Tape Shows Staying Power

New hard-drive-based products may topple tape, but not for a while.

New hard-drive-based products are emerging that could challenge tapes supremacy as the medium of choice for backups and long-term archives. However, the hard-drive-based systems must overcome several major obstacles before they can topple tape.

Current hard-drive-based solutions cannot be shipped off-site easily and are not designed to last dozens of years, as tape is. Hard-drive-based technology does have one important advantage, however: Its less time-consuming to use.

Tape-based systems can require minutes or hours to restore large amounts of data. When IT managers need to restore entire volumes, they have to restore not only the last full backup but also all of the incremental backups that occurred after the last full backup. In contrast, hard-drive-based backup systems can restore data at specific points, without the need to gather multiple pieces of media. This enables IT managers to restore users data in a timely manner, reducing costly downtime.

/zimages/4/28571.gifeWEEK Labs recently tested three state-of-the-art tape drives. Click here to read the full story.

eWEEK Labs believes that hard drive technology should initially be used for incremental and weekly backups but that it wont eliminate the need to run full tape backups for off-site storage.

One of the more interesting new backup systems weve seen in recent months is Data Domain Inc.s DD200 Restorer, an appliance that can create highly compressed backups. (Company officials said the DD200 Restorer can back up data at compression rates of as much as 20-to-1.)

The DD200 Restorer, which shipped earlier this year, is priced at $58,000. It operates on the premise that the difference between a primary data set and its incremental backups is fairly small, limited to the daily addition and alteration of data in common applications such as e-mail and databases and in file servers.

The DD200 Restorer saves only that unique, incremental information and therefore can store large amounts of data and restore it on the fly without requiring an IT manager to load a group of tapes.

The DD200 Restorer works with most current backup software packages, so IT managers can add it to their backup networks as a target without affecting investments in tape and software. Although sites that create large amounts of unique data wouldnt benefit from this solution, most other organizations could use the solution to accelerate backups and restoration.

Other newcomers, such as Network Appliance Inc.s Snaplock and EMC Corp.s Centera, are poised to take on tape as the archive media of choice. Snaplock, Centera and products like them are hard-drive-based and thus rewritable by nature, but advances in software and data management allow these products to retain unalterable (WORM) archive copies of data. The quick-restore capabilities in these archive products will also help companies meet compliance and auditing needs.

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