $0.60/GB, does buying backup servers based solely on hard drives make more sense? They are far faster and probably just as reliable.

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Backing up to hard drives is a very cost effective way of solving this necessary task. But it's not without it's downside as well. Going strictly on percentages, there are more issues with hard drives (overall) than with tapes. Hard drives (mounted inside a server) are very difficult to remove and take off site (solution here is to locate your backup server off site, but then you lose the slight speed benefit over tape). True, tape drives do cost more than hard drives, but the cost of these drives has come down quite a bit over the last few years. Tape provides you with the ability of taking copies off site (in case of disaster, theft, etc). Speeds on the recent generation of drives is pretty impressive, and the capacities of single tapes in the 1,000 GB (1 terabyte) range. You could also combine the two technologies, and keep a local hard drive based backup, as well as a tape backup that gives the ability to remove off site.

This was first published in February 2005

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