Battle Between Tape and Cloud Backups in Databarracks’ 2021 Data Health Check

15% of organisations are still using a combination of disk and tape backups, whilst 51% now utilise online or cloud backups; according to the recently published data of the business continuity and IT disaster recovery provider Databarracks.

Such findings have been derived from Databarracks’ ‘2021 Data Health Check‘. Running since 2008, the annual report surveys over 400 IT decision-makers in the UK on cloud, backups, cybersecurity, IT resilience, and remote working.

In 2021 particularly, the report found that the popularity of cloud and online-based backups has continued to increase, rising from the 23% recorded in 2008, to the 51% highlighted in the 2021 report.

In addition to this, the report also detailed how 4% still use tape as their only backup medium, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2012. However, the report also found how combined disk and tape use has declined from a peak of 29% in 2012, to 15%.

A tape drive has been a favourable form of data backup since its inception back in the 1950’s. The cartridge format harnesses magnetic tape to store data in an offline capacity, and is synonymous with its low cost per unit, and long archival stability. Tape drives also offer the benefit of being incorruptible from malware and viruses, however recovery of the data if the cartridge is damaged or lost still proves to be problematic.

Peter Groucutt, Managing Director, DatabarracksPeter Groucutt, Managing Director, Databarracks
Peter Groucutt, Managing Director, Databarracks

Speaking on the findings on the data, Peter Groucutt, the Managing Director for Databarracks, remarked, “When we first started the Data Health Check in 2008, almost a fifth of organisations were still using tape as their only backup medium. By 2012, companies were moving to a combination of disk and tape or switching to online or cloud backup.”

Has the use of tape drives died? Peter doesn’t seem to think so. “Reports of tape’s death seem to have been greatly exaggerated. It still remains relatively popular,” he comments.

Whilst discussing the capabilities of tape drives and the unshakeable popularity that they retain, Peter adds, “Storage prices have reduced to make cloud backup viable for the majority of the market, but the lowest-cost method of storage is still tape. For organisations with vast data volumes – in industries such as life sciences or broadcast media – it meets that need.

“Tape is also difficult and slow to eliminate completely due to the years of historic backups you need to keep. Smaller businesses often make a clean break and switch to a new method however, larger firms and those with compliance requirements need to keep tape drives and tapes for several years. This puts some companies off moving due to the cost and manpower required to manage two backup methods while older retentions expire. The industry has been lamenting the decline of tapes for decades but even now, it seems they are here to stay”

Peter says there are still major benefits to moving to faster and more efficient cloud backups. “Backup is one of the repetitive jobs that can really take time away from the IT team. Improving the speed of backups is not one of the most exciting IT projects, but it has a huge impact on the efficiency of IT operations. The lockdowns over the last 18 months have also driven more interest in completely automated backup solutions that don’t require manual interaction like with tape libraries.”

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  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.