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Tape Backup Trumps Decentralization for SMBs

by on August 9, 2011

I read an interesting post recently promoting a decentralized data storage model, with data stored redundantly at multiple physical locations. The author proposes this model for companies looking to avoid suffering these alleged woes of backing up to tape: a single point of failure, unmanageable backup windows and lost tapes. The article goes on to focus on how companies implementing a decentralized model can use WAN optimization technologies and strategies to avoid overloading their networks with large data transfers.

The author makes a respectable enough case for a decentralized storage model. But I would argue that, while this model might be ideal for a larger organization with vast resources at its disposal, it’s simply out of reach for your average small to medium-sized business (SMB).

Many SMBs just don’t have the physical locations or space needed for redundant data storage—not to mention the IT staff, budget and sophistication to manage this storage model and the WAN optimization techniques and technologies it might require. As an alternative, SMBs can look at hosted storage solutions that eliminate the need for multiple locations, but these still require hands-on IT management time and expertise to make sure you’re capturing and testing the data.

Instead, SMBs need a simple, practical way to back up their data. They need a method that doesn’t require multiple data centers and involves minimal management from their IT staff. At the same time, just like the Fortune 500s, SMBs can’t afford to sacrifice security, reliability or cost-effectiveness. Which is why tape remains the primary backup method for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. Tape gives SMBs an easy and straightforward way to back up data that’s low-cost, durable, reliable and green.

So, does storing backups on tape mean SMBs are doomed to an existence of single points of failure, unmanageable backup windows and lost tapes? In a word, no.

Tapes are portable, which means they can easily be moved and stored offsite for disaster recovery purposes by vendors who specialize in these services. Data management solutions keep tape backup windows from becoming unmanageably long. And tape management solutions mean there’s no excuse for lost data tapes.

Of course, all of this is not to say that tape is dead in larger organizations. It continues to have a place in a balanced enterprise storage strategy and is poised to play an even bigger role as active archiving becomes more widespread.

Does a decentralized data storage model offer some key advantages? Absolutely, and Mr. Ghory makes a great case for this model. But it’s just not practical for many SMBs, who will continue to rely on tape to store their backups simply and efficiently.

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