Thursday, June 5, 2014

Backups – Are You Using Tape, Disk, or the Cloud?

In a recent survey conducted by Nimble Storage, they asked more than 1,600 IT professionals to share their thoughts and concerns on data protection. The majority reported that they believe businesses need to protect the bulk of their data (which is increasingly generated by virtualized applications), protect the data often (minimum of every six hours) and recover data quickly (in at least six hours). It’s clear to see that most agree that data protection is a necessity, but with many options available such as tape, disk and cloud, what media are most using?

Tape Storage

Tape data storage is far from becoming the storage of the past, according to survey respondents. Results stated that half of respondents still use tape; 59% of large businesses and 32% small businesses surveyed still use tape media for backup. With large sized businesses usually having a well-established data protection infrastructure and process with longer compliance and retention requirements, tape is hard to beat in terms of cost. Although tape is still relevant, it adds complexity to the storage environment and is difficult to manage.

Tape storage is also secure, safely moving private data offline to protect it from potential threats, breaches and viruses. For enterprises that need to store archived data, tape storage is ideal because the average lifespan can exceed twenty years, providing great longevity. Those surveyed reported that they believe other media types will begin to take over the tape market share, with only 13% of large businesses thinking that tape will grow. Either way, it will still be some time before tape is a thing of the past.

Disk Storage

Regardless of business size, the vast majority use disks for their data protection needs. Roughly 70% of respondents stated that they use general disk-based storage including general purpose storage arrays for data protection. Disk-based storage eliminates many of the downfalls tape storage has including cost, easy management, and fast recovery times. With these features being a key need in businesses today, it’s easy to see why disk storage wins the popularity contest.

Backup appliances based on disk are storage appliances whose sole target is data protection and usually have built-in data management technologies such as compression and deduplication. Of those surveyed, 49% use backup appliances and of those 57% were of large businesses, 36% small businesses. Disk use and growth is expected to remain dominant in data protection (with general disk outpacing backup appliances) and 54% of respondents from large enterprises predicting that disk will outgrow and surpass all other media types.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage works well for some data protection needs such as archiving and long term backup, but it is not so well suited for aggressive data protection. Enterprise-level cloud storage allows data to be stored in virtualized pools and is typically hosted by third party companies. Here, businesses can lease or buy extra storage space that is required from a hosting company and typically only pay for what they use. Businesses are using the cloud for data protection today with 54% of small businesses and 28% of large business reported from survey respondents. Small businesses are attracted to the cloud because it allows them to skip the investment of another storage silo for data protection, and use a pay-as-you-go model.

Due to issues such as compliance, security, and service level agreements, cloud storage can be ill-suited for large businesses. Of those surveyed, 56% expected a growth in usage of cloud storage for data protection. This perspective leans towards the assumption that cloud services are replacing use cases that were previously the domain of tape. Other advantages of cloud storage include the choice of on or offsite storage options and users are provided with immediate access.


From the survey results, we can conclude that disk-based storage dominates data protection today and is expected to in the future, tape storage continues to grow slowly, and over time more businesses will transition to cloud storage. While the need for aggressive data protection will never go away, we will continue to evolve the way we store, back up, and manage data as new and improved methods become available.


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  2. If you look at the way the technology industry is heading the only real contender here is the cloud...

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