Big Data and Tape Backup: The Beginning of the End

Big Data and Tape Backup: friends or foes?

Once upon a time, about thirteen months and two days ago, a company director accidentally deleted the only copy of a very important file off his computer. Today, with great urgency, he needs it.  So he goes to the IT manager and asks for it to be retrieved.  Now.

Unfortunately, the company’s backup is stored on tapes. He does not have the patience to wait for the tape backup to arrive back from the off-site storage company, let alone wait further for the file to be extracted at a snail’s pace. If you were the IT manager, what would you do?

Big Data and Tape backup come with too much complication and uncertainty.  It raises pertinent questions such as – Can the tape be read successfully? Is the file even on this tape? Can the tape be found? What happens if the tape head alignment has changed from when it was written and the tape drive or library has been upgraded since then? How much time is lost on changing tapes, setting up backup jobs, and worrying about backup?

Tape equals massive time consumption, tedious tasks for the IT team, and unavoidable data loss. Plus sometimes, an unhappy boss.

In an era where speed is everything, no IT manager should worry about data backup and its recovery, especially when faced with an audit or compliance issue.  Electronic, or tape-free, disk-based backup technology makes lost files or emails searchable, from any point in time and is far quicker to recover than tape.  It offers a much faster data transfer rate, is versatile and flexible for multiple copies to be replicated off-site.  Unlike tape, it is a three-in-one solution to all three classes of backup – fumble-finger, archiving, and offsite/disaster recovery.

Upping the backup game even further, virtualisation is harnessing the potentials of disk-based backup and is stretching the gap between tape and disk farther. Specific backup technologies allow a near-instant recovery of data or servers from any point in time.  It is scalable to an organisation’s storage requirement, easily accommodating the growth of big data.  This also minimises all associated tape costs, time loss, and the capital expenditure of tape libraries, tape drives, licenses, and maintenance costs.  It carries with it the many benefits that cloud computing brings.

A few cloud computing providers now offer a fully managed off-site backup solution that provides disk-based instead of tape backup utilising market-leading technologies.  They proactively monitor reports and support an organisation’s backup requirements.

Key items to consider when moving to tape-free storage and backup environment while accommodating the growth of big data are:

  • Security & Resilience | Make sure all data are highly encrypted at source before leaving your servers.  Demand that best practices in security be strictly enforced as your data makes its way to your provider’s data centres.
  • Retention | Make sure no data gets deleted and that all daily backup retentions are fully customisable. Your provider should retain all daily or hourly backups for an agreed policy-driven duration. This means you can retrieve any file or individual inbox or email as it existed on a particular date – quickly and effectively.
  • Cost-effective | Make sure your provider is able to reduce your backup storage footprint before they even start backing your data up. This allows higher specification storage for backup data to become an affordable option. (High specification storage means superb resilience and multiple restoration streams delivering aggressive RTO.)
  • Disaster Recovery | Having been hosted in the cloud, make sure your provider can give you the option to include disaster recovery for all of your servers in the event of any untoward incident affecting business operation or data corruption.

Fast recoverable backup, when combined with the cloud, can equal huge savings on disaster recovery.  One day soon, with the constant growth of big data, backup and disaster recovery will become part of one another.


About the Author:  James Petschenyk is Frontier Technology’s backup and disaster recovery specialist and has been in a never-ending search for the ultimate backup technology.  He currently lives, sleeps, and dreams about Big Data and being able to recover it – in record time.