While in the blogosphere the debate over tape’s demise is still raging, I believe the ‘Alive and kicking’ fraction is winning, everyday storage users are working out strategies to deal with the dreaded End-of-life announcements by vendors.
End-of-life announcements related to tape storage like IBM’s 3480/3490 and the StorageTek T9840D tape drive are a reminder of the time and effort we spend on keeping our data secure and in a format that ensures quick data restoration.
But what options are left if a tape solution is not supported by the vendor, your remaining legacy tape drives have failed or tapes are in less than ideal condition? It will not be easy to find volunteers in an IT department to restore or migrate to a current backup solution. Storage technology moves on and whether the next generation utilised is tape or disk based, regulatory or internal investigations will make sure you need to address unexpected restorations.
Kroll Ontrack’s tape specialists have seen many cases where the combination of unexpected restoration requests, failed backup solutions (“It’s worse than that — he’s dead, Jim!”) and a lack of knowledge in the IT organisation resulted in stressful restoration projects.
One of the ways to take the stress out of end of life tape solutions is to retire the solution and outsource tape restores to an external vendor. This is packaged as a retainer service with fixed prices for a pre-determined amount of restores. A proof of concept validated the restore capabilities and act as a health check measure to confirm the condition of a tape archive.
In case of cold storage, where there is a small change of restore requirements it could pay off to retire the solution before it reached end-of-life, thus reducing maintenance cost and limiting the number of solutions IT need to support.