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Evolution of Data Backup

by Tammy Batey – July 26, 2017

“Technology has come a long way.” That’s what I wrote in an Igneous blog post celebrating World Backup Day on March 31. But how’s that apply to data backup in particular?

In this blog post, I’ll explore how data backup has evolved over the years, according to interesting writings on the topic. While machine learning and artificial intelligence are contributing to today’s data backup challenge, the beginnings of data backup solutions can be traced back to the Hollerith Tabulating Machine.

After the 1880 census, the U.S. Census Bureau collected more data than it could tabulate, according to bureau history. With the U.S. population growing about 25 percent a decade, the bureau needed a way to capture data from the more than 60 million people in 1890 and tabulate it before it was obsolete. The agency held a competition to find a faster solution.

Three people, including former Census Bureau employee Herman Hollerith, took on the challenge, which involved processing 1880 census data from four areas in St. Louis, Missouri. Herman’s machine tabulated the data fastest 72.5 hours vs. the 100.5 and 144.5 hours of his competitors and sped data processing in the 1890 U.S. census.

By the 1950s, doctors and medical scientists were using tabulating machines to record patient records. It was a tabulating machine that determined smoking to be the most significant factor common to lung cancer sufferers.

“By the 1960s, tabulating machines were replaced by computers, which stored and processed information electronically,” according to a Science Museum writeup. “This made them more powerful and avoided the need to store and process millions of paper records. Electronic data are easy to transfer, so there are concerns about the privacy of patient records.”

Tape has a turn

Information storage continued to evolve to handle the massive growth in data Lawton Constitution newspaper first coined the term “information explosion” in 1941. But this was all structured data, meaning organized data in database fields. Structured data is  easily searchable by software and consumes many fewer bytes of memory.

In the 1960s, punch cards were “the universal symbol of computing,” according to Douglas W. Jones of the University of Iowa Department of Computer Science. But there was another data storage technology that would play an enduring role in data backup and begin to surpass punch cards’ popularity in the 1960s – tape.

German-Austrian engineer Fritz Pfleumer invented magnetic tape for recording sound, according to the History of Recording. He received a patent in 1928 for his invention, which involved very thin paper coated with iron oxide powder. He granted AEG the right to use his invention when it built the Magnetophon K1 tape recorder.

“Since one roll of magnetic tape could store as much data as 10,000 punch cards, it achieved instant success and became the most popular way of storing of computer data until the mid-1980s,” writes Maxim Yurin in in “The History of Backup.”

Disk days to cloud

During the first half of 2001, three of the top 10 fastest growing U.S. storage companies were tape companies, according to Zsolt Kerekes in “History of Enterprise Disk to Disk Backup.”

But the benefits of hard disk storage – including capacity and availability – and new replication strategies led to the emergence of disk as the frontrunner. IBM introduced the first hard drive – IBM 305 RAMAC – in 1956. Hard drive technology evolved rapidly and disk became a viable alternative to tape in the mid-1980s.

Another milestone in disk storage happened in 1992, when IBM introduced one of the first 3.5-inch disk drives on the market. It could store 1.2 billion bytes of capacity - enough for more than a half million pages of typewritten information. That year, IBM shipped more than 250,000 1-gigabyte 3.5-inch hard drives.

But just as public cloud has become a popular choice for private consumers for storing their documents and photos, cloud agility can be appealing to enterprises, too. Now, for both consumers and enterprises, it’s not an either-or decision. Some data can remain on-premises and other data can be stored in the cloud.


Igneous' modern approach to data backup

With Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud, you get both data locality - data behind your firewall - and cloud agility from optional tiering to public cloud. Similar to public cloud, Igneous remotely manages Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud so you avoid the operational cost – and frustrations – of managing secondary storage. Igneous consolidated backup and archive eliminates the complexity of disparate backup software, disk-to-disk replication, and storage targets. 

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