Even with the rise of online, disk-based, and cloud storage and backup solutions, tape is holding its own with SMBs, albeit in a new role. By Sharon Florentine
January 06, 2011
Even with the rise of online, disk-based, and cloud storage and backup solutions, tape is holding its own with SMBs, albeit in a new role.
By Sharon Florentine
Rumors of tape’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Tape, though maligned in the media for its high rate of failure, unwieldy physical storage requirements, and lengthy recovery time, continues to be relevant as a storage and backup technology, especially for SMBs. However, as disk-based, online, and cloud storage and backup solutions become more cost-effective and readily available, the role of tape in the SMB has shifted, says Greg Schulz, founder and senior advisor at the Server and Storage IO Group, an analyst and consulting firm.
And that shift has a lot to do with the size of the SMB. “The smaller the SMB, the more likely they’ve already moved away from tape or have never used tape at all. The larger the SMB, the more likely they are using a hybrid of tape and other technologies,” says Schulz. “Tape is being replaced for day-to-day backups by disk and online solutions, but it doesn’t go away entirely. Its role shifts to long-term retention and archiving.”
STRIKING A BALANCE WITH A HYBRID STORAGE SOLUTION
That’s exactly what managed network and security services solution provider White Glove Technologies’ customers are experiencing. Tommy Wald, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company, says while close to 70 percent of White Glove’s customer base is still using tape, most are eager to move to disk-based and online backups for daily requirements. “Everybody wants to retire their tape backup solution, even though it’s the most affordable,” Wald says. “Tape has to be physically taken off-site for storage, and it’s difficult and time consuming to do recovery.”
For White Glove’s larger customers, moving to a hybrid online/disk and tape solution can strike the right balance between rapid recovery and affordability. “We develop solutions based on what their recovery point objective [RPO] and their recovery time objective [RTO] is,” says Wald. “At what point do they need data restored, and how quickly? Do they need to be back up and running in four hours, 25 hours, or five days?” Wald notes that there are new advances in tape technology all the time, even as the role of tape changes to archiving more static data that customers don’t need to access immediately.
When tape is used for long-term storage and archiving, many of the arguments against it—reliability and high failure rate—are rendered moot. “Tape backups weren’t meant to be accessed repeatedly and to be overwritten again and again. That’s when failure and data corruption occur,” says Schulz. “When organizations use tape to simply park data and store it, when it just sits there, failure rates are greatly reduced and it’s more reliable and extremely affordable.”
Much smaller SMBs and home-based businesses often don’t need tape-based solutions at all, says Schulz. Many find that consumer-focused backup solutions, like Carbonite, Mozy, and other similar offerings are just as affordable and easier to use.
“The smaller the environment, the more likely it is they’ve used commodity products like Carbonite, Amazon, or Google’s online storage solutions,” Schulz says. “Because of economies of scale, these kind of high-end technologies don’t scale upward to the larger SMBs, and in those situations tape becomes more practical. But smaller SMBs can leverage these sophisticated, consumerized products to finally have secure backups and storage in place very cost-effectively.”
STORAGE AND BACKUP SWEET SPOT
The sweet spot for solution providers in the storage and backup market, says Schulz, is the smaller midsize businesses down to the small or home office (SOHO), and the general trend in this segment is a customized combination of technologies based on need and budget. Solution providers can leverage different technologies based on their strengths, and use them when they are best suited to the task and budget at hand.