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Call it a Comeback: The Resurgence of Tape for Backup and Data Protection

In the complex and challenging world of data storage and backup solutions, an unlikely contender has made a remarkable comeback: tape storage. Once considered an outdated technology, tape has resurfaced as a valuable component of modern data protection strategies, offering unique advantages that complement other backup methods. As businesses grapple with the challenges of exponentially growing data volumes, heightened cyber threats, and stringent compliance regulations, the role of tape in ensuring data integrity and business continuity has become increasingly significant.

The Enduring Advantages of Tape

While disk-based and cloud backup solutions have gained widespread popularity, tape storage continues to offer distinct benefits that set it apart from other backup media. Some key advantages that have contributed to the resurgence of tape include:

Cost-Effectiveness: Tape remains one of the most cost-effective storage solutions, particularly for long-term archival and offline data retention. The initial investment in tape hardware and media is relatively low compared to disk-based or cloud storage, making it an attractive option for organisations with limited budgets or vast amounts of data to store.

Longevity and Durability: Properly stored and maintained, tape cartridges can reliably preserve data for decades, significantly outlasting the lifespan of most hard disk drives or solid-state drives. This longevity makes tape an ideal choice for archiving critical data that must be retained for extended periods due to regulatory requirements or business needs.

Air-Gapped Security: One of tape’s most compelling advantages is its ability to create an air-gapped, offline copy of data. By physically disconnecting and storing tape cartridges in a secure, offsite location, organisations can effectively protect their data from cyber threats, such as ransomware attacks, malware infections, or unauthorised access attempts.

Data Portability: Tape cartridges are highly portable and can be easily transported or shipped to remote locations for offsite storage or disaster recovery purposes. This portability ensures that critical data remains accessible and recoverable in the event of a localised disaster or site failure.

Scalability: As data volumes continue to grow exponentially, tape storage offers virtually unlimited scalability. Organisations can expand their tape libraries and add new cartridges as needed, without the same constraints and costs associated with scaling up disk-based or cloud storage solutions.

Sustainability: For businesses wanting to showcase their eco credentials, the practice of storing data on perpetually powered-up servers in the cloud when it may need to be accessed once a decade is not a good look. Tape, in comparison, requires no power until such time you need to recover data from it.

Integrating Tape into Modern Data Protection Strategies

While tape storage alone may not be sufficient for comprehensive data protection, it can play a crucial role when integrated into a well-designed backup and recovery strategy. Many organisations are adopting hybrid approaches that leverage the strengths of various backup media, including disk, cloud, and tape.

One common approach is the use of disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) backup solutions. In this model, data is first backed up to a local disk-based storage system, providing fast recovery capabilities for recent data. Subsequently, the backup data is copied to tape cartridges for long-term retention and offsite storage, ensuring air-gapped protection against cyber threats and enabling compliance with data retention regulations.

Another emerging trend is the use of tape as a complementary data protection layer for cloud-based backups. While cloud storage offers convenience and accessibility, concerns around data sovereignty, privacy, and potential vendor lock-in have prompted some organisations to maintain local tape copies of their cloud-hosted data.

Tape’s Role in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

In addition to its backup capabilities, tape storage plays a critical role in disaster recovery and business continuity planning. In the event of a catastrophic data loss or system failure, tape cartridges can be quickly transported to a secondary site or disaster recovery facility, enabling faster data restoration and minimising downtime.

Furthermore, the air-gapped nature of tape backups provides an additional layer of protection against cyber threats, such as ransomware attacks. If an organisation’s primary systems and backups are compromised, offline tape copies can serve as a last line of defence, enabling data recovery without paying ransom demands.

The Future of Tape in Data Protection

Advancements in tape technology, such as higher capacities, faster transfer rates, and improved media reliability, are further enhancing tape’s capabilities and ensuring its relevance in the years to come. The integration of tape storage with cloud-based backup and archiving solutions is also opening up new possibilities for hybrid data protection approaches.

Moreover, the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) program has recently released new standards for tape storage technology, driving innovation and addressing the growing demand for high-capacity, reliable, and secure backup solutions. The latest LTO-9 specification offers a native capacity of 18TB per cartridge, with compressed capacities reaching up to 45TB. Additionally, it boasts impressive transfer rates of up to 400 MB/s for high-performance backup and recovery operations. LTO-9 also incorporates advanced security features, such as encryption and WORM (Write Once, Read Many) functionality, to safeguard sensitive data.

These advancements in tape technology solidify its position as a cost-effective, scalable, and cyber-resilient storage medium, ensuring its continued relevance in modern data protection strategies.

For more information on integrating tape into your backup strategy, get in touch with the team at IT Corporation today.