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Most users planning to use disk-based backups

Hundreds of users at the Storage Decisions conference are using disk-based backup technologies now or plan to implement them over the next 12 months.

NEW YORK -- The end-user community has officially handed the backup torch from tape to disk. A survey of several hundred storage managers at this week's Storage Decisions conference revealed that more than 80% of the users in attendance are using disk-based backup solutions now or plan to implement disk-to-disk backup technology in some form over the next 12 months.

"I don't think there's a single enterprise of any size that's not ready for disk-to-disk backup," said Arun Taneja, president and consulting analyst with the Taneja Group Inc., of Hopkinton, Mass. "If they don't [move to it], they're going to have a calamity on their hands."

In a recent study, the Enterprise Storage Group found that 23% of enterprise customers had already adopted virtual tape libraries (VTL) and that an additional 23% were evaluating VTL technologies. The adoption rate was much lower in midtier markets, in the area of 5%.

Michael Passe, head of IT for the Care Group LLC, a health care provider based in Indianapolis, is not using disk-to-disk for backups yet, but will soon. "For now, the recovery times from tape are good enough for our applications, but disk-to-disk backups are on our roadmap," he said.

Tape's not dead yet

Despite the slew of disk-based backup appliances and software flooding the market, users aren't dismissing tape by any means. In fact, tape products are rebounding with gusto. IBM, StorageTek and Imation are all pointing to tape drives, media and libraries as cash cows in recent months.

Scott Collins, who runs the storage systems at the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, Rockville, Md., has yet to find the cost of disk-based backup appliances compelling enough to stop using tape libraries.

Collins completed an analysis of disk-to-disk appliances versus tape libraries last year. "It turns out tape's throughput is better than some of these appliances. [Disk-to-disk appliances] didn't make sense for us because they were much more expensive than tape," he said.

Adopt disk at your own risk

Experts do agree that users considering disk should be cautious. Taneja said it would be a mistake to buy a VTL or other disk-to-disk product just because a vendor claims it's ready for prime time. "Users reluctant to deploy these solutions in production environments would be wise to wait for VTL to be available from an established player," he said.

"But even if a smaller company does not have that level of support available to you, I still suggest looking at that solution. Bring it in and beat it up because you're going to live with your selection for the next few years."


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