5 Reasons Why Google Uses Tape for Disaster Recovery

By Michael
March 16, 2011


Tape backup saved the day for Google earlier this month when a software glitch caused the loss of messages, chats and other data for some 40,000 Gmail users. Tape is an important part of Google’s data recovery mix. And, as far as their users are concerned, that’s a very good thing.

I blogged recently about Why the Google Incident Proves Relevance of Tape Storage. Now I’d like to take it a step further and look at the top five reasons why I think Google uses tape backup for disaster recovery. 

  1. Embracing redundancy
    You don’t have to be Google to have an ever-growing storage need. Businesses of all sizes have data storage systems that are expanding in complexity. Protection and recovery require the right combination of tools and applications. To accomplish this, Google and many other businesses use real-time replication, backup tapes and media management software. The right combination means protection against file corruption, software update bugs (in the case of Google), and application and storage system failure.
  2. Off site protection
    As Google’s Ben Treynor blogged in Gmail Back Soon for Everyone, their tapes are stored offline and independently from the system. And, as we happily saw with Google, if the system is corrupted, the backed up data isn’t affected. Not even by a system-wide bug.
  3. Sequential data storage
    Tape drive backups are stored and can be accessed sequentially. Disk drives, by contrast, provide random access storage. I’m willing to bet the need to access email sequentially was no small factor in Google’s decision to go with tape.
  4. Lifespan
    Tape can last up to 50 years. Even in the event of a natural disaster or a massive power grid outage, tape stands the best chance of recovery. Plus, relocating tapes at any time during their long lifespan is safer and easier than transporting hard drives.
  5. Proven
    Google is one more (and very high profile) example of the benefits of tape in disaster recovery. Ken Hess put it well in his Data Center Knowledge article: “And, you can be sure that no data center manager responsible for providing backup and restore services to customers, would ever go out on an untested limb to replace tape.”

That’s because tape has proved itself once again—this time for one of the most trusted companies in the world.


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