tape relevant

3 Reasons Tape Storage is Still Relevant, And How to Handle Tape Effectively

By Michael
November 20, 2015

Tape storage may feel a bit like a relic of the past, but while the data storage industry has been evolving, tape has remained a steady, dependable and cost-efficient medium for archiving. Solid state drives, of course, cost too much per gigabyte to be ideal for archiving, though their lack of moving parts is a nice feature. Hard disk drives, while becoming less expensive all the time and attractive for long-term storage, can face significant mechanical challenges over time as the small internal parts wear out. This doesn’t mean that hard drives are not relevant for archiving, but it does create a situation in which tape can be advantageous in many situations.

Tape storage is retaining its relevancy in large part because it simply does what it is designed to do, and in an incredibly effective way. Three noteworthy benefits of tape that have served as reasons why it is still relevant include:

1. Tape is cost-efficient
The cost-per-gigabyte ratio for tape is incredibly valuable for organizations. Tape storage systems can hold a large amount of data without ratcheting up costs, something that is particularly beneficial for archiving. Organizations dealing with long-term data storage can end up putting staggering amounts of data into archives, particularly as companies embrace big data and need to securely store information that is no longer in use.

Large, data-intensive projects make long-term archiving extremely important for businesses, and tape’s ability to provide huge reservoirs of capacity at a relatively low cost make it an ideal option.

2. Tape doesn’t need much power
Tape operates with an incredibly low power draw when it is actively being used, and there is no reason to completely disconnect tape from an array and put it in when you need it. Power use over time can be one of the major unexpected costs of data archiving. Leaving hard disks spinning in your data center for years can lead to significant energy consumption as power is used not only to keep disks spinning, but also to cool storage arrays.

You can keep tape arrays unplugged and out of the way for extended periods of time, and then plug them in as needed, without any trouble. The simple but robust storage interface makes it easier to avoid complications within this model and allows you to minimize energy consumption – and thus reduce costs – while archiving data.

3. Tape is in it for the long haul
Large-scale, long-term data archiving is much more efficient with tape for the reasons already mentioned, and simply because tape uses interfaces that make it more applicable to huge quantities of data. If you need to get information off of hard disks, they must reside in dedicated hardware and you will need to either move the data to your site through the WAN (as archiving almost always needs to happen at a secondary location) or physically migrate all of your equipment. Tape avoids this problem as its machine interface does not require a dedicated storage array, and you can simply transport the tapes and get information to the necessary location.

Similarly, tape is ideal for legacy data types, but can also keep up with contemporary demands. These factors come together to make tape ideal for long-term archives because you can rest assured that the technology will remain viable across its entire life cycle, even if your data center changes dramatically during that time.

While tape is entirely relevant as a data archiving tool, many organizations do not have the systems they need to manage tape effectively because the storage format is unfamiliar to many IT teams. Furthermore, tape is usually stored in a remote location, so it usually is “out of sight, out of mind.” However, dedicated backup tape management solutions like Vertices can help you ensure security and viability within your tape backup archive.

Key benefits of backup tape management
A good tape management system will help you in many ways, but a few key benefits are:

Security and compliance: A Backup tape management system will provide end-to-end tape tracking functions, ensure you understand the location and disposition of all of your tape assets at all times. This flows out to tape destruction, letting you have a clear understanding of the status of all of your tapes, at all times.

Automation: A tape management system will feature automation scripts that handle key tasks like documentation and serialization. As such, you don’t need to worry about your workers taking on an unnecessary burden of clerical work as they try to manage tape systems over time.

Visibility: This issue came up when talking about security, but having transparency into the location of your tapes isn’t just useful for regulatory compliance, it also helps you improve reliability. Visibility into how and where your tapes are stored lets you ensure they are kept in proper condition across their life cycle.

Tape storage offers major benefits for backup archives, and the right management systems can help you maximize their value.

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