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Tape’s fate tied to disk

There’s no denying that disk-based backup has had a huge impact on the tape market. Small- to medium-sized companies may find backing

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up to disk and subsequent transfer to an offsite cloud much simpler and more cost-effective than using tape as an offsite media. Backup appliances that deduplicate and compress data can reduce the total amount of data replicated to a manageable size. In many cases, the recovery time is shortened as well.

Additionally, tape stackers and small robots have been problematic for remote-office backup for a long time. Having non-IT office staff manage tape changes and rotations has resulted in non-recoverable data far too often. Automatically transferring the data from the remote office to a professionally managed data center has allowed many organizations to eliminate remote-site tape altogether.

Larger organizations, in contrast, still use tape extensively. They may have implemented and expanded the use of disk-based backup to enable faster B/R times, but the sheer volume of data (think hundreds of TBs or even PBs) make network transfers impractical, even with deduplication. Moreover, even with cloud storage prices as low as $.10/GB per month, it’s still many times more than the one-time $.03/GB to store data on tape (the cost to vault a tape is negligible). Cloud storage has its place, but tape isn’t about to yield its low-cost value proposition for the foreseeable future.

This was first published in February 2012

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