The tape plays on!

The storage medium delivers unparalleled value to enterprises on three key aspects--archival, compliance and cost

For Lehman Brothers that occupied three floors in the WTC 1 tower, the deliberate crashing of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 Boeing 767-223ER was severely debilitating. The WTC complex housed not only the corporate headquarters of the erstwhile renowned investment banker but also its technology center. As the twin towers collapsed under the impact, Lehman was in a severe throe of crisis as all its systems and accounts went down. Chaos reigned supreme.

Fortunately, the bank had an offsite backup policy in place and within 48 hours of the attack, it was able to start trading operations from a new facility set up across the Hudson River in New Jersey. While many other enterprises that had their offices in WTC were severely impacted and some of them could never be on their feet again, a few of them managed to scrape through and survived.

With 9/11, the world woke up to the threat of global terror but also to the need for disaster recovery and offsite archival strategy. The attack also played a role into an unintended consequence; the tape as a medium of storage was saved from the very verge of extinction.

In the years leading to 9/11, most of the IT analysts and media had predicted the gradual decline and the subsequent demise of tapes as a backup medium in the enterprise. With storage capacity of the HDD increasing manifold as prices fell southwards, the tape had literally been made redundant. The unwieldy magnetic medium was dubbed as a relic of the past and it was in the past where it really belonged; that was the vox populi.

And suddenly, many companies woke up to a realisation that the storage media invented in the 1950s still had a role to play and quite unlike the gloomy predictions, it was neither dead nor going to die in the near future.

Saved by archive

In was in 1951, when the magnetic tape was first used to record computer data on the Eckert-Mauchly UNIVAC I. Then, the bulky Uniservo drive recording medium was a thin metal strip of rolled up tape with a capacity of a few MB data at best. Contrasting it with today, where the storage tubs have crossed the TB limit and is racing towards PB scales, the tape seems arcane.

So what are the options in front of the IT manager, who not only has to ensure that the data is safe and protected but also efficiently managed? The logical thing would be to invest in the future, shift to optical media or the cloud for that matter. However the choice is not as easy as it seems, the biggest issue is that many enterprises have spent years perfecting that tried and tested method of data protection using a tape and have invested substantial sums in people, training, and money along the way.

Thus, while the disk-based data protection might be making steady inroads in the area of backup solutions, tape still has a role to play, especially in larger organisations. Tape is simply being moved downstream to the archival tier rather than the backup tier of the storage infrastructure.

So even if many IT managers find tape to be cumbersome and bulky, they cannot find any other medium that can replace the portability and the cost associated with it.

Basant Chaturvedi, Head IT, Perfetti Van Melle India, confirms this when he says, Tape has always been easily transportable. Tape cartridges can be shipped offsite in boxes, transported by truck or hand carried to remote locations for secure offsite storage. If a disaster occurs in the data centre, the offsite tapes can be retrieved to restore applications. Tape is the lowest cost medium of all media. It can be taken offsite to allow for disaster recovery in case the primary site is lost due to fire, earthquake, flood or theft. Tape is proven to have a shelf life of 30 years when stored in proper conditions.

Prime Hype DF 2016 EP

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