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Why is a tape backup system still so popular?

George Crump, president of Storage Switzerland, has found that many large data centers are still using tape backup systems. A tape backup system can be cheap and it's effective to have a separate backup platform, Crump said at a recent TechTarget presentation, "Beyond Backup."

Linear Tape File Systems (LTFS) have the potential to change the way data centers think of and use tape, according to Crump. "In the past, LTO [linear tape open] and other tape formats were clumsy, slow and difficult to deal with. Now, with LTFS, it's as easy to interact with tape as it is with any other storage device," Crump said. "It has immediate application when data transfer volumes are high and bandwidth is low. But it also has broader implications on backup and archive processes, and potentially on the way databases and file systems access data."

We're seeing a lot of reintroductions of tape in a lot of facilities.
George Crump, president of Storage Switzerland

Because of this, tape can be one of the best options for fixing an unstructured data backup problem. "It's inexpensive per GB, fast and can require little to no operational cost to store for a long period of time," according to Crump. "The ideal solution would be to merge tape into a NAS-based platform so that protection becomes an integrated part of unstructured data storage."

In this video from "Beyond Backup," Crump discussed why organizations are still employing a tape backup system and some considerations for using one.

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Transcript - Why is a tape backup system still so popular?

Why a tape backup system is useful

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of the video clip from George Crump's presentation, "Beyond Backup."

We still find that many large data centers still use tape. I got you guys to move in here, but I'm going to ask you one more question. How many people still have a tape library in their building? [Hands go up.] I love you guys. You're awesome. Not just because you participated, but that's what we find too. Weird. You guys aren't throwing those things out like the guys in the other room say you are. That's odd. Why? Because it's a really cheap place to store data, and occasionally it works -- even better.

So one of the big things we see in these new backup applications is many of them, not all, many of them don't support tape. I'm a big fan of disk. Disk and scale, it's awesome. At some point, somebody's going to have to pay for it because most disk systems have to stay powered on the whole time they're running. Interestingly enough, if you remember there was MAID [massive array of idle disks] a couple years ago or more than a few years ago now, and so it drives the power off and power back on and it sounded like a good idea. All we had to do was power, essentially, the CPUs.

But when you start bringing out technologies, especially like deduplication and snapshots, that's a database. I've got to keep the whole thing powered up so I can check if I've seen this data before, how old's the snapshot, how far am I getting away? You notice we don't talk about MAID much anymore? Because all these other technologies have sort of replaced it. So that's another challenge that we see there.

And so that's why tape is really becoming prominent again. We're seeing a lot of reintroductions of tape in a lot of facilities. New 10 terabyte tape is out, 10 terabytes for about $150. It's a pretty good deal. Plus I also find that there's just comfort when you have it on something different. I don't know what type of store or event would cause hard drives to fail and not tape but there's just something, as humans, we just like to have stuff on different platforms, so I find that kind of interesting.

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Why a tape backup system is still a good storage option

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Why is tape backup still pervasive in many architectures?
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You still can't beat the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes speeding down the highway.
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As mentioned in this brief, tapes are pretty much untouched. Light and within reach and easy to store. Hard drives are heavier, subject to failure and more expensive. Cloud, you really don't see your data but other people can. Cloud has to back up as well.
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Well, tapes do have their flaws. They die after a while, they can be fragile, the machinery to read them has lots of moving parts...
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