Users set to ditch tape for online storage

Not so, retorts Tandberg Data

Users are set to ditch tape as a storage medium as one in 10 businesses have lost data following a failure of a tape backup system.

That's according to research published from business continuity specialist Connect. The survey of 151 UK IT managers and directors also found that three quarters of SMEs still use traditional backup tapes as the default option to store their data, but that nearly half (49 percent) of all companies expect to switch to an online backup service within the next 3 years.

The study also found that one in five have already switched away from traditional backup tapes, with 10 percent expected to shift across over the next 12 months.

Tapes have been used to store data since the 1960s, but Connect feels that tape as a backup method is "hugely vulnerable and problematic. It is not even cheaper than more reliable options," said the survey.

Mark MacGregor, CEO of Connect told Techworld that over the last 12 months his company had stopped recommending tape as standard for their clients, mostly down to the poor reliability of tapes for recovering data and the decline in costs for online backups.

"Until 18 months ago, our recommendation to our clients was that online backup was not speedy enough and was too expensive," he said. "Online backup was ok for small amounts of data, but over the last year or so, that equation has changed, as the price of online backup has come down and line speed has improved."

MacGregor said that the failure rates of tapes was not so much due to the technology itself, but rather with what people actually did with their tapes. "It is not failure of tapes per se, more failure of the process," he said. "Those process problems, combined with falling costs of online backup, or alternative methods, makes switching to online backup a no-brainer now. Obviously, there can be exceptions though."

However, data storage provider Tandberg Data dismissed the idea that tape has had its day.

"Tape is not going to die, it will evolve," said Simon Anderson, product manager for tape drive and media at Tandberg. "Maybe not as primary backup, but certainly for archiving purposes. The retention period for storing data is increasing, especially considering recent European legislation, and organisations such as Google and Yahoo are now storing data for much longer."

"Connect are obvious painting a rosy picture (of online backup), but if you compare it against it all tape technologies, customers will see the difference," he added. "LTO-4 runs at 120MB/s, so it is more a case of utilising new tape technologies, and customers using new tape technology will benefit from new advantages."

"Online backup is not suitable for everyone... and online backup can be an expensive mistake if you get it wrong," he warned.

"You can store tape in a vault or offsite for 30 years," added Marije Stijnen, director of corporate marketing at Tandberg. "Tape is also a no power medium, with no spinning disks needed, so there are huge power consumption savings," she added.

"Tape faults are more associated with human error, such as leaving tapes too long before rotation etc," said Stijnen. "When you are dealing with huge data sets and quick access, I would hate to rely on online backup."

"Tape is not irrelevant now, and indeed for some companies, it will still be the most suitable medium," concedes Connect's MacGregor. "But the number and type of those companies is decreasing all the time."

"Tape is not dead, but it certainly is not going to be growth industry over the next few years," he added. "That is why we believe that the default option over next three years is going to be online backup. My instinct is that it will be quicker than that."

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