One of the most frequent misuses of backup tape is as an archive. Data center managers don’t typically design tape as their archive, however, it inadvertently becomes one when old backup tapes are sent to offsite storage after cycling out of their disaster recovery usefulness.
Using legacy tape as a file and email archive is causing pain and unnecessary expense for many organizations. Here’s the top 10 reasons tape isn’t a good archive:
- Legal: In today’s litigious climate organizations face lawsuits, regulatory requirements and compliance procedures that are more stringent than ever before. Legal teams are working with records managers and litigation support specialists to find data in support of eDiscovery and other activities, and tape makes this initiative complex and expensive. If you ever tried getting a single email off a 10-year-old tape you know the pain.
- Tapes Degrade: Tapes are cheap, but when you need to maintain tape and they have been in storage for many years you will find they degrade over time. Tape is not as reliable as disk and if you find yourself in a position to copy old 8MM/DLT/LTO-2 tapes to a newer format you’ll find yourself spending significant budget.
- Security: Did you hear the story about the company that paid a $750,000 fine because unencrypted backup tapes containing names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, insurance information and clinical information of approximately 55,000 current and former patients of Cancer Care were stolen from the back of the IT admins car? That’s all I have to say about that.
- Access: Tapes are archived using a proprietary backup format from your favorite vendor. That format was built for quick and efficient movement of data to offline media. The format was never made for access where you need to search for a specific email from an individual containing a number of keywords. Does anyone remember what software or version was used to create a tape? Does the catalog still exist? Retrieving data from tape, especially as they age, is complex and painful.
- Vendor Lock: Again, since backup tapes are archived in a proprietary format and if you need to maintain access to the data on these tapes, the backup software vendor has you locked in. Changing to a new best-of-breed backup provider requires that you maintain a legacy instance of the previous environment, which makes change expensive and complex.
- Saves Everything: Backup is designed to save everything. Every copy of every email and file created every minute of every day. Archives are designed to save records of value. Saving everything, and many copies of everything, does not make an archive. Over time data can become a risk and liability.
- Infrastructure: Physical backup tape formats change over time. Organizations can easily accumulate DLT, LTO, 8MM and other tape formats from standard backup procedures, mergers and acquisitions and remote offices. Even LTO format changes and are not compatible over the years. Data centers will need to maintain a diverse range of infrastructure to maintain access to legacy tapes.
- Tape Storage Fees: Transporting tapes to offsite storage vaults, and preserving them in a salt mine can be inexpensive, but when you need to retrieve them it can quickly add up. Offsite storage fees are something that can easily eat into your IT budget, especially when your thousands of tapes grows to tens or hundreds of thousands.
- Cloud Storage: Tape is cheap. Cloud can be cheaper. If you manage data and only save single instance of what you need to preserve, cloud can be much cheaper than tape. Cloud storage is also more accessible, and can be easily searched to find what you need.
- Backup was Never Meant to be an Archive: Backup software was never designed to be an archive. Backup and archiving are different use cases, and technology that excels in backup cannot support archiving and vice versa. So why are organizations force fitting backup processes and utilizing it as an archive?
What can you do?
The key to managing data is having a sound legal policy around it. Index the software and see what data exists so decisions can be made on it. Often, only a fraction of the data is needed and can be moved to disk, recouping tape, storage and eDiscovery costs.
Other organizations might move a single-instance of all the data to the cloud, giving legal a chance to further examine the data and build retention policies.
The key is making the data more transparent and reducing the risks associated with "forgetting" about it on legacy tape.