Alternatives to tape back-up

Although tape still has advantages for high volume data back-up, not every organisation is properly equipped or structured to exploit those advantages. Small and medium businesses in particular may want alternatives to tape back-up if their IT department would rather put its resources, whether money or staff, into other projects than the management of an elaborate tape back-up solution. Any alternative needs to be competitive in terms of back-up capacity, cost and security. After all, the other aspect of interest for tape back-ups is the relative ease of removing tape cartridges to a separate location for archiving, providing security against incidents affecting the main data centre. There are however solutions that compete for as little as $50 or $60 per year.

In theory, removable storage media such as USB memory sticks or writable or rewritable DVDs or Blu-ray disks could provide alternatives to tape back-up for some organisations. However, capacity for these media, even for Blu-ray disks, is still largely inferior to the size of hard disks currently in use on PCs, whether standalone or server. Back-ups therefore have to span several sticks or disks, or they have to be selective, or implement a sophisticated strategy of rotation and incremental back-ups. Secondly, someone still has to take such media offsite if the organisation wants effective disaster recovery from an event affecting the main IT installation.

About as cheap as a pack of memory sticks, at least for the fee for a month or even a year, are the online back-up services that are now available to organisations as alternatives to tape back-up. Their price points are attractive to small businesses in particular. Carbonite and Mozy are two examples, offering “unlimited” data back-up over Internet for the equivalent of about $5 per month. Amazon’s Simple Storage Service provides a similar service, priced per gigabyte of data stored per month. Besides no longer having to worry about how many sticks or disks (or tape cartridges) they’ll need, organisations no longer have to figure out who’ll take responsibility for taking the data offsite, as these cloud-based solutions do this automatically.