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Current Direction of Enterprize Backup Solutions

I have been in IT for almost 20 years and have always used a tape backups solution for mission critical data. I am in a new shop with a bunch of youngsters who are telling me that a hard drive based backup is the only way to go.

I don't want to be an old fuddy duddy but I see problems with going to a hard drive solution. Not the least of which is the difficulty of taking the backup offsite.

We have a little over 270G of databases and flatfiles to back up and are expecting that to be pushing 1T by the end of next year.

What would you recomend?
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Where I work, we have a Storage Area Network (SAN) with abour 8 TB of space. It's redundant, and data is written to two separate blades at once. The probem is that both blades are stored on the same rack... so if something should happen, building burns down, grenades, etc... ALL data is lost. It's a VER bad idea and sadly we don't have any say in how it's set up.
I can understand your feelings about tapes. However, I personally feel that tapes are more of a headache. I recommend offsite storage. That is, you have for example, a blade at your office, and one in another building somewhere... if you feel safe, even just another room. Data can be written to both at the same time. If one breaks, you have an immediate backup. Of all the hard drives I've used, I've literally only had one bad sector on a 46 GB drive in the 10 years I've been screwing around with computers and servers. Maybe I'm just lucky, but my faith is in hard drives.
Tapes after a while, will eventually cost you (or your company) more money in the longrun to replace.
Duncan MeyersCommented:
>I don't want to be an old fuddy duddy but I see problems with going to a hard drive solution. Not the least of which is the >difficulty of taking the backup offsite.


My preference is for tapes. You can get up to 400GB on one LTO 2 (depending, yadda, yadda etc) and it's portable. And if you drop it, it isn't stuffed. Depending on what backup software you use, disaster recovery is made simpler as well.

For: mechanically robust, data density, portability, data life.
Against: cost

DVD-RW's (or +RW's) are beginning to look like a viable option with BluRay stuff soon to/ beginning to appear which will give you 27GB on one DVD. There are also internet based services that let yo back up to a remote server. Once you've done the initial backup, you just do deltas to keep the backup up to date. Not really suitable for a corporate environment, I'd think.
For my money, LTO-2 and the new LTO-3 (400GB native, 800GB compressed) tape drives are the way to go.

Here are some performance figures...

Transfer Rates:
10K RPM SCSI disc: 26.7 - 40.2MB/s (depends on where on the disc you're writing/reading)
15K RPM SCSI disc: 51 - 69MB/s
LTO-2 tape: 36MB/s
LTO-3 tape: 68MB/s - that's 245GB native/490GB compressed per hour!!

Gimme the LTO-3's please. If you'll be backing up a TB, the only serious alternative is SDLT 600, and it's slower.


Duncan MeyersCommented:
This link has some good information on the up and coming technologies:

I especially like: "We're not too far from a Terabyte tape cartridge for under $100."

Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimmee.
Ok, there is a lot of marketing hype and there is also a taste of reality in the statements the youngsters are going with.   The reality is that originally tape backup was the way to go because it offered a very attractive cost/MB for storage.  Now that SATA arrays are a reality the cost/MB on disk is very close to that of tape.  Eventually it will probably be cheaper than tape.  

That being said however, tape offers what the others here have mentioned.  The ability to take it offsite.  Most medium to larger shops utilize a tape library of some sort (such as the ADIC Scalar 100) which allows for tapes to be rotated and stored offsite.  Most backup software will keep track of the location of the offsite tapes as well (once you set it up).   Tape libraries can range anywhere from 500GB of backup upwards to a few hundred terabytes with the larger units (Powderhorn for example).

The greatest advantage right now of using disk based backup is that it is incredibly fast and easy to manage.  However, it is done in a multi-tier strategy.  That is a nearline/offline basis.  Critical data or data that requires fast recovery would be placed on disk for a month for example, and then moved to tape.  This is typical of HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management) systems common in financial, healthcare or anyplace that may need to get aged data quickly.   Because the cost of these devices are coming down, it is more commong to see this strategy in non-traditional places as well.

There are many excellent sources of fairly non-biased information out there on this topic.  I would take a look around StorageTek's site since they have an excellent history in tape backup and also are in the disk-based SAN environment now so they may have a holistic view of the concepts involved.  
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