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    Tape Backup vs. Disk Backup: Which is Right for Your Business?

    By: Clay Ostlund
    May 19, 2014

    Every business operation relies upon data for success. Whether you own a retail business that relies upon inventory databases to track supplies or an automotive dealership that relies upon a customer list to maintain buyer records, data storage is a must for every business. However, the manner in which data is stored and backed-up can vary from company to company, based upon need and preferences.

    The two most common forms of data storage remain, at this point, tape backup and hard drive or disk backup. What does each form of backup entail? What are the benefits? What about the drawbacks? If you have questions about which data backup strategy is better for your company, you will find the answer you need below.

    Basics of Tape and Disk Backup

    tape_backupThe primary difference between the two forms of backup is the media onto which your data is backed up. Tape backup provides the ability to copy data packages from a hard drive to a tape cartridge for storage, backup and recovery purposes in the event of a computer crash or other failure.

    Conversely, disk backup entails copying data and other information onto a hard drive for easy access later on. Making the choice between tape and disk backup can be confusing, but it is important to realize the capabilities of both, which may differ under certain circumstances.

    Tape Backup vs. Disk Backup

    When most companies begin to compare the tape backup vs. disk backup, there are four significant factors to consider:

    1. Speed
    2. Capacity
    3. Cost
    4. Hassel Factor


    Where it concerns speed, the general consensus among IT professionals is that disk backup has the advantage over tape backup. Generally speaking, disk systems backup much faster than tape. One of the reasons is because disk systems can do data deduplication – which means they won’t copy data already stored on the backup appliance.


    Additionally disk backups can be accessed much more quickly than tape. Tapes have to be rewound and loaded (and then you have to go through the tape and find the information) while disks can be connected and information can be searched.


    Concerning capacity, the rapid advance of disk storage technology has progressed beyond the abilities of tape backup. Today, disk systems can store much more on a single device than tape backup systems. This not only offers storage benefits, but usability and accessibility become simpler when everything can be stored in one place.


    There is also the cost of the backup system. Increasingly, vendors are touting improved disk backup systems that have closed the gap on tape in terms of cost per TB. The average tape backup system costs $33/TB. Meanwhile, while disk systems were once much more expensive, improved technology has allowed disk systems to come down to anywhere between $45 and $50 per TB.

    Hassel Factor

    Finally, you have to consider the amount of work you have to put forth. With tape backups you must remember to take the tapes offsite. Not only is this time consuming, but it becomes a security issue because someone could take it and never return it or lose it. Disk systems are automatic – they can be replicated offsite, in a secure location.

    Which is Right for Your Business?

    Tape backup vs. disk backup, in the past, was not an easy decision to make. The newness of disk systems made it risky, plus tape backup was already proven to reliably get the job done. Today, the decision is simple. Disk backup makes more logical sense in terms of cost, storage capacity, speed and usability.

    In the near future we’ll explore the benefits of the emerging cloud back-up technology option, so stay tuned.

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    Topics: Managed IT Services, Backup, Business Services, Knowing Which Option is Best