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Debunking Tape Backup Myths in 2019: Full Overview

Tape has been one of the primary storage media resources since the 1960s. Over time, however, tape drives have become overshadowed by disk and cloud storages due to the growing demands of data-driven businesses. As a result, people started to believe that the rise of disk and cloud storage meant the death of tape. Other popular misconceptions about tape (as well as backup to tape) include poor performance, low capacity, and no scalability. Such falsehoods have negatively affected the tape’s reputation as a reliable backup medium.

This blog post describes the most popular tape backup myths and attempts to debunk them. Moreover, we will focus on the current state of the tape as a backup medium and where the backup to tape technology is heading in 2019. Additionally, we would like to discuss the latest release of NAKIVO Backup & Replication which supports native backup to tape. With this functionality, you can send full and incremental data backups to tape as well as manage multiple tape libraries from a single pane of glass. Read further to learn more.

What Is Magnetic Tape Backup?

Before we can delve into the most popular misconceptions about tape backup, we should first understand what magnetic tape backup is and how it works.

Magnetic tape backup is a data protection approach, which entails storing digital data on tape cartridges or cassettes. Tape backups are currently used for offsite long-term storage of critical data which doesn’t need to be accessed on a regular basis. By copying data to a tape cartridge, you can ensure stable data archiving and full recovery of necessary information, should your primary backups get damaged or corrupted.

Tape was the primary way of storing digital data from the 1960s through mid-1980s – up to the point when hard disks became more widespread as they could offer a lower price, higher capacity, and better usability than magnetic tapes. These characteristics made hard drives an effective alternative to tape backups. Nevertheless, tape drive backup still remains one of the main options for storing data due to the large storage capacity, lucrative cost per unit, and reliability that magnetic tapes can offer.

However, magnetic tape has its disadvantages as well. For example, for the purpose of reading or writing digital data onto a tape, you should use a tape drive. Note that tape drives are sequential-access devices, meaning that in order to access a specific data block, you first need to read all the preceding data blocks. Also, tape cartridges and cassettes can deteriorate over time if kept in unfavorable conditions, resulting in unwanted data loss.

Tape Backup with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

Common Tape Backup Myths

As you can see, tape backup has been around for several decades. Even with the emergence of new and more advanced storage media, businesses did not stop performing tape backups. Therefore, it is unreasonable to claim that tape is dead or on the verge of decay. Below, we wish to demonstrate how tape is still a lucrative storage option even in 2019, debunking all the myths surrounding tape backup.

Tape is dead

If you have been Googling ‘tape backup’, you might have noticed that most articles only focus on whether tape is, in fact, dead or not. This is odd considering that tape is still widely used in modern data centers for storing large amounts of data.

In spite of a wide-spread belief, tape backup is not actually dead, but is badly marketed. Unfortunately, some business owners, IT administrators, and industry experts do not fully understand all the benefits that come with using tape. Even with the exponential growth of data we are witnessing today, modern businesses discard tape as outdated and ineffective technology.

The main reason for this is the lack of understanding how tape backup actually works and how it can enhance your IT data protection infrastructure. Customers simply lack information about the actual tape features and capabilities. This is deemed to be the fault of tape vendors who poorly advertise their own product. Tape vendors need to work hard on debunking falsehoods surrounding tape technology. Otherwise, the myth about the demise of tape will persist for another decade.

Tape backup is outdated

Tape is certainly not dead or dying, but its role in the modern IT infrastructure has drastically changed. While it was previously used as the primary storage option, tape is now the best option for archiving large amounts of data offsite. Mainly due to poor marketing, most customers might not be aware of all the benefits that backing up to tape can provide. When tape backup is used alongside other backup technology (disk or cloud), you can build a comprehensive data protection strategy addressing your system’s faults and vulnerabilities.

Another point worth mentioning is that tape remains stable throughout its development. Unlike cloud and disk storage which experience rise and decline respectively, tape usage has been steady over the years. This is mainly due to the reliability and durability that magnetic tape provides.

Tape can be replaced by other storage media

Despite the many benefits that disk or cloud storage can provide, they haven’t been able to fully replace tape as a backup medium. The main reason for this is that magnetic tape has some unique features which make it stand out among other storages. With its high capacity and longevity, tapes are perfect for long-term retention of large files. If you need to transport data from one system to another, tape is the best option due to its portability and compact size.

What’s more, when it comes to highly regulated industries, it is required to keep copies of your data intact to meet legal or corporate requirements. Most businesses prefer to use tape over cloud to keep their data offsite for compliance purposes.

Moreover, tape is the ultimate offline storage medium that is not connected to any network. This way, ransomware attackers cannot access tape backups and infect your system. As offline storage, tape consumes less power and produces less heat than hard disk drives, allowing you to significantly cut energy costs. By backing up to tape, you can enable an air gap, which is a security measure used to isolate a device or system from the unprotected networks that might be exposed to malware or ransomware.

Performing Native Tape Backup with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

Tape needs no promotion

One of the reasons why tape is considered dead is due to the bad reputation that disk backup vendors have created for it. On the other hand, it is tape backup vendors themselves who are not doing enough to promote their product and present tape advantages to customers.

There is an assumption that disk and cloud vendors are mainly responsible for the emergence of the ‘tape is dead’ myth. This was made as an attempt to market disk-based backups as the best data protection option and get rid of potential competition. For a long time, people were convinced that tape is slow, complex, resource-intensive, or simply too obsolete to be used by modern businesses. On the other hand, tape backup vendors themselves are just as guilty of stoking tape’s unfortunate reputation. Tape is simply poorly advertised, leaving people clueless about the true state of the tape backup technology in 2019 and its actual benefits.

Tape is not an effective backup medium

Tape cannot be considered the ultimate backup medium, but it is still the best option when it comes to ensuring long-term data retention and building offsite archival storage. The 3-2-1 backup rule is a popular data protection strategy, which can ensure safety of your data under almost any circumstances. This rule works as follows: have three copies of data, store them on two types of media, and keep one of them offsite. You can improve this backup strategy by simply sending your backups to tape. This way, you will have one more copy offline, thus increasing resilience against ransomware attacks and adding another layer of data protection.

Tape’s offline capabilities make it an indispensable storage medium in the age of advanced cybersecurity threats. Keeping your data on tape allows you to build a ransomware-proof storage for a fraction of the price. As a result, you can not only protect the most critical copies of your data, but also secure them from internal or external attackers.

Tape has no future

Due to the false claims that tape is dead and outdated, the majority of customers still believe that the future of data storage is not in magnetic tape. In fact, this is not true as about 80 percent of modern businesses include tape in their backup infrastructure. Moreover, interest in the tape backup technology has greatly increased in recent years. As a result, tape vendors are more determined than ever to increase the tape storage capabilities to meet growing business demands.

First and foremost, tape vendors are working on increasing tape storage capacity. Moreover, tape offers offline storage capabilities, ensuring that your backups are securely protected against ransomware attacks. Tape backup vendors take this functionality even further by including tape encryption. This way, an unauthorized user cannot access the tape content and overwrite your data.

One of the latest tape developments is the use of tape partitioning. With this functionality, you can divide tape into two partitions. One of these partitions can contain the tape’s index, whereas the other can be used to store backups. This way, you can reduce complexity of tape backup management.

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, tape is still relevant in today’s digitized world despite multiple claims of its inevitable demise. Tape has not ceased to exist for a number of reasons: unique features and capabilities, continuous development, and time-proven performance.

NAKIVO Backup & Replication recognizes the importance of tape backup for modern data centers. Due to this recognition, the latest v9.1 beta release of NAKIVO Backup & Replication includes the Native Backup to Tape functionality. With this feature, you can copy both full and incremental backups to tape for long-term retention of important data. Moreover, you can manage your tape environment from a single pane of glass. To further increase your data protection performance and save time, NAKIVO Backup & Replication can fully automate the backup to tape process.

However, when it comes to developing a comprehensive data protection strategy, you should not be concerned with selecting one backup medium over another. Each backup technology provides specific benefits. Thus, disk, cloud, and tape work best when used together. NAKIVO Backup & Replication is a full-fledged data protection solution which can deliver backup, replication, and recovery services across platforms. This way, you can take advantage of various data protection options without compromising.

If you would like to learn more about our product and see for yourself all of its benefits, request a live demo by one of our engineers or download a full-featured free trial to test the product in your production environment today.

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Debunking Tape Backup Myths in 2019: Full Overview
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