Tape has been the backup media of choice for over 60 years, due to its portability and reliability. Tape technology has developed and density has increased, meaning cost per gigabyte has been low, but the complexity and time consuming nature of tape management means many organisations are looking for an alternative.
A traditional tiered storage architecture uses local disk or networked storage for speedy access to primary data, then periodically sends snapshots or data to a backup server that writes the data to magnetic tape. Usually stored onsite in tape backup libraries and sometimes replicated to an offsite location, via WAN or even manually moved to an offsite storage facility.
Cloud backup offers organisations a new way of backing up their data, removing the complexity and risk of manually moving and handling magnetic tapes and improving the performance, availability and reliability of backups.
Whilst the cost of tape storage has come down, the costs associated with handling, managing and storing tape media have been increasing. At the same time, the cost of public cloud services has been coming down, allowing customers to take advantage of economies of scale, making them an accessible and affordable backup solution. Cloud has no upfront capital investment costs, no costs associated with media, or configuration and no data retrieval costs.
Using the public cloud to store backup data is generally a very reliable solution, with some CSPs offering a durability service level agreement of 99.999999999%. The chance of data loss through infrastructure failure therefore is incredibly low. The availability that public cloud providers can achieve is generally higher than most organisations can implement in house, with multi-site replication and failover of every single component.
Magnetic tape on the other hand is based on mechanical equipment which can fail and lead to data loss or unavailability. The quality of data stored on tape can be eroded if retrieved and read too often, although more robust tape intended for frequent use is available, the cost is often prohibitive.
Tape can perform well for read write capabilities but can be unpredictable. The retrieval of data is particularly slow, especially for large datasets, from hours to days. When retrieving data from the cloud, organisations are often hindered more by WAN speeds than native storage performance, but there are still options available offering lower cost, longer term storage, which inevitably takes longer to restore.
Whatever requirements an organisation has, there are many reasons why a public cloud backup solution is the right option. Cost, performance, availability, reliability and the ability to restore quickly and easily, are all big reasons to consider cloud over tape.