The Backup Battle Heats Up
Is tape dead? in response to eWEEK Labs recent "Backup Advances" package, several readers offered persuasive arguments that tape has lost its place as a worthwhile backup medium. However, eWEEK Labs is not ready to write the epitaph on tape storages tombstone. The demand for tape is spurring a new generation of tape backup products (see www.eWEEK.com/labslinks).
This doesnt mean tape will rule the roost forever, of course. The need for fail-safe data protection and the technology to provide it have evolved to the point where near-line storage is becoming more compelling than tape in many environments.
Should these standards fail to keep up with ATA disks, it could be bad news for tape. However, there are other reasons why hard or optical drives might become the future of backup technology.
First, hard drive backups (also called disk-to-disk backups) can be mounted on demand. This makes restoration quick and relatively painless. Anyone who has had to do a full restore knows that the process required for complete tape backups is often complex and time-consuming.
Near-line solutions such as optical- and hard-drive-based backups are also becoming increasingly popular, as downtime has become the chief enemy of IT managers. Companies that cant afford to be offline cant rely on tape for backup because it requires downtime.
The emergence of solutions such as Storage Technology Corp.s EchoView line will likely push more IT managers into the continuous-backup camp. EchoView, a disk-to-disk backup solution, keeps track of data changes on a transaction level and mirrors them to disk while keeping time-stamp records. It can restore data from a specific time period in matter of seconds. (See eWEEK Labs review of EchoView at www.eWEEK.com/ labslinks.)
Because continuous-backup solutions capture all transactions and file creation events when they happenas opposed to tape backup, which preserves data at specific points in timecontinuous backup will be especially useful for transaction-oriented applications such as databases.
Tapes can occasionally become unreliable, especially when IT managers neglect to keep tape drive heads clean or store the tapes in less-than-ideal conditions. Long-term storage of tape can be problematic as well. Although tapes can last for dozens of years in storage, the drives needed to read them might not enjoy the same longevity. Even scarier, if a tape vendor goes out of business, IT managers could be stuck with a mountain of unsupported tapes.
Despite its problems, tape will live on because disaster recovery and remote data storage are major responsibilities for IT managers. The fact is, tape is currently the best form of removable storage, thanks to the performance and capacity superiority it has over optical storage mediums.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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