Long Term Data Retention: Tape Libraries or Cloud Archive – A Clear Winner Today!

Tape media, automation systems, and backup software have been an important part of traditional data protection strategies. However, many organizations have grown weary of the cost and effort associated with buying, handling, and storing tape media, as well as the budget impacts of replacing tape libraries and associated software licensing. The backup function remains critical for protecting applications and their data, but there must be an alternative to the complexity of, and talent spent on tape management and processes. For years, tape has been used primarily for offsite backup and long term retention. However, this traditional use of tape comes with inherent challenges. Tape handling can be cumbersome. Physical handling of tapes and dusty storage conditions can impact the reliability of the media. If data needs to be restored, the tapes must be retrieved from the vault, loaded in the library, and then searched to find the correct files, which can be a slow, difficult process.

Every enterprise today is required to keep its archived data for a minimum of 5 – 7 years to meet various industry data compliances. E.g, BFSI – SOX, Health Care – HIPPA, etc. Till a couple of years back IT team of every enterprise found the Tape Library as the most reliable and cost-effective way to store data for a long term archival purpose. But in the last 3 years, we have seen some major technology disruption happen in the secondary storage market; which resulted in the advent of many cost-effective solutions like some very high capacity & dense Disk-based Storage and per TB low-cost Cloud-based Object / Archive storages. These incumbent technology advancements have changed the face of how we think about Storage today. 

So, let’s look at some of the problem statements with respect to maintaining and safeguarding TAPE libraries. 

Problem Statement:

  1. Storage of magnetic tapes for a very long period requires a well maintained & optimal environment for them to be stored in.
  2. Logistics of Tape movement to a remote site for adhering to BCP requirement.
  3. Continuous check (Data Restore) of tapes every few months to ensure data integrity and availability in case of a disaster scenario.
  4. Data migration from Old tape formats (LTO 3, 4, 5) to new tapes (LTO 7, 8, 9, etc.). As the tape drives, Backup Software, interconnect technologies, OS, etc. became obsolete and EOSL in few years of interval.
  5. Skilled manpower to maintain old technologies.

A One-Stop Solution:

To address these challenges, many are turning to cloud storage. In fact, the worldwide enterprise storage market grew 34.4% year over year in the first quarter of 2018, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). This growth was driven in part by the demand for public cloud resources. Gartner expects public cloud services as a whole to have increased by 21.4% in 2018.

Public cloud storage is a good offsite storage solution for disaster recovery. Having backup files stored as objects in the public cloud makes it easier to restore data within the cloud. In turn, virtualized applications can be brought up quicker, thereby restoring service to users faster in the event of a disaster.

Amazon S3 Glacier and S3 Glacier Deep Archive are a secure, durable, and extremely low-cost Amazon S3 cloud storage classes for data archiving and long-term backup. They are designed to deliver 99.999999999% durability and provide comprehensive security and compliance capabilities that can help meet even the most stringent regulatory requirements. Customers can store data for as little as $1 per terabyte per month, significant savings compared to on-premises solutions. To keep costs low yet suitable for varying retrieval needs, Amazon S3 Glacier provides three options for access to archives, from a few minutes to several hours, and S3 Glacier Deep Archive provides two access options ranging from 12 to 48 hours.

AWS Storage Competency partners can help customers to plan for a one-time migration effort from Tapes / Disk Storages to Amazon S3 Glacier / S3 Glacier Deep Archive based on the use case.


  4. SEC Rule 17a-4, PCI-DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, Fed RAMP, EU GDPR, and FISMA, and Amazon S3 Object Lock enables WORM storage capabilities, helping satisfy compliance requirements for virtually every regulatory agency around the globe.
  5. Low Cost.
  6. Most supported backup / restore ISVs

Sample Architecture:

AWS S3 & Glacier Architecture (90% in Glacier & 10% in S3 AI) with On-Premise DC connectivity

AWS S3 & Glacier Architecture

TCO – On-Premise vs AWS:

100 TB of Data Storing in tapes Vs Cloud Storage for 5 years & 7 Years –
TCO – On-Premise vs AWS

*Upgrade & Migration to an up-to-date backup/tape Technology (At least 1 time for 5 yrs and 2 times for 7 yrs).

# One Premise conversion will require more time and effort. As the data from old tape(LTO3/LTO4) need to restore into temporary disk storage and again the same data need to copy to new tapes (LTO6 / LTO7). For Cloud migration, data will be restored directly from tape to AWS’s storage gateway -> S3 -> Glacier so the time & effort will be much less and one time only.

## Instance with minimum 4 Intel Xeon cores with 16GB RAM and local 1TB HDD in RAID 1

IT organizations have looked for decades for options to replace tape-based backup and archival processes. Most recently, cloud services have become an option for reducing the cost and complexity of tape and tape automation. Surveys show that IT professionals now list backup as one of the top use cases for cloud platforms. Replacing tape backup with cloud backup is a high-priority and simple task that can unlock further benefits by moving your organization’s data into the cloud. Organizations are learning that, with the cloud, they can run lean and mean on-premises infrastructures by using cloud data management platforms as an automatic release valve for the aging or inactive data on primary storage. They can offload data without disrupting users or applications to streamline their existing backup processes.

In conclusion; a Cloud-based Archive solution in the future and gives peace of mind to CxOs and BU heads in a guaranteed fixed cost Opex model.

Asit Sahoo 0

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