4 min read

Tape Backup: How Much is Tape Really Costing Your Business?

By Andy Ferris on April 17, 2018

Tape remains a popular medium of data storage due to its advantages in cost and ease of use. Often as little as a penny per gig per month to cover just the hardware, tape seems to be a great, affordable option for backup. Unlike other backup solutions, scaling tape is simply a matter of adding physical inventory, and tape doesn’t require network bandwidth or expertise to move offsite, or power when storing long-term archives.

However, when evaluating the costs of tape against other data backup solutions, IT decision makers may miss the additional costs of tape that aren’t immediately apparent.

Let’s do the math and see how much tape could really cost your organization.

Example: How Much Does Tape Really Cost?

In our hypothetical situation, an organization wants to backup 1 petabyte of data and retain that data for one year. This organization has a fairly manageable 10% change rate and a 10% growth rate, annually.

In a standard backup to tape workflow, the organization would run a level-0, or full backup of the whole system every week to tape over the weekend, followed by daily incremental backups throughout the week.

Assuming a compression ratio of 2:1, this means that every level-0 will need 500 TBs of tape, growing to 550 TBs as the total data on the primary grows. At the end of the first year, this organization will have 52 level-0’s each requiring at least 500 TBs of tape, and an additional 50 TBs of incremental data due to the 10% change rate. All together the organization will have to purchase, write, and store 27.4 PBs of tape just to protect their 1 PB of primary data! This massive increase in data on tape quickly becomes expensive and difficult to manage for enterprises.

With Igneous, a standard backup workflow involves taking incremental forever backups. This means that there is only one backup to restore at any point in time, and that each version of a file will only be backed up once.

With a compression ratio of 2:1, this means Igneous will use only 500 TBs to store the original 1 PB from the primary system, 50 TBs to store the new versions of existing data, and an additional 50 TBs to store the new data added throughout the year.

The same organization backing up 1 PB of data on Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud will actually end up storing only 600 TB at the end of the first year.

In this example, Igneous will cost around $100 per TB backed up. While tape—at only $.01 per GB per month—appears to be lower, the example above shows that this can add up to well over $300 per TB backed up due to the massive amount of tape required.

Other Organizational Costs and Risks of Tape

IT administrators often face other operational frustrations and risks when using tape.

  • Restore: Restoring backups on tape can be an arduous process. It requires knowing which version is needed and where that data is located. This can be extremely time-consuming for IT admins and expensive for enterprises.
  • Catalogs: Legacy backup software that writes to tape must keep catalogs to record where their data is on tape, since it’s impossible to know where data is unless this information is recorded. Losing these catalogs would be a disaster, so these catalogs must also be backed up, further driving up the costs of tape backup. Your backup solution needs a backup solution!
  • Primary Tier Impact: Because the legacy software that writes to tape uses NDMP protocols and must be streamed sequentially, running backups becomes the most important workload running in your organization. Any disruption to the backup process means missed SLAs and organizations losing protection. This is a headache for IT admins as well as end users.
  • Workload: Between managing weekly level-0s and nightly incrementals, managing catalogs, completing restore requests, and swapping out tapes, IT organizations struggle to backup the unstructured data they have, let alone plan for the growth they have coming up.

For most organizations tape is a familiar solution for backup with well understood costs and workflows. But for organizations managing petabytes of data and billions of files, tape becomes a costly and cumbersome option not equipped to handle the challenges of unstructured data at massive scales.

A Modern and Cost-Effective Alternative to Tape

Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud is a modern and fully managed backup and archive solution built specifically for massive unstructured file data—and more cost-effective than tape for enterprises with petabytes of data!

Here are some features of Igneous designed to solve the frustrations of tape:

  • Built for unstructured data: API integration with your NAS systems, latency-aware data movement, and parallel streams provide the performance you need for unstructured data, unmatched by any other solution on the market today.
  • Scale-out architecture: Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud grows effortlessly with your data, keeping everything in one system.
  • Search to restore: Easily search for a file or directory on our user-friendly dashboard and click to restore in minutes.
  • Delivered as-a-Service: Igneous customers that have switched from tape report that the time saved from reduced management overhead with Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud already makes it worth the switch.

Learn more about Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud in our product datasheet!

Read datasheet

Andy Ferris

Written by Andy Ferris

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