Is Tape Winding Down as a Backup Option?

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The recent well-publicized backup tape losses at the likes of Bank of America and Ameritrade appear to be pushing some storage end users to consider alternative technologies such as virtual tape and online backup solutions.

Lasso Logic, for one, claims to have signed more than 40 partners, with another 40 pending, in the month since it launched its continuous data protection solution for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). CEO Steve Goodman said demand for the company's ''zero-touch, tapeless and hassle-free backup solution'' has been driven in part by the high-profile tape losses.

Others, like Bus-Tech, which offers tapeless backups and open technologies for mainframes, and Sepaton (''no tapes'' spelled backwards), a virtual tape library (VTL) vendor, say the publicity has accelerated a trend that was already underway.

''Data losses attributed to lost or stolen tapes have been an issue for a while, although recently there is more publicity about the higher-profile incidents,'' said Sepaton marketing vice president Linda Mentzer.

Sepaton will soon add remote backup capabilities with a solution that can transfer data between VTLs across dark fiber or a wide area network (WAN). Almost all of the company's very large enterprise customers have expressed interest in the beta version of the new technology, Mentzer said.

''I think it's sharpened people's focus to look at us more closely,'' said Bus-Tech marketing director Jim O'Connor. ''There's a lot of people looking to replace tape.''

Vanderbilt University is one organization that's switched to virtual tape.

The university has eliminated almost all of its tape mounts over the last three years, switching to virtual tape with the help of Bus-Tech, said services manager Ron Eastes. The time savings have been so dramatic that the university eliminated two operator positions, he said. That said, Eastes runs a small shop that is only staffed five days a week, so round-the-clock operations might not see the same dramatic time savings or the cost savings of eliminating weekend backups.

Tape Hangs On

While more people may be looking at disk-based and remote backup solutions, not everyone wants to replace tape entirely. It still offers cost advantages, as well as the comfort of a physical data copy that can be put away for safekeeping.

Quantum conducted a survey of 500 SMBs in March that found that 8 percent of IT decision-makers were ''very likely'' to purchase or subscribe to an online backup solution, while half said they were ''not at all likely'' to do so, said Mark O'Malley, product marketing manager for Quantum Storage Devices.

A second survey of larger companies that use disk-to-disk backup found that 80 percent still use tape for archival purposes.

This article was first published on EnterpriseStorageForum.com. To read the full article, click here.