“Where Does This Thing Go?” Cloud, Tape, & Disk Data Storage At a Glance

October 16th, 2019

On this blog, we’ve discussed the differences between on-premise and cloud backup, as well as why cloud backup is important for IT teams. We’ve also dug into the differences between primary and secondary storage types, and what those both look like. However, we haven’t yet examined the pros and cons of the different secondary storage types: cloud storage, disk storage, and tape storage.

In the data center backup market, these three major secondary storage types are all key players. While tape and disk are more traditional methods of storage, cloud-based storage has steadily increased in popularity over the years. So which type will meet your data storage needs?

Here’s a highlight of where each storage type shines, as well as potential downsides to consider as you create your backup strategy.

Cloud storage: fresh and flexible

Cloud backup is sometimes referred to as online backup, given that it entails storing data online, typically managed by a third-party vendor. Cloud proponents attribute both cost savings and less labor-intensive deployments by going with this method of backup. This type of backup is popular because it entails multi-site redundancy by design, which is great for disaster recovery strategies. For example, you can keep a local copy on-premise, while replicating your backups to the cloud.  

It is important to remember that to support off-site replication of changes in your data, you will need the appropriate bandwidth. Sometimes this entails adjusting your backup plan by replicating less data or investing more money in network optimization. While cloud can be a more affordable option to on-premise backup, your investment may increase alongside the size of your backup.

Additionally, as you transition to a new cloud deployment, there will be some time and effort. This will vary depending on how much data you transfer to the cloud. Cloud backup provides some flexibility in how you store your data, being able to pick and choose which data you save to the cloud, and typically paying only for data you actually back up.

Tape storage: cost-effective and sequence-dependent

Tape remains a popular medium for data storage and backup as it is so cost-effective. Tapes are generally the most affordable of the three options, but overall costs of backup depend on just how much data you need to protect. Besides cost, another benefit of tape is that it is more difficult to damage and contain its quality for several years. 

Given that tape is an older technology, it is bound to have some weaknesses associated with that. It takes longer to read from and write to tapes than other methods of backup. There is a higher likelihood of data corruption or tape reading issues than, say, disk-based backup.

It’s also important to keep in mind that setting up tape-based requires storing data in a sequence. Restoring data from tape also must be performed in a sequence, which takes up more time than restoring data from the cloud or on-site disk storage. If your organization has intense SLAs, tape-based storage managed by your team on-site may not be the best choice. 

Disk storage: fast, reliable, and rewritable

One of the biggest features of disk-based storage is its rewritability. For data recovery, it is faster and more reliable than tape-based backup. One form of disk-based storage entails transferring data stored on tape to disk, but this is time-consuming and costly. Disk-to-disk backup, however, is relatively simple and almost instant. 

Like tape, its greatest drawback is its physical damage vulnerability. You need to use a third-party provider for off-site backup, or on-site disk replication, for multi-location data redundancy. If you choose to bypass the need for an off-site provider, continuing to buy disk space may become expensive. Not to mention the extra process of doing it yourself!

Choosing the right secondary storage type

Determining which storage medium is best for your organization requires an examination of several factors. Tape and disk still stand as tried and true methods of storing data. And with popular backup strategies like 3-2-1 Backup at play, many organizations find a combination of cloud and disk storage to be a great fit.

Before you disregard disk entirely for cloud, remember that cloud storage is ultimately just another form of disk storage. Somebody, somewhere, manages those servers! However, hybrid backup products are totally an option.

Hybrid backups utilize a mixture of cloud or disk-based storage with tape storage. These solutions provide organizations both flexibility and cost-savings, and should seriously be considered when on the market for a new backup method.