What’s wrong with Tape Backup?

Most enterprises understand that the only way to ensure data protection and IT continuity in the face of disasters is to establish a remote recovery site a significant distance from main and branch offices.

As a result, every night many companies back up their office systems to tape and transport the tapes anywhere from fifty to several hundred miles away.

What these organisations haven’t recognised is just how vulnerable their data and business remain, even after such a huge outlay of administrative effort and cost.

Many of the problems with tape backup are well known; tape hardware, media and software are expensive and even after the investment of time and money has been made, recovery is by no means certain to be successful.

However, there are other issues, implicit in the use of tape, which are fundamental to the success or otherwise of attaining business continuity goals that need to be understood.

Tape backup places limits on an organisation’s Recovery Point Objective (RPO), the past point in time to which you can recover data after a disaster. Suppose, for example, that a critical system fails sometime today; the best you can do is recover to yesterday’s data, which will be at least twelve hours old.

The later in the working day disaster strikes, the older the data from which you’ll recover. The cost of permanently lost data is high and includes the cost of the revenue that the data represents, the business value you can extract from it, and the cost to recreate it.

The key to a successful disaster recovery plan is to focus not just on the data (RPO) but also on the applications that end users run to gain access to that data.

The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is generally defined as the amount of time it takes to regain access to business-critical data. When a large-scale disaster strikes, with tape backup a company is out of business until it can restore systems and data from its tapes.

This kind of restoration takes a minimum of several hours, and can easily take days or even weeks. Tape backup does not provide the level of recoverability that most enterprises require.

Another considerations, is that the process of making a tape backup takes place during a ‘backup window’, during which systems being backed up cannot be used.

Given the ever-increasing demand for around the clock data access, it has become much harder for companies to complete nightly backups within the time provided.

In many cases, once-nightly backup goals slip to every other night for some machines.

At remote branch offices, where the process is often left to non-IT staff, backups may be less frequent still.

Many enterprises that rely on tape backups have not properly considered the following questions: How much would it cost your organisation if all of your transaction data for the last twelve hours were lost?

What is the value of the knowledge contained in your company’s last twelve hours worth of e-mails and e-mail attachments? What is your exposure if you can’t produce this data in compliance with your industry’s regulations?