Why you should upgrade from tape for better compliance

February 23, 2017 Data & System Recovery

For most IT organizations, regularly backing up company data is not just a good idea – it is also a de facto requirement in order to comply with rules and regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Maintaining compliance means having adequate backup, restore, auditing and archiving mechanisms.

However, many companies still rely on highly manual – and inefficient – tape-based backup solutions to comply with the above laws. According to the LTO Program, 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have implemented tape in their backup-related infrastructures. Moreover, 59 percent of all organizations use tape as their main means of direct backup.

Why is tape so popular even in 2017? It has several perceived advantages, including low cost and high portability. At the same time, its unique limitations make it an increasingly ill-suited fit for today's regulatory environment.

Understanding the limits of tape-based backup

While tape is not going away anytime soon, many organizations would greatly benefit from replacing it with more modern alternatives such as offsite data center backups and virtual/hybrid data recovery solutions. Some of the fundamental issues with tape include:

  • Speed: Restoring from tape takes a long time. Legacy equipment has to be retained just to read and write the tapes in question. Plus, the tape must be moved to an exact point before it can be read/written, unlike a hard drive or solid-state drive that can be immediately accessed. Finding a particular file can be time-consuming.
  • Privacy: The level of manual intervention required with tape backups can create problems in complying with HIPAA and GLBA in particular. Many tape backups also lack encryption, which makes their loss a major concern for anyone with personal details contained on the tapes.
  • Media quality: Tape gradually degrades over time, with a lifespan of around 15 years (longer under perfect conditions). Since it is magnetic, it is vulnerable to strong magnetic fields. Humidity and loud sounds are also major concerns for tape quality over the long term.

Tape is technology from another era. On top of its obvious technical limitations, it is not the most reliable option in an environment characterized by costly downtime incidents in IT departments and data centers. Information Technology Intelligence Consulting Research has estimated that the average cost of an hour of downtime increased 25 percent to 30 percent between 2008 and 2017. Virtually all (98 percent) of businesses that responded to the ITIC surveys pegged the cost of a single such hour at more than $100,000.

How does tape itself contribute to higher costs for downtime? Speed, rather than outright failure, is the most proximate issue. The 2014 Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark Survey found that 36 percent of its respondents lost at least one critical application for hours at a time in the previous year, while a quarter had lost data center availability for hours or even days. The slowness of tape can contribute to these lengthy delays in restoring full IT service.

There are more efficient alternatives to tape for data backup.There are more efficient alternatives to tape for data backup.

"Tape is technology from another era."

Moving past tape: Ensuring compliance with UbiStor solutions

Compared to disk, tape is very limited in its backup capabilities as well as its compliance abilities. Fortunately, there are many other options out there that are economical, fast and compliant, thanks to dependable virtualized and cloud infrastructure:

  • Virtual and hybrid hosting: With resources housed in a Tier-3+ data center, you can restore rapidly and meet the most demanding requirements in your disaster recovery plan. Backing up critical assets becomes simpler and much more efficient.
  • Storage management solutions: Fully automated with compression, encryption and block-level deduplication, data management solutions help dramatically shorten your recovery window while giving you a reliable backup medium
  • Email services: Emails must be archived in a certified, unaltered state in order to satisfy requirements of e-discovery requests. This is easier to do with hybrid and cloud infrastructure than with traditional magnetic tape.

Staying compliant is essential for avoiding legal and financial repercussions. In this context, it literally pays to upgrade from tape to more advanced solutions that safely and reliably back up your data. You won't have to worry about tape restores that could take many hours to complete, or about important files that are seemingly impossible to find on the reel. Learn more about UbiStor's many compliance-related offerings to get started down a better path.