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Guest view: Tape storage expertise still largely relevant

CK Lee | June 11, 2013
What businesses should think of before embarking on a tape archiving strategy.

The worldwide purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA) is set to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4 percent, totalling nearly $5.9 billion by the close of 2016, according to a report by IDC[1].

This exceptional growth is due to increased use and customer adoption of PBBA systems for backup, recovery and storage optimisation with the use of data deduplication. IDC also reports that the drivers for increased investment in PBBA solutions result from the need to improve backup window time, to provide faster restore and recovery times, and to enable seamless integration with existing backup applications.

As a result, organisations continue to aggressively move away from tape-based backup and recovery processes. However, while tape may no longer have the performance or reliability to cope with organisation's growing volumes of data, it is still being deployed alongside PBBA systems in business environments as an archive platform.

The introduction of newer alternatives such as hard disks, solid state storage, optical storage and remote services have significantly dampened the usage of tape in the enterprise but it still remains the most commonly used medium for organisations that cannot operate without long-term, safe and secure storage.

Challenges businesses face when relooking their archiving strategy 

Long term investment and business decision made will impact how archiving is done but most companies with tape storage face the common problem of an increasingly obsolete storage method that may not be familiar to IT specialists today.

As such, tapes are often unreadable due to:

1.      Hardware and software failures: Data is available on tape but the corresponding hardware and software solutions are no longer maintained within the company.

2.      Lack of expertise: Staff do not have the experience of depth of knowledge to deal with aged hardware or software.

3.      Wrong storage: Incorrect storage damages the tape through corrosion, exposure to water or excessive heat.

4.      Incomplete documentation: The tape archive is poorly documented and it is difficult or impossible to locate data.

5.      Company takeover: Different systems need to be consolidated and data needs to be presented in a uniform and consistent way.

Tape archive issues can present a problem should important information be lost. Even if data recovery is possible, damaged and old tapes often hamper recovery efforts resulting in slower recovery times. This greatly reduces overall organisation productivity and encroaches on the IT experts' valuable time.

When it comes down to dollars and cents, the impact is huge when companies lose petabytes of data due to damaged tapes. IT professionals may look past the probability of needing data from an old tape, but an ad hoc request for information that is not retrievable can often lead to loss of trust, customer dissatisfaction and eventually negative impact on company bottom-lines.


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