I used to be a night operator running “data processing” jobs. The jobs were batch and predominately tape-based (this detail tells you something about my demographics—but I digress). The tapes we used were 2400’ reel-to-reel at a density of 1600 bits per inch. The density was so low that you could actually see the bits on the tape!
Technology has changed substantially since then, and today there are a few reasons why you might choose on-premises disk storage over tape in the modern data center.
Why use tape?
Why use disks?
Further, disk-based data is available for full-data sweeps, for example as input to data classification and analytics applications that need access to nearly all of the data in an archive set.
Comparing disks vs. tape:
In the end, we come up with two different types of storage media—and here’s the important part—those different types of media should be used for different types of data. Cost-of-ownership takes high priority but has to be balanced with the value of having that data readily available. Data that a few years ago was labeled “cold and destined for off-site cold storage” can today be the lifeblood of analytics applications—applications that may increase an organization’s competitiveness.
If you skipped the storytelling and simply want to get to the bottom line: the answer—it depends on the needs of your organization and its data; how often you access data and its value, as well as your data recovery service level objectives. As discussed on tape—it also depends on your willingness to evolve time-honored data protection processes. And keep in mind the value of archived data is increasing every day—as disk systems’ costs go down and data value goes up, it makes a case for some amount of on-premises disk-based backup/archival infrastructure.
It may even be time to compare cost-of-ownership of tape vs the “always on” advantages of on-site disks. We mentioned tape has lower capital expenditures but higher operational costs; the inverse is true for disk. In fact, for many workloads the total cost of ownership over time is nearly the same. Notably, Veritas has a quick-and-dirty TCO tool that can get you started with that comparison.
Often, the best approach is a hybrid, driven by identifying which data is destined for the cold, damp cave of long-term retention, and which is of value when it’s always online. And don’t forget analytics applications that periodically require a majority of the data, or data that you might want to tier to cloud.
Fortunately, Veritas can help either way. The comprehensive Veritas data protection portfolio helps you assess and understand the meaningful details of your organization’s data so you can provide automated policies to reduce operational expenses while maximizing protection. Veritas’ long-term retention storage systems, like NetBackup and Access appliances, can be an economical part of a balanced approach. And if tape is part of that protection hierarchy—no problem!
 Our hardware engineers could develop the tape, like developing film, by dipping a section of tape into a solution of alcohol and fine iron particles. The iron particles would stick to the magnetized 1-bits, and with a magnifying glass you could actually see the bits.
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