Tape Backup vs. Remote Data Backup to Disc

Backing up data is critical to the success of your business. Whether you are an Ubuntu Linux shop or a windows shop. You must implement a sound backup strategy to ensure your business doesn’t suffer serious hardship if not outright failure. Consider the following scenario.

You open your office in the morning, grab a cup of joe, and sit down to get the day started. You open up your vertical market app to discover you have no client data. “What the heck??” your sales and billing data is gone as well. You search through the filesystem, in every app you can think of, and your data is gone. No problem I’ll retrieve it from the tape backup. You pop in the first tape only to discover the tape is unreadable. “No problem” you think and slap in the previous days tape. Same story different tape. As you work through your 14 day rotation of tapes you discover that your backups have been corrupted for months.

Can you survive the above scenario? Is it a little extreme or fear mongering? It is extreme but it’s real. A disgruntled employee erased a local businesses data AND the backups were unrecoverable. The odd thing of the story is that this business owner had a backup strategy. A lot don’t. Can your business survive the loss of the server or workstation housing the data your busines depends on to survive? How much is your business worth? $100,000, $400,000, millions? Can you afford NOT to have a backup strategy?

Whew, that was harsh but the fact is a proper backup strategy will potentially save your business some day. “So what do you recommend?” Glad you asked! Let’s look at two methods of backing up.

Tape Drive backup:

Historically tape backups have been the preferred method. Unfortunately it’s also proven to be error prone and without properly testing your backup strategy you won’t know until it’s too late that your data is unrecoverable. Ok, let’s look at the cost of tape drives and tapes.

EXABYTE 119.00500 Black 1.6TB Internal Ultra2 SCSI LVD Interface VXA-2 Tape Drive – 1100.00.
A 80/160GB tape is $60.00 x 7 – 420.00. Really you need 10 – 14 but we’ll just go with a minimum.
SCSI Card- $150.00. (Chances are good your server did not come with one.)


That’s average for the hardware. Depending on how much your time is worth you now have to design and implement your backup strategy. Full back up one day and incremental the other six? Full backup every day? We recommend at least one full a week. Ok, so now you’ve designed your strategy it’s time to implement it. Who rotates the tapes manually everyday? Who takes the others offsite? Who tracks what tape is tonights backup? etc… There is considerable planning and effort necessary to implement a proper tape backup strategy. You must factor in the human element as well. Someone must rotate the tape everyday. Someone must take tapes offsite. Invariably a step in the process gets missed with dire ramifications.

Let’s look at our other option.

Remote Data Backup:

Remotely backing up your data to disc is becoming more popular as bandwidth increases for business Internet connections. In our typical set up we backup data from a windows server via rsync or a network share to a Linux server acting as a firewall/fileserver. Then upload the data to a backup server. After the first initial full backup the backed up data is only files that have changed. This all happens at night, automatically without human intervention. You have a daily, weekly, and monthly snapshot of your data. The beauty of this solution is it’s simplicity and the fact it just works. No tapes to rotate, no tapes to test and ensure they aren’t at the end of their life cycle, no tape drives to fail. Once a remote backup to disc solution is set up it just works. Plain and simple. Your employees or your time is free to conduct your business. No need to worry “will the tapes contain data?”.

So how do you get your data. In our set up we provide you an account to access the data. Quite simple. You can access your data with an Internet connection if you need to 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. Coupled with our server maintenance program we’ll monitor the backup daily and inform you of any problems. Additionally it can be setup to email you notifications of the status of the nightly backup. Great! So how much you ask. Please visit our remote backup solutions page for pricing.

You save that initial outlay of $2000 for hardware, the cost for proper backup software, the cost to have someone install and configure everything, and the employee costs associated with the strategy. That’s a big factor to consider when implementing a backup solution. Is it worth the $2-3000 to get it running and will it pay for itself. Remember that hardware doesn’t last forever so you’ll want to factor in replacement costs as well over the lifetime of your solution. Tapes only have so many hours available so plan on replacing them every other year or so.

We do not believe that the tape back up is the best way to go for most business at present. We have seen too many tapes brought into the shop with unrecoverable data. Granted it’s not “normal” for tapes to fail but it does happen. Many times it is a drive failure, a software failure or a configuration issue. Tape drives are not as transparent (easy to verify) that things are going according to plan and many do-it-yourselfers wind up with backups that were not as complete as they thought they were.

Backups matter if it’s your business data that’s unrecoverable which is why we prefer the remote backup, also known as a disk-to-disk solution. Your data is far safer and easier to access with that method. We’ve never had to tell a remote backup customer “sorry, no data….”

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