Your backup - are you still using tapes?

Tape based backups might still have their place in the world.  Much like audio cassettes and 1980's VHS tapes, tape based backups are still pretty nifty.  However, if you are not an antique purist it might be time to get an ipod, a flip cam, and a hard drive backup.

All kidding aside, tape based backups are an aging technology, and while they continue to update and improve, it is very difficult to compete with the speed, cost, and flexibility of hard drive based backups.  Here is what we like about hard drives:

  • Allow you to take a complete image backup of your server. Tapes generally do not, with the exeption of Enterprise level backup software.
  • Are an overall more cost effective solution. Cost per Gigabyte are similar between tape and hard drive but a tape solution requires you to buy a $500 minimum tape drive.
  • Allow you to plug your backup in to any other computer to access your data. If your server crashes and you need a temporary server set up, your tape backup will not help you. Why? Where is your tape drive? In your broken server. A USB hard drive can be plugged in to any computer.
  • Last longer than tapes. Tapes are specified with a limited number of read/write cycles while hard drives are virtually limitless.  However, tapes do stand up to impact from being dropped better than hard drives. Get yourself a nice case to alleviate this problem.
  • Are faster than tapes.  Think back to finding your favorite song on an audio cassette. A hard drive will behave more like a DVD or iPod where you can access the information you need almost instantly.

Whether you use tapes or hard drives it is important to consider the goals for your backup system.

  • Get back up and running quickly. Can you wait for your server to be fixed?
  • Maintain comprehensive historical data: from last 3 days? 2 months? A full year?
  • Back up both onsite and offsite.  Is it important to be protected in the event of a fire or flood?

A backup system is a relatively low cost solution and should be well thought out, implemented, and tested. Anyone that has lost data will agree that there really is no excuse not to have a good backup system in place.

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