The Five Myths of “Reliable” Tape Backup
IT Support in Seattle

Reliable Tape BackupTape backup may not be as reliable as some businesses today may think. Although many small to medium size companies have relied on tape backup for many years, there are some serious drawbacks to the continued use of this technology compared to the current generation of backup solutions.

Apex Technology Management Inc. has served California and the surrounding area since 1991. Today, we have thirty employees that bring more than 275 years of combined IT experience to bear on the projects and IT challenges of our customers. We are proud to hold over eighty-five industry certifications, and are excited that this year, we are celebrating our 25th anniversary!

Tape backup came into widespread use in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. At that time, the tapes were big reel-to-reel setups (pioneered by IBM) that remind one of the old movie projector tapes. The equipment to run these tape backups was bulky, and the full-time manpower necessary to supervise the backup was costly.

As technology progressed, so did tape backup. In the same timeframe, the field of music moved from vinyl records to 8 Track Tapes, to cassette tapes, and more recently to cd and mp3. The technology in the field of data backup has walked pretty much in lockstep with the progression found in music storage. The big reel-to-reel tape machines of the 1970’s gave way to the faster, more efficient LTO tapes that many businesses still rely on to this day.

However, a faster, more efficient tape like the LTO is still a tape. Things change over time, and just like the cassette tape and the Walkman gave way to the cd and the mp3 player, the LTO is now rightfully losing market share to a new generation of backup technology.

Take a look with us please at the FIVE MYTHS OF “RELIABLE” TAPE BACKUP:


Truth #1 – Tape can degrade, disintegrate, or become corrupt without notice.

The idea that tape backup is reliable just doesn’t square with the facts. The tapes that many companies are using and depending on to store and backup their data can be damaged by heat, humidity, dust, and magnetic fields. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see an employee accidentally leave a tape to become damaged in a hot car or accidentally erase it by unknowingly placing it near a magnetic source. Even outside of an employee error, tape backup is fragile. This is due to the fact that the tape itself breaks down over time.

Sales orders, customer and patient databases, financial data, and more can disappear quickly with something as simple as a flood or fire. Many companies have wisely chosen to store their backup tapes offsite. However, someone still has to transport the tapes to the storage site. Are those tapes encrypted? What if they fall into the wrong hands? Is their customer’s private information secure? In addition to these questions, there are considerations that must be made as to the security and the correct environment for these stored tapes.

So, for the typical small and medium business, tape may not be the most reliable technology available today.


Truth #2 – Your company has no time for downtime.

Downtime costs your company serious money. Let’s look at it for a minute. Your customers expect you not to have any downtime. They want your company to be reliable. Add to this truth the fact that customers demand that you have zero data loss. They don’t want their records or private information to be compromised by a backup system with security vulnerabilities such as the physical transportation and storage of tapes.

In addition to the high expectation of customers, we would take note of the high hidden costs of tape backup. If we were to just take the cost of proper, professional storage, the transportation of the tapes, and the cost of the tapes themselves, the total invested would add up quickly.

Now we see that the need to switch away from tape backup is three-fold:

  • The downtime it takes to retrieve, search through, and restore lost data from tape is too long – sometimes days.
  • The customer expects a seamless security of our data, not a security trail with gaps and vulnerabilities.
  • The costs associated with tape backup are significant.


Truth #3 The actual steps of tape backup are time-consuming and cumbersome.

Let’s take a walk together through the tape backup process. A company that wants to use tape backup must first lay out a sizeable, up-front investment to purchase and install the system. Following this, it is necessary to buy and install the software required. Depending upon what the company wants to back up, there may be several software “agents” needed to backup the different types of data. Once set up and running, the company incurs the daily manpower cost necessary to change out the tapes, as well as the administrative and fiscal resources that are required in the monitoring and management of proper off-site tape storage.

All of this effort and cost has to be expended even before there is the necessity for data restoration. Once the company’s data has been lost, stolen, or corrupted, another series of costly and cumbersome procedures are put into motion in order to retrieve the data. These steps are:

  • Someone must physically go to the off-site storage facility, find, and retrieve the correct tape containing the lost data.
  • If server failure or theft is the source of the data loss, a two to three day delay is inevitable in the course of purchasing and installing a new server.
  • Once the new server (assuming that one was necessary) is installed, a similar tape drive will need to be purchased and installed into the server.
  • The technician will have to go through the entire tape (sometimes several tapes) in a linear fashion to find the data that is needed.
  • The data is then moved from the tape onto the server.

As we have seen, this is not a simple procedure, but rather it is one that has many moving parts and obvious tension points at which something can go wrong.


Truth #4 – According to Gartner & Group, the average small business suffers ten hours of downtime per year.

Downtime happens. It will happen to you. Hoping that it won’t is kind of like hoping that it won’t rain…eventually, it is going to happen. Data-loss downtime can be a result of anything from natural disaster, to criminal activity and employee mistakes. However it happens, downtime is going to cost you a significant amount of money for every hour your company is unable to access your data.

Let’s take a simple example. If you have twenty employees and you pay them each $40 per hour, an hour of downtime is going to cost you $800.00. That’s a big chunk off of your bottom line for the day. The problem is that tape backup downtime isn’t solved in an hour; so you must multiply that figure my many dozens of hours, and you begin to get a grasp of the significant employee costs of downtime.

Now that we have discussed the employee costs associated with downtime, we have to consider the lost revenue component. Without access to vital data, your practice can’t process health insurance claims, and your business can’t run the POS system or conduct credit card transactions on your web-commerce platform.

At some point every business will face the looming specter of downtime. The question the small to medium size business owner has to ask himself / herself is, “How much is downtime going to cost me, and how can I mitigate the interruption and costs?”


Truth #5 – You can’t afford the hidden, high costs of tape

Tape backup is expensive. The problem for most business leaders is that they do not see the costs because they are buried in with other line items on the balance sheet. Here are some of those hidden costs:

  • The cost of the initial hardware and software setup
  • The cost of ongoing software updates and upgrades
  • The cost of tape purchase
  • The salary costs of IT or third party providers to execute the tape backup
  • The cost of labor during downtime to restore your business to full operation
  • The cost of lost revenue during downtime

The challenging truth of tape backup is that while tapes can be effective as a storage mechanism, tape as a backup system has intrinsic failure points, time management difficulties, and fiscal inefficiencies. In short, tape storage is going to cost you money now to set up and operate, as well as more time and money in the inevitable case of downtime.


(One of the proposed solutions from Apex Technology Management Inc.)

As we at Apex Technology Management help our clients through the maze of backup options, one of the more common and successful implementations that we have introduced has been the Hybrid Backup Model.

A company that utilizes the Hybrid Backup Model will be able to take advantage of the following capabilities:

  • Physical servers, virtualized servers, laptops and critical desktops are backed up to an on-site backup appliance by means of local high speed connection.
  • The on-site backup appliance can also run as your live server in the event that the production server fails. Thus eliminating downtime while you wait for a replacement to be purchased and shipped.
  • The backup appliance is mirrored to a secure off-site cloud data center in case of an on-site disaster. The cloud data center can also run as your live server in the event of a local disaster. It can be accessed from anywhere that has a functional internet connection.

The benefits of a redundant system such as this are immediately obvious. With the Hybrid Backup Model, there are no tapes to change daily, the system is expandable to meet the needs of the company, and there is no need for multiple software agents for each server.

In terms of business continuity, the Hybrid Backup Model gives both local failover and cloud failover. This means that the company in question could face a fire or flood and be up and running in another location as soon as they are connected to the internet.

All of this can be easily managed through a simple console, and even remotely managed for the company by a IT Managed Service Provider. The Hybrid Backup Model’s management console gives the company flexibility and control over such things as retention periods and restoration of files.

To find out more about Apex and how your practice or small business can benefit from a Hybrid Backup Model, call us at (800) 310-2739 or email us at Our fantastic staff would be happy to assist you.

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