FAQ

Choosing an affordable backup tape library for SMBs

As a small- to medium-sized (SMB) business grows out of its existing tape backup system, the IT department is faced with a myriad of options for data backup. One option, of course, is to stick with tape and upgrade to a larger, up-to-date backup tape library. Or, maybe a combination of disk and tape backup. Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst with The Storage IO Group, discusses what you should look for when choosing an SMB backup tape library in this Q&A.

Listen to the SMB Backup Tape Library FAQ

Table of contents:

>> What features should you look for when upgrading to a new backup tape library?
>> What vendors offer tape libraries targeted to the SMB?
>> Are these products really a good fit for SMBs?
>> What are the alternatives to upgrading to a tape library?
>> What is the ideal use case for tape for the SMB?

If you are an IT pro at a SMB and you are outgrowing your current tape backup system, what features should you look for when upgrading to a new backup tape library?

A couple things -- scalability, extendibility, and additional features around media handling, media migration, policy-based data movement, things like that. Also, you should consider how the technology can support new things. For example, LTO-4 tape is the standard now, but LTO-5 tape will be out soon, along with other media enhancements. Think about how can you protect your existing investment in tape drives and tape media, but also plan ahead for the future.

What vendors offer tape libraries targeted to the SMB?

A lot of the big players you associate with products for the high-end of the market are also offering products for the SMB. Companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., Overland Storage, Quantum Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Spectra Logic, among others, all have solutions that either scale down or are custom designed for selling into the SMB environment.

Are these products really a good fit for SMBs? For example, I've read that many backup tape libraries that are actually aimed at the enterprise offer features that can make them easier to manage.

That's a key point. It's not just about scaling the device down, it's important that a product maintains that enterprise-type functionality. Look for products that offer ease-of use features, and the ability to plug into your existing data backup software. A backup tape library should offer and standalone management tools as well as tools that interface with additional data protection management tools. Also look for interfaces on the device itself that are intuitive and easy to use. We're seeing a lot of enterprise-class functionality trickling down into the SMB market.

What are the alternatives to upgrading to a tape library? SMBs have a sea of options of for backup today, right?

This segment of the market is very dynamic and there are a lot of opportunities. Where a lot of the tape replacement is happening is in the SMBs or remote offices. That's where you see companies using the disk-based backup systems, also known as virtual tape libraries (VTLs) or data deduplication libraries.

There are a lot of products that use disk as a cache, buffer or staging area for disk-to-disk-disk backup, disk-to-disk-to-cloud backup, or disk-to-disk-to-tape backup. Many of these products give you the option to present the disk as a virtual tape or as a network-attached storage (NAS) device.

On the flip side, what is the ideal use case for tape for the SMB?

It's really the same from the high-end all the way to the low-end of the market. Tape's role is shifting to being used for storing bulk data that isn't frequently used very economically.

Stage to disk, do your replication to disk or perform your daily backups to disk, but use tape as your ultimate insurance policy. This allows you to access data quickly from disk in the event of a restore. But, it also allows you to stream data more effectively to your tape drives.


This was first published in February 2010

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