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Is cloud the new tape? Modernizing data archiving

By Douglas Ko • March 23, 2020

Cloud is growing rapidly and providers are competing for your business by continuing to bring down prices. This is most prevalent with cloud storage with costs starting at $0.00099/GB/month ($0.99/TB/month) for Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive and Azure Blobs Archive. No doubt this is one of the primary reasons why Gartner believes midsize enterprises will continue to eliminate tape from their environment and shift to public cloud object storage for data archiving¹. In fact, here at Cohesity we have seen a 300 percent year-over-year increase of cloud storage consumption from our customers.

So, is cloud the new tape? The answer is yes, but is also much more.  Beyond costs, modern considerations like agility and the ability to use your backup and archive with innovative cloud services such as analytics or AI/ML completely changes the game. Let’s examine these considerations in more detail:

Costs

For upfront costs,  cloud is basically zero and the on-going cost of less than $1/TB per month is very affordable. That said, you still need to evaluate how often you will be retrieving data from the archive tier of cloud storage services as the retrieval costs can be substantial and add up. If data will be retrieved or accessed frequently, you may want to consider higher tiers of cloud storage that include data retrieval without an additional charge. Some argue the cost of tape becomes lower if you keep your data for many years and seldom retrieve data. We suggest you fully assess not just the capital costs of your tape media and libraries, but also the on-going costs to maintain the environment and test the reliability and recoverability of your data.

Recovery

Cloud has a clear advantage here. There are no delivery trucks to wait for when recovering your tapes from offsite, no tape library to fail when reading a tape, and no tapes to get physically misplaced or lost because someone decided to reorganize the filing cabinet. In the cloud, data recovery is automated and can be retrieved depending on the tier it is on from milliseconds to hours.

Agility

Data sitting on tape is literally dark—stored in a dark room, completely inaccessible unless you make a manual retrieval request. This limits its use to recovery only and does not enable agility.  Conversely, cloud is the epicenter for agility, enabling developers, data analysts, and IT professionals alike. Not only is it easier and faster to recover data in the cloud even from the slowest and lowest cost tiers, once it’s recovered it becomes instantly available to use for cloud users and across multiple cloud services available.

Security

Cyber threats are prevalent in today’s IT world. First, examine the chain of custody for your tapes: Is it fully secured, or is one of your IT workers taking tapes home on public transit? Tapes get lost or stolen, it happens.  Tape also has commonly been touted to have an “air-gap” meaning they are physically removed from any digital attack surface. This is a good attribute, however, it is not the only line of defense. In fact, you may not even know when and where you got infected and you may re-introduce the threat or vulnerability when you recover the data from tape.  With the cloud it provides hardened security which in many cases surpass the standards of on-premises deployments, but another benefit with cloud is it can enable quarantined access for suspicious data to be scanned and analysed. With the right data management solution, you can analyse data for viruses, ransomware, and vulnerabilities to help you recover and avoid reintroducing vulnerabilities.

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Innovation 

I’m sure you’ve heard the Silicon Valley motto, “Move fast and break things.” It works here as well. It’s clear the cloud allows you to move significantly faster than tape by getting you rapid access to data.

The “break things” part of the motto refers to experimenting and iterating on new ideas and features. Cloud is the clear winner here as well. With the right data management solution that allows you to quickly recover and move data in its original format, you can easily make data available for a huge range of cloud services—like AI/ML and analytics, dev/test environments for developers, blockchain, and other leading-edge services

Final Thoughts

So, is cloud the new tape?  It’s much more than tape. Though both have their place, cloud can provide advantages in costs, recovery, agility, security, and innovation.  It’s no wonder our customers continue to adopt cloud storage at such a rapid pace and I only see this trend to continue.

Footnote:

1. Gartner – 2019 Strategic Roadmap for Storage.  May 7, 2019