Legacy Tape Backup Solutions by Ontrack® DataAdvisor™

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 by Michael Nuncic

Ontrack just released its findings from the second edition of its global survey around the processes and challenges associated with effective tape management and archiving. Nearly 820 IT specialists from corporate and IT service providers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Poland were surveyed in November 2016. It unveiled a lot of hidden facts about how IT staff store legacy data on tape based backup solutions.

The new study shows that companies and IT administrators still struggle with legacy backup tapes and face challenges when asked to quickly identify and access data needed for internal or external use. Companies worldwide store huge amounts of tapes in their archives. 19 percent of all companies being asked about the numbers of legacy tapes they store said that they hold more than 100 tapes. 5 percent of these respondents even store more than 1000 tapes on average.

And these tapes are increasingly getting older – almost 30 percent are 10 years or older, while 11 percent of them are even more than 20 years old. When the first survey on this subject was conducted in 2015, only 21 percent answered that they had tapes older than 10 years. This year, even more companies, 37 percent, claimed that they didn´t have the proper infrastructure to access legacy data on backup tapes. This is a sharp rise from 24 percent in 2015. In combination with another finding, the situation gets even clearer - 22 percent of companies have retention periods of 20 years or more.

There are three kinds of companies that hold legacy data on tape:

  • Companies that either have functional backup systems for legacy data available or have other means to access and restore needed files.
  • Companies who don’t have the necessary equipment or knowledge anymore to access legacy tapes.
  • Companies that have access to some legacy tapes, for example, in the case of an organisation that came into possession of tapes in the event of a merger, but not the necessary equipment and backup solutions to access them.

Keeping legacy tape backup solutions fully functional is not an easy task. For many companies, regardless of their size, this is an extremely costly venture. The participants responded that the costs for keeping legacy data accessible, depending on company size, ranged from $10,000 to over $1 million. In the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, the average number of restore requests is significantly higher compared to other countries. One reason contributing to this claim is common law heritage, requiring companies to surrender relevant data in legal disputes, which could result in increased restores from legacy tapes. The survey also found that U.S. companies have to manage 8 times as many requests per month than in Germany, Austria or Switzerland combined.

The reason companies end up paying so much each month is because they’re forced to support multiple tape backup solutions. 49 percent of all participants run two or three different backup solutions and an additional 7 percent run even four or more in order to access their legacy tape data. In addition, the majority of companies, 56 percent, use different versions of their backup solutions to access their data from multiple sites.

With so many legacy solutions still available, this is likely the reason 55% of respondents don’t know the content of their tapes down to the file level and 27% have issues quickly identifying and accessing data when requested by other employees or for external investigations.

With multiple backup solutions running and kept operational side-by-side, it’s also no wonder that companies claim that these are the main cost drivers for legacy data management on tape:

  • Storage (70%)
  • Maintenance (69%)
  • Staff (52%)
  • Security (42%)
  • Licenses (38%)

The percentage of companies looking to terminate their maintenance contracts remains at a very high level, 40 percent this year compared to 43 percent in 2015.  However, many companies are afraid of the risks associated with terminating their contracts. What if they shut down their legacy environments and they discover later they need data back?  That is the primary reason why a lot of companies still maintain multiple old backup solutions and/or versions.  Other reasons the study uncovered include:

  • It’s too difficult and/or time-consuming to access or read out tape contents (52%).
  • The infrastructure (hardware or software) to read the contents of the tapes is not available anymore (38%).
  • Preserving legacy infrastructure to access or read out the tape contents is too expensive (31%).

With the introduction of our online tape catalog solution, Ontrack® DataAdvisor™, those cost drivers – storage, maintenance, staff and licenses – can be reduced and the legacy systems terminated without risking the ability to access data. When data from legacy tapes is required, the cataloged inventory can be searched without the need to access those legacy backup solutions and requests can be sent to us to restore the data.