Data backup is the largest problem for storage administrators today, and remote-office backup is especially challenging. Remote offices often have smaller budgets and fewer staff members to manage their backups.
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TAPE BACKUP AND RECOVERY TUTORIAL FOR REMOTE OFFICES
Despite some of the drawbacks of tape, it's still a common method of backing up data at remote offices. The big reason, said Subodh Kulkarni, vice president of global commercial business at Imation Corp., a maker of tape as well as tape-, optical- and disk-based backup systems, is cost. "Tape continues to have the lowest cost per terabyte," he said. "A terabyte cartridge costs $50 to $70, much less than disk."
Although we tend to assume that remote-office staffs lack the skill or time to manage tape, that's not always true. "I may have someone who knows how to deal with tape," said David Hill, principal at the Mesabi Group, a consultancy that deals with backup issues.
And the assumption that remote offices have modest data storage needs doesn't always hold water. Remote sites such as engineering field offices or laboratories can produce very large data sets that have to be archived, something tape is often ideal for. Even if a site has modest storage needs, the data may need to be archived. "Dentists want to keep their X-rays for a long time, but they don't want to keep their business data for 20 years," said Hill. That tends to lead to a hybrid solution with tape as part of the mix.
Hill also suggests that backing up to a central repository may not be ideal. "I may not want to depend on a central site to restore," he said. "If something happens and I need to restore, I may not feel I can restore from the central site because of bandwidth reasons."
Some businesses may want to move their remote sites away from tape, but economic constraints come into play. "It also comes down to the timing of decisions," said Stephanie Balaouras, principal analyst at Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm. "Corporate policy often said the useful life of IT equipment is five years. They have to use what they have for five years."
This is especially true in today's economy. Not everyone is satisfied with tape, but those who are don't see much point in changing. And tape can be extremely reliable. Drives can work flawlessly for years, so many companies see no reason to replace them. Kulkarni said that Imation is still making cartridges for obsolete tape formats like Travan because there's still demand for them.
Kulkarni agreed that tape has some disadvantages. "On the negative side, tapes do need some knowledge, especially of the tape identification scheme," he said. "It's not quite an off-the-shelf product."This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.
About this author: Rick Cook specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.
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