Backing Up With Disk and Tape in Harmony

Analysis: Disk-based backup systems are all the rage, but don't throw out your trusty tape library just yet.

During the last few years, disk-based backup systems have metamorphosed from expensive luxury items to core storage elements. For companies that havent yet taken the plunge, a wide range of new disk-based solutions—along with new business requirements for high-speed data recovery and decreased downtime—makes this a good time to investigate and implement disk-based backup.

Its important to remember, however, that disk-based backup solutions are designed to enhance tape backups, not to completely replace them. Many companies, for example, use disk-based systems for daily backup and restore jobs while continuing to run their full weekly backups to tape on the weekends.

Indeed, while disk-based systems can greatly reduce the number of tapes a company consumes per year, IT managers dont have to—and, for a number of reasons, shouldnt—sacrifice their tape safety blanket.

In terms of investment protection, virtual tape libraries, such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s HP StorageWorks 6000 VLS (Virtual Library System), are ideal for IT managers who already have an entrenched tape backup solution in place.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read a review of the StorageWorks 6000 VLS.

Using virtual tape library technology, IT managers can tap existing backup management systems for media management and scheduling while gaining the performance benefits (including higher data throughput and faster accessibility to backed-up data) associated with disk-based backups.

Since virtual tape libraries look and act like tape libraries, backup administrators and help desk staff members who are already familiar with the current backup implementation do not have to go through any additional training to do their jobs.

Although the portability of tape media has long been considered a significant asset, recent data thefts have shown that it can be a liability as well. An unencrypted tape that is stolen or lost from a data center or while en route to a data vault could result in everything from embarrassment to lost business to legal action—or any combination thereof—for a company, not to mention possibly putting customers identities at risk.

Disk-based backup is evolving at a relatively rapid pace. Solutions such as Data Domain Inc.s DD Replicator, for example, now include WAN replication technologies. As a result, IT managers can simply replicate backup data over the WAN instead of having to hire third-party vendors to deliver their backup media off-site.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read a case study about Data Domain, click here.

Tape is far from dead, but that doesnt mean it should be the only backup technology in your environment.

eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at

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