The Ultimate Tape Advantage – Cold Offsite Storage

One of the biggest advantages to integrating tape media into the backup infrastructure is the door it opens for the organization to leverage cold offsite storage. As we’ve discussed throughout this series most data occupying capacity on a disk backup device simply does not need to be there. The unanswered question though is where to put all this data, which the organization either wants or needs to keep.

Organizations can replicate data to a second tape library in an alternate location; they can even replicate that data to the cloud. Both options may make sense if used as an intermediary storage location. In some ways though, using a secondary location or the cloud still doesn’t take full advantage of the nature of restores (95% of them come from last night’s backup). The chances of data being needed in a restore request continues to decline the older it gets but again, the organization needs to keep this data accessible. Additionally, the older data gets, the less likely is the urgent need for it, with hours or even days being acceptable time frames for the restore.

One of tape’s key advantages is its ability to provide ‘cold storage’. The specific design of tape, unlike any other storage technology, permits removing it from a powered drive, and then setting it on a shelf to sit idle as the years go by. Thanks to the barcoding systems mentioned in the previous blog, it is also relatively easy to determine what tapes are offsite and which are on-site.

Requirements of Cold Offsite Storage

While tape does have an incredible advantage in its ability to be stored offsite in a cold state, IT professionals should carefully consider what type of facility they entrust their data to. The main requirements are that the facility be secure, temperature controlled and have a track record of maintaining data assets for decades. The organization should also make sure that the vaulting service can pick up and deliver media to the client within the required timeframe.

Cold Offsite Management

Beyond the physical location and delivery of tapes, organizations need to find vaulting services that can make the process of storing tapes offsite, potentially for decades, as seamless as possible. For example, the vaulting service should leverage the barcodes on tapes to track the location of every tape they manage for the customer. Tape barcodes should be scanned in as soon as the vaulting service driver picks up the tape and as soon as it arrives at the vaulting service’s storage facility. Additionally, the vaulting service should again provide exact location of every tape.

The vaulting service should also assist the organization with several consulting options including auditing of the tapes stored offsite for potential adjustment in the number of tapes stored and for how long. The vaulting service may also be able to provide an archiving consultation to expand the use of tape libraries, media and offsite vaults to production data, which actually simplifies the backup process.

How to Get Your Information to and from Cold Storage: Data Restoration and Migration Services

Organizations may decide to outsource their tape storage to a vault facility with few, several or hundreds of tapes. Beyond the actual storage of tapes, there are additional aspects to consider.

  • How do you get tapes to a vault safely and securely?
  • What is the impact to the IT budget?
  • How easy is it to get information back on-line for litigation or data analytic projects?

Most companies turn to vendors who offer data restoration and managed services to move tapes or other storage devices offsite. As it turns out, this process is highly secure, budget-friendly and a growing consideration point in storage management. Let’s look at all three points.

First – security. As discussed in previous blogs, offline data is often highly secure data – and a weapon against ransomware or a fast recovery point from disaster or any attack. If the organization is going to release its tapes to a 3rd party, it needs to make sure security is auditable every step of the way – from pick-up, during transit, and to delivery in a vault.

Second – understand where and how the organization can save on budget. When looking at man-hours saved on tape back-up, money saved on software licenses, and hardware equipment – organizations not only tend to recover budget – but end up in the green vs. red. Also keep in mind, through a managed service model, IT staff is freed up so they can work on more impactful projects rather than being pulled away to work on basic storage and restoration work streams. Look for vendors with track records that are able to quickly locate, restore, and deliver specific information located on tape.

The net is – if the organization chooses to vault tapes, it needs to evaluate data restoration and migration providers so it can simplify, optimize, and accelerate the way its data is not only stored, but utilized and managed.

Conclusion

Organizations have the opportunity to cut the cost of both secondary storage and even primary storage, dramatically by better managing the data in those tiered storage repositories. Secondary storage is “low hanging fruit” for organizations to accomplish those goals and tape is an ideal way to get there.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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