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how many backup tapes do you currently have stored offsite?

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As a follow-up to our previous question about tape encryption, we asked about offsite tape storage. As expected, there are many tapes out there, even at smaller companies (see "How many backup tapes do you currently have stored offsite?" this page). There was little correlation between the amount of data and the number of tapes stored for each individual business, which indicates a wide variety of retention policies in place. With the largest companies polled storing more than 50,000 tapes offsite, it was surprising to find that data retention and archiving weren't the No. 1 priorities for cost savings. Tape storage is one of the most expensive choices a business can make, and it snowballs with monthly recurring costs. Today, a company with 10,000 offsite tapes would likely spend $100,000 for storage each year; however, continual growth doubles this amount every 18 months or so. We found that even some of the smaller companies (those with fewer than 100TB of storage) had 10,000 to 50,000 tapes stored offsite--a major expense for a small shop.

A skeleton in the closet
How can we rationalize this lack of response to the real business needs for security and customer data protection? It's simple. Storage managers focus on what they feel they have control over: improving utilization, reducing unit costs, and technologies like archiving and tiering storage.

As I wrote in my December column, ILM can't truly transform storage without the ability to understand data requirements. Because storage managers don't understand the data they have and what should be done with it, they're unable to tackle this core issue.

At the same time, there's a lurking sense that we must not reveal the true insecurity of data protection today. These are the skeletons we all keep in the closet: lax data security, data protection that often fails, and policies that are applied with too broad a brush and too little an understanding of the data's value.

This situation must change. Businesses will continue to be embarrassed by lost customer information, storage requirements will grow and data protection will be misaligned with requirements as long as storage remains at the bottom of the IT pyramid. We must seize the opportunity and move ourselves upward into the business, asking tough questions about data classification. And we can't be shy to admit the limitations of our current approach to data protection.

This was first published in April 2006

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