Unreliable Data Backup

It seems kindof ironic that tape backup is the most popular form of data backup among businesses and it is also the most unreliable. It is not even close, so I will say it again; tapes are absolutely the most unreliable backup media. It's not necessarily the tape's fault. The tape drives, tape libraries, and software may be just as guilty as the media itself. In defense of all of the tape backup technology; it is complex stuff and it must all work together to produce good backups. Humans also contribute to the problems with tape backup; tapes are finicky and must be treated with care. Most backup tape media have environmental requirements for storage and even have a prescribed way they can be stacked or shelved. The procedures to maintain and ensure proper backup function must be followed and monitored diligently or the tape backup system breaks down.

Not only are tape backup systems unreliable, but they are also some of the most expensive to purchase and own. Modern high capacity tape media costs well over $100 per unit. The cost per GB is usually higher for tape media than the cost per GB of a hard disk drive. The tape hardware is much more costly to purchase and maintain than disk-based equipment. And the human resources required to operate and maintain tape based backup systems are also a major factor.

Okay, if tape backup is the most unreliable backup media, and also the most expensive, then why is it so widely used? I think there is one simple explanation; tape backup is the oldest form of backup and a lot of people haven't changed to disk-based or online backup systems yet. Many companies have invested heavily in their tape-based systems and can't swallow the thought of scrapping that investment. So they continue to pay the maintenance and upgrade costs year after year.

If you are still using a tape-backup system, you would be well served to look at disk based storage systems. Disk-based storage is not just onsite storage. Most modern disk-based systems have removable hard-drives that can be transported offsite just as easily has tape media. Better yet, just use your network to ship your data offsite. In most cases bandwidth and online/offsite backup storage is more cost effective than the cost of tape backup, and it is much more reliable and easier to use and maintain.

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