Understanding the Strengths and Weaknesses of Tape Backup

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What is tape backup?

Tape is known for providing high storage capacity and good security for protecting stored data. Thus, the tape is widely used and can be used to back up data.

A tape cartridge has a thin strip with a magnetic coating on one side and is used as a traditional method to store data and use the data to perform various tasks such as analysis, archiving, etc.

Large amounts of data can be copied from hard disk to tape so that data can be retrieved in case of an emergency.

Some people prefer to backup data through an online service by using cloud services but using tape for backup storage has its own advantages and disadvantage.

Data in the tape are accessed in a sequential kind of storage. This way data in the tape is accessed in a prearranged and methodical sequence which data can’t be skipped while reading.

Many big organizations also use tape storage. Users can choose to have a full backup or incremental backup.

Full backup helps the user to restore their workload without any essential data loss but it is very time-consuming.

Using incremental backup helps to save time and the user only every time backup is initial, only new data is backed up but it also slows down during system restore.

If there are is several data awaited to back up in different tape, then file restoration gets time-consuming. Also to look through several incremental backup files, it will take time to find and restore one particular file.

Although incremental backup is done for small backup only requiring a small section of tape. To save costs, tape drive backup software can be used in such a way that tape starts writing from the place where the previous session finished.

To avoid any mistakes, do follow the guidelines on the tape. Tape drives do notify their users if the tape drives can’t be used to backup data anymore. Although tapes have a lifetime of 30 years it is necessary to follow the guidelines to get the maximum years of benefit otherwise tapes can have damage if not used properly and since they will be holding huge amounts of data, it is necessary to maintain the tape so that data can be accessed anytime required.

Also, make sure to label the tapes to save time and prevent damages. Labels on tape will also prevent the mixing up of tape and thus reduce the chance of human error.

It is also better if regularly perform tests are run to ensure that the backup is still valid. It is also advised to perform a full backup at once every month.

Strengths of tape backup.

Storage capacity – as mentioned earlier, tape provides a large storage capacity. Storage capacity is increasing in tape storage day by day and thus remains a very crucial IT infrastructure in a business. It helps in storing data, information, files, and software for smooth operation in a business. Hospitals, banks, large scale industries use tape storage to provide services to their customer, keep records of their customers and these data can also be used to give direction to the business where will be used as a source of information about the expectation of its users and how can the company improve.

Archiving and Back-up – tape was initially introduced to be used in archival storage. In archival storage, people can shift some data that they were not currently dealing with so that they can free up some working area.

Tapes can store in two ways, native storage, and compressed storage.

Tapes are good for backup as they copy exactly like the original which reduces the chances of error rates. Also, while retrieving data, it can’t be assured that the data will be retrieved as ditto but keeping it back up in tape storage ensures recovery of data the same as it was.

If the user doesn’t have access to the data because the data was hacked, the company or the user will still be able to provide uninterrupted services to its customers and can continue their work since tapes have high storage capacity and all of the data will be saved.

High security – data are part of a company and it needs to be protected. On a daily basis data, information is shared by the company. Company data can be leaked in any form and in any way. Firstly, tape storage comes with an authorization which means that particularly authorized personal can access have access data, and access is given by the security key. Secondly, the tape storage is not always connected to the server just when required.

Low cost – tapes storages have less cost per gigabyte which makes it an affordable option compared to disk or cloud backups. Also, tapes drives are capable to create data storage offline thus reducing the cost for support and maintenance.

Durable and reliable – tape storages are reliable for 30 years and also has fewer error rates. Therefore, with regular updates, tapes can be helpful for a very long period of time. Also, tapes have higher transfer rates.

Easily removable and portable – unlike other storage options, tapes are connected to the server when not in use which means that the tape storage can be removed when not in use. When a company receives an attack, the users can pull out the tape physically which will create an air gap. This way, quick action can be taken to prevent the loss of data. Since the tape storage can be physically removed, to transfer data in a tape, the tape can be physically transferred to the required destination without involving the risk of transferring the data, software through a server. Thus, saving energy and lowering risk.

Compatible – luckily, tape storages are compatible with their previous tape storage meaning it will be easier to transfer from the previous generation of tape to a new generation of tape.

Weaknesses of tape backup.

Lengthy access speeds – Tape formats need the authorization to access data and the data can’t be accessed randomly. Restoring data from tape also consumes a large amount of time since it takes time to locate a particular file.

High Initial costs – installing any storage system requires installation investment. Thus, companies will need to purchase new media and pay operating costs for system management if the user is shifting from another storage type.

Limited Scalability – scalability depends on the capability of the tape system and it is necessary to have the system updates.

High Maintenance – since it is made of magnetic tape, it is necessary to keep the tapes in a clean environment so that the tapes do not attract any dust particles.

Lastly, it is an eco-friendly solution. Tapes sit idle when not in use but disk storages continue to rotate even when not in use. This implies that when tape storage is connected to an energy source, tape storage rotates only while performing a function but disks rotate even when not performing a function, thus consuming energy when not in use.

This step also increases the generation of heat around the disk storage leading to installing HVAC equipment which would consume energy.

Tapes also better block energy due to larger magnetic bits which are less affected due to heat. Tapes already produce less heat due to fewer rotations even being connected to a source of energy.

Also, not to forget that disk storage has a life span of 5 years but tape storage has a lifetime of 30 years. Thus, the user will not be required to change the storage drive or device frequently thus reducing e-waste in the environment and the user will need space to store them as well.