Tape backup as a security measure? Not likely.

a secure tape storage option

Posted on Friday, November 3, 2017

An uptick in sales of magnetic tape backup units has surprised a number of analysts, even making headlines in the Wall Street Journal.

According to the WSJ journalists, businesses are turning to “legacy” systems as a way to beef up defences against a rising tide of attacks by cybercriminals.

By keeping information backed up and off-line, that data is theoretically harder to steal. Hackers would need to acquire the physical tapes, and then use a suitable drive to recover data from them. The story goes on to suggest that this level of inconvenience makes tape an effective safeguard against theft.

A nice, but unlikely theory

The theory seems to be as a response to an unexpected development; with industry almost totally focused on “cloud first” strategies, few analysts are prepared for events that fall outside that narrative – like the continued use of “ancient” tape technologies. Despite the quotes published by the WSJ, there are more probable reasons that sales of magnetic tape libraries like the Dell PowerVault range are increasing.

Most likely are continued (and perhaps justified) concerns about cloud services. Archive data needs to be available at all times, and properly protected against third party access, two issues that the cloud has yet to address conclusively.

But by using PowerVault (or similar) tape technologies, CTOs can be certain of several things:

  1. Their data is being properly backed up.
  2. The exact physical location of their data.
  3. The ongoing costs of storing their archive data.
  4. Guaranteed access to their archived data whenever required.

The Cloud doesn’t fix everything

The recent Google Apps “glitch” that prevented corporate subscribers from accessing their data should sound a warning for CTOs. Any cloud service could fall victim to similar problems – and it is the customer who pays the biggest price when they cannot access their data, including their archives.

In light of the known benefits of DELL PowerVault and other tape libraries, the real surprise may actually be that businesses are choosing the cloud for data archiving at all.

A 5-decades old reason for choosing tape

Security is a useful additional benefit of tape backup regimes, but the real reasons for choosing “legacy” technology is much more pragmatic. The technology has remained in circulation for nearly 50 years precisely because it works – and works consistently. A 50+ year track record means the cloud still has some way to go when it comes to replacing tape archives.

To learn more about keeping your DELL PowerVault tape libraries in circulation for longer, please get in touch.

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