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The tale of the tape

Tape has served as the answer to long-term storage issues for decades, but the latest software-defined storage solutions offer so many benefits that these will likely be tape’s long-term replacement.

Johannesburg, 18 Feb 2020
Read time 4min 00sec
Goitsemang Mthethwa - Head of Data Management Services, BCX
Goitsemang Mthethwa - Head of Data Management Services, BCX

There can be no doubt that today, it is absolutely crucial for organisations of all sizes to back up their data. The challenge lies in the fact that the majority of businesses that undertake such backups seem stuck in the 1980s, as they are still using tape as the medium to achieve this.

According to Vikash Tulsi, Technical Account Manager for Large Enterprise at Veritas, tape has been the dominant storage medium for long-term data retention for well over 30 years, with the majority of companies still using it for their archived data. However, he adds, doing so means they are not getting the most reliable and cost-effective solution available.

“Traditionally, organisations stored their archived data on tape to create an air gap between the business infrastructure and the back-up. The issue is that in a world where information is king, businesses today seek to do more with their data. In doing so, they are quickly discovering that tape isn’t necessarily the most user-friendly medium when it comes to accessing their stored information,” states Tulsi.

“In the modern data centre, software-defined storage (SDS) solutions, which are optimised for archival and backup workloads, look like the most likely long-term replacement for tape. For one thing, these solutions deliver rapid access to archives in comparison to tape, since the latter needs to be called back from the vault, thereby significantly increasing data recovery times.”

In addition, he explains, SDS solutions would allow companies to achieve superior service levels in a cost efficient manner, since they would be replacing ageing, expensive-to-maintain infrastructure with a higher-performing, on-premises solution. Being on-premises, it would help reduce recovery time objectives (RTO), as there would be near-primary storage performance.

“Furthermore, it helps reduce the risk associated with data that must be stored and produced for compliance, security, governance, legal and business continuity,” continues Tulsi.

Goitsemang Mthethwa, an executive at BCX, indicates the company decided to implement an SDS solution for a number of reasons; notably was that it served as a means of consolidation, while also ensuring the business had a single point of contact for support.

“Remember that building your own backup systems increases the number of failure points due to different support systems such as a server, storage, operating system, application software and network connectivity. Through the deployment of an SDS solution, BCX can now offer customers tapeless backups, thereby reducing the complexity of the customer backup solution,” she says.

“The single appliance also delivers both cost consolidation and a lower total cost to the company. Moreover, since the deployment is aligned to the BCX cloud strategy, it is able to connect to multiple clouds, including BCX One cloud. The deployment supports the company’s disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) offering.”

Mthethwa adds it allows businesses to focus valuable IT resources on core business activities instead of the development, administration, maintenance and testing of wholly on-premises infrastructure.

“SDS offers quick, inexpensive testing of high availability solutions and delivers transparency, enabling you to see the number of virtual machines running in an environment, as well as offering a view of the resources being used at that moment in time.

“Lastly, from a data sovereignty point of view, all the data resides in the host's data centre, meaning no conflict with any data protection laws, while from a security point of view, we believe it gives us greater control of our infrastructure.”

Tulsi suggests that perhaps the single greatest benefit of SDS solutions is that it offers reliability of recovery.

“The trouble with tape is that it needs to be kept in an environmentally safe storage facility – storing magnetic tape in a clean, controlled environment is the most important precaution you can take to extend the life of the media.”

“High temperatures, high humidity and the presence of dust and corrosive elements in the air all affect the physical components that make up magnetic tape, which can result in the loss of readable data through decreased magnetic capability and deterioration of the binder or backing of the tape. SDS eliminates these challenges while affording greater speed of recovery and easier access to data for analytical purposes. It clearly is the next-generation storage solution business has been crying out for,” he concludes.

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