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Why the Google Incident Proves Relevance of Tape Storage

by on March 7, 2011

When a software bug got into Gmail on Feb. 28 and threatened to seriously disable the accounts of tens of thousands of users, Google used tape backups to successfully restore all the affected data.

Some are heralding this as a triumph of digital storage. Huh? Things would have gone faster and smoother, they say, if Google had been working with digital storage media.

In fact, the Google save is proof positive that tape storage remains a vital part of the corporate landscape. Advocates of tape say that after years of dire predictions, this episode shows that their favored medium is in fact very much alive and well.

In a recent post on the company’s blog, Google vice president of engineering and site reliability Ben Treynor assured some 40,000 affected Gmail users that their messages, chats and other data would survive, specifically because all that data had been stored on backup tapes.

It undoubtedly came as a surprise to many, to hear that the Search giant still relies on such an archaic means of preserving data. Good thing it does.

As Treynor noted, the situation was salvaged in part because tapes reside offline, safe from the digital vagaries that sparked the crisis.

Other recent news gives further evidence that tape may be a preferable means of storage. Take for example a recent survey of 471 IT professionals conducted by Venafi, in which 51 percent of respondents said their digital certificates may have been stolen or gone missing.

Fifty-four percent indicated they had experienced instances of lost or stolen encryption keys. That number is telling. “[I]t is widely accepted that lost encryption keys can provide malicious insiders access to valuable corporate information revealed on high–profile whistleblower sites, such as WikiLeaks,” Venafi said.

All the more reason why many companies continue to rely on tape storage as an efficient and secure means of safeguarding their data.

Of course, there is some irony here. Google ranks itself amidst the many companies urging corporations to take their business vitals onto the internet, touting its security and predictability. Yet when it comes to data protection, perhaps newer is not always better.

Many companies that rely on backup tapes to store important information also use media and tape management software, which enables them to locate these storage tapes quickly in the event of an IT-related incident.

What do you think? Does the Google incident show that tape does have a place in the data lifecycle?

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  1. Why Tape Backups are Still Necessary

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