Is Tape Backup Dead?

Tape Backup Storage

Readers not accustomed to the world of backup may be surprised to hear that tape backup is still extremely prevalent, despite the decline of consumer tape-based devices over a decade ago. This article will discuss the uses of tape backup technology, and the alternatives to tape available today.

Why do some businesses still use tape?

Modern businesses can often be found utilizing tape as a backup solution today simply because they always have, and they have already invested in the technology to do so. Tape does have its advantages for businesses who need to backup a very large amount of data and need to store it for very long periods of time, but for most businesses these capabilities are unnecessary and are outweighed by the downsides of tape.

What are the downsides of tape backup?

Tape drives can be very expensive and tapes themselves can be troublesome to store safely. Many businesses store their tape backups on-site or personally take them home after a backup. This can be disastrous in the event of a break in or accident as days or weeks of work could be lost, depending on the frequency of backups. The safest tape storage technique involves off-site safes or secure storage facilities, which can get expensive.

The way in which tape backup works means that it isn’t immediately obvious if a backup is corrupted, as tapes must be checked sequentially to detect corruption. When tapes are found to be corrupted, it is often exactly at the moment you need them. The sequential nature of tape backup is a problem even when tapes aren’t corrupted, as they must be scrolled through to find the desired data when the time comes to restore files. This can be an extremely long and tedious process, especially if there is a large amount of data to scroll through across multiple tapes.

What are the alternatives?

Modern consumers often use desktop external hard disk drives for backup, which is a cheap and work-light way to back up data but can run into problems in the case of drive failure, theft or fire. Many consumers tend to start off using these drives for backup but gradually start using the drives as external storage, leaving their data solely on the external drive. This can be disastrous when the drive eventually fails (usually after about 4 or 5 years, according to this article).

Businesses do not have the luxury of relying on small scale on-site backup as they must regularly back up their data securely, monthly, weekly and in some cases daily or on the hour. This can amount to a large amount of data – far too much for a small desktop HDD. For businesses there is really only one safe backup method: the cloud.

Cloud based backup is becoming the standard among safety-conscious businesses as it is automatic, off-site and fast. Software can be set to backup all company files daily and backup all incremental changes almost as they happen. This can mean that in the event of a disaster data can be restored very quickly, meaning no productivity is lost. Just a few clicks and your business can be back up and running, with all data restored. The speed and reliability of cloud backup is unrivaled and comes at a low cost compared to the price of data loss.


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