To tape or not to tape? Is tape dead, or do tape-based back up systems still have have a place in the modern small business?
Tape was once the only option because hard disks were incredibly expensive. Since old habits die hard, many believe tape is the default standard for backup even today.
Just as VHS tapes gave way to DVDs, tape backups are giving way to hard disk and Internet-based backup. Nearly unlimited disk storage space has changed the backup dynamic in ways tape can't match.
Let's take a look at how disk and online backups protect your data more completely than tape systems. Then, for those who still watch movies on VHS and believe tape is the only “real” backup method, let's look at ways to keep tape systems alive just a little longer.
Back up disks
For all practical purposes, hard disks, local or online, provide an infinite pool of data storage space. For local storage, 1TB hard disks (1,000 gigabytes) can be found for around $100. Add a few to a backup server or network attached storage device, and you have years of backup space for the typical small business.
There are many ways to backup files from individual computers and servers, but most backup systems make a full backup then track the changes. If you select your My Documents folder for backup, the backup software will make a copy of all those files. When you change a file inside that folder only the sections of the file that are changed are moved to the backup system. When you need to restore a file the backup software merges the original file with the changes and sends you the latest version of the file.
Tape backup systems spread the original and incremental changes across multiple tapes, at least when you start protecting a larger amount of data than you can store on one tape. The software tracks which tapes the changed bits are on, but chasing those tapes down and getting the bits put together in the right order can be tricky. And the older a tape is, the less reliable the restoration process.