Tape is Like a Parachute

There are some things in life that have to work the first time you need them. A Parchute Comicparachute, for instance. Either it performs as advertised on its maiden voyage, or you won’t be needing it again.

Life insurance is another example.  If a carrier happily accepts a lifetime’s worth of premiums only to renege when the claim is filed – well, that’s that. To some extent, the same can be said of catastrophic healthcare coverage or the policy covering your home or business. Not to mention policies that protect against abduction by aliens or death by werewolf, vampire, or poltergeist. (Yes, these policies actually exist on planet Earth where at least 30,000 Homo sapiens have purchased them.)

But what if aliens, werewolves, vampires or poltergeists break into a vault somewhere and steal your magnetic tapes? And what if this unfortunate turn of events occurs  as you’re offering a hearty thumbs-up to your general  counsel, who’s just requested the last seven years of backup copies by next Thursday so she can defend you and your company against a multi-million dollar lawsuit?

Far-fetched, you say? I can think of 30,000 people who’d beg to differ.

But let’s grant for the moment that ghosts and goblins are unlikely to make off with your treasure trove of tapes. Does that mean all that long-term retention data is secure?  Alas, no.

Even if we put aside supernatural, paranormal, and extra-terrestrial influences, the fact remains that tape is infamously unreliable. Whatever the precise figure, it’s the result not of a single predictable factor, but of a combination of root causes that are extremely difficult to predict, let alone control. Tape media itself is inherently susceptible to time, temperature, humidity and even electromagnetic fields. Tape drives themselves can also fail. So too can humans, from data center staff who forget to change tapes or remove a cleaning tape,  to truckers charged with transporting your data to and from storage.

Sometimes these failures are irreversible and result in data loss, as when tape drives or applications, are unable to recover from media errors. But even when errors are reversible, the delay in restoring long-term retention backup copies can itself impose huge costs on the overall organization. Just ask the aforementioned general counsel.

Adding insult to injury, tape isn’t just failure prone; it’s also costlier in the conventional sense than most people tend to think, once you factor in all of the ingredients:  Acquisition, maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure, storage, transportation, and staffing expenses.

So what’s the solution?

Cloud. As the destination for your long-term retention backup copies, a properly designed and operated storage cloud is the parachute that opens the first time and every time you pull the ripcord. It’s the insurance policy that’s affordably priced yet guaranteed to protect you the first time and every time you file a claim.

Cloud storage is everything tape is not. Whether private or public, cloud is natively reliable and resilient, so data stored there is inherently durable. Cloud is simple, both in design and operation, making automation of long-term retention easy, and greatly reducing the need for manual processes and attendant risk of human error. And because cloud is software-defined, it’s a valuable component of the ongoing shift to the software-defined data center.

Of course, cloud is only one part of the answer. What’s really needed to enable transition from tape to cloud for long-term retention is an end-to-end solution that combines (1) the backup and restore software you already know and trust, (2) an enterprise-class private or public cloud “target” that you choose, and (3) cloud-enablement technology that integrates seamlessly with the other two components and also:

  • Boosts performance of long-term retention backup and restore operations with both data center and remote office/branch office deployments;
  • Increases efficiency by minimizing consumption (and cost) of precious resources such as network bandwidth and cloud capacity;
  • Complements cloud’s hyper-scalability with its own multi-petabyte scalability;
  • Provides enterprise-grade data security when data is transferred or stored off-premises; and
  • Enables simple, centralized management regardless of scale.

It’s been observed that you don’t need a parachute to skydive – only to skydive twice. A parachute that can’t be trusted to work the first time and every time is, to say the least, a liability. Ditto for an unreliable insurance policy. This principle also applies to your long-term retention backup strategy, which is itself a grand, high-stakes form of insurance.

ThinkstockPhotos-139964894Keep this in mind the next time you’re packing your parachute, shopping for a homeowner’s policy, or deciding the fate of your organization’s long-term retention backup data.

Want to learn more? Remember to look before you leap, then jump here.

About the Author: Scott Ellman