Alive And Well: Tape Backup Plays Secondary Role

Contrary to popular belief, tape is far from dead, said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a solution provider in Boston.

However, the role tape plays is changing as more customers use disk-based storage for fast backups and restores, supported by tape for off-site portability, Winslow said. "People are looking more and more to recover from a point-in-time snapshot or to recover specific files that users accidentally deleted."

Eryck Bredy, president of Bredy Network Management, a Woburn, Mass.-based solution provider, said that as a primary backup technology, tape is going the way of the dinosaur but still has its place as a secondary backup technology for off-site rotation, especially with new software from Veritas Software and others that make it easier to back up to disk and make copies to tape.

However, Bredy said, at the entry level, customers with a single server can buy a DDS-4 tape drive for about $900 and add a SCSI card and software to get a reliable backup solution. Or they can purchase two external 250-Gbyte hard drives from the local computer store, back up the data to the drives and rotate them off-site for improved performance and adequate protection of data.

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"I consider myself a back up-to-disk evangelist," Bredy said. "I'm always preaching to people about this." Up to now, disk-based backups have had little or no impact on the tape library business, said Bob Abraham, president of research firm Freeman Reports.

While the number of tape libraries shipped remained flat at 62,000 units in 2003 and 2004, Abraham said he expects the market to grow to more than 68,000 units this year.

Although customer adoption of disk-based backup technology will displace tape purchases in a limited number of cases, he said disk-to-disk and virtual tape libraries actually are spurring the sales of tape drives and libraries.

Trying to capitalize on the move to speed up data backup and recovery are a wide range of vendors that have recently tried to make their mark in this space. ADIC, Redmond, Wash., just unveiled the Pathlight VX 450, a midrange product with integrated disk-based backup and tape support.

Chris McCall, product marketing manager at ADIC, said the VX 450 targets midrange customers with 2 Tbytes to 5 Tbytes of data and small IT staffs. The product is based on an EMC Clariion array with 4.2 Tbytes of capacity. Data is backed up to the VX 450 in the native tape format, and integrated software can copy the data to an ADIC tape library.

With the software, the disk and tape capacity are presented to the host server as a single device, he said. It is shipping at a price of about $10 per Gbyte of capacity.

Data Protection Solutions by Arco, Hollywood, Fla., just began shipping its EZ Backup line of backup appliances for desktop, laptop or POS users. The appliances either sit in a PC bay or connect to a PC via USB 2.0, and they back up changes to a user's data to an external hard drive on a regular basis. The software also allows files to be easily restored on the system, said Larry Steffan, CEO of the company.

Ottawa-based StorageQuest just started shipping the MSM 150 appliance—the first to allow optical jukeboxes with WORM technology such as recordable DVD drives or magneto-optical drives to plug-and-play to a network as easily as a NAS appliance, said Fred Bedard, vice president of sales and marketing.

Not only is the solution lower in cost than disk-based appliances, but the optical disks are industry-standard so they can be read years later, Bedard said. "For something you need stored for 10 to 15 years, you need to make sure you can read it 10 to 15 years later," he said.