Comparing Offsite Tape Storage to Cloud Solutions: What Businesses Need to Know

Storing your business data on the cloud is nothing new. Approximately 94% of enterprises use cloud services, with 67% of the total infrastructure being located on the cloud. But is it the best option?

Using a multi-storage strategy is the most secure option for your data. And one option worth looking at is tape storage. So, what’s the difference between tape storage vs. cloud storage, and what do you need to know about each option?

This guide introduces tape and cloud data storage solutions to empower you to make an informed decision for your organization.

What is Backup Tape?

Magnetic tape is one of the oldest technologies for storing electronic data. Even though just 9% of enterprises store their data directly on tape today, this storage method has seen a resurgence among businesses as part of multi-strategy data storage solutions.

Although it’s seldom used as a primary storage medium, its high capacity, low cost, and extreme durability make it the perfect option for long-term business storage and archiving. Additionally, businesses use it because it’s unconnected to the network, meaning that if the worst should happen, their data remains wholly isolated from the disaster.

Many industries continue to use tape backup solutions even today, including:

  • The movie industry.
  • Science and research.
  • Oil and gas.

Tape has also seen renewed popularity among ordinary businesses without any special requirements attached. With data breaches resulting from hacking rising by 45% from 2018 to 2022, businesses are thinking outside of the box.

The fact that backing up to tape is so archaic offers an extra layer of defense since even cutting-edge hacking techniques cannot touch them. So, what does this mean for comparing tape storage vs. cloud storage?

What are the Pros of Using Backup Tape Offsite?

Examining tape backup pros and cons is vital to deciding whether this storage solution suits your business.

Firstly, the popularity of magnetic tape as a storage solution saw a global tape shortage in 2019 and 2020, causing products like cassette tapes to be in short supply. The oxide supply also impacted the production of offsite tape backup solutions.

This occurred partly due to the pros of tape storage vs. cloud storage. Some of the advantages of tape storage include:

  • Longevity – Magnetic tape storage has a proven lifespan of 30 years, making it ideal for archiving. This is why it’s been the go-to archiving solution since the 1950s. When stored under the correct conditions, there’s also an extremely low chance of malfunction. According to Shawn Brume of IBM, it’s been known for tapes to survive 40 years in the desert and still be readable.
  • High Capacity Storage – Compared to conventional storage solutions, tape can store immense amounts of data. Each tape can potentially hold up to 15 terabytes of data in a highly compacted format. Compression technologies can further extend the storage potential of each tape.
  • Cost-Effective – Magnetic tapes have the lowest unit price per volume compared to devices like external hard drives. This is a massive advantage if you’re looking to store everything your business has. Even better, tapes don’t have to be connected to a network or even electricity, thus further crushing your costs.
  • Data Security – Data security is the primary reason companies use offsite data storage options. According to Duke University, 80% of all U.S. firms have been successfully hacked at some point, which is why tape backup solutions are so powerful. Since tape-based data can only be accessed via a physical tape reader, cybercriminals cannot touch data held on tapes.
  • Reusable Memory – Backup tape can be designed to be written only once to enhance security, but the technology allows constant reuse. Simply delete the data and write more.

What are the Cons of Using Backup Tape Offsite?

Like any offsite storage choice, backup tape isn’t the perfect option. This is no silver bullet, so you must evaluate its limitations to ensure it’s right for you.

Here’s a breakdown of the disadvantages in the context of cloud vs. tape:

  • Maintenance Requirements – Magnetic tape must be handled carefully, cleaned, and stored correctly. If the tape becomes contaminated, it can damage the data within. Although tape is highly resilient, it’s not made of diamond.
  • Climate Control – Alongside the maintenance requirements of magnetic tape, it must also be stored within a controlled environment. This means it must be stored at a particular temperature and humidity, including while being transported and handled.
  • Susceptible to Damage – Tape is a physical object that is vulnerable to water and fire damage. Improper handling can also result in stretching or tearing, which can destroy and damage the data within. Even if dust scratches the tape, it can slow down data retrieval.
  • Specialist Equipment Required – One of the reasons why tape is so secure is also one of its significant disadvantages. Data can only be accessed, transferred, and recovered using a tape drive. This can slow down disaster recovery efforts.
  • Initial Upfront Cost – Tapes themselves are inexpensive, but a good tape drive is not. This can be an incredibly expensive affair, so most companies work with specialist service providers to take advantage of offsite storage and avoid expensive equipment costs.

What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is a cloud computing model that allows any business to store its data online. This data can then be accessed via a private connection or public Internet with only a username and password.

Most businesses work with a cloud computing provider. The provider is responsible for securing storage, building the infrastructure, and creating a network that enables users to access their data. Of course, it’s possible to build your own cloud-based infrastructure, but this is usually well beyond the budgets of most businesses.

Today, cloud storage is viewed as the gold standard of storage. Its affordability, flexibility, and low barrier to access means most businesses will use the cloud to store data in some form. According to the latest stats, 60% of all corporate data was stored on the cloud in 2022, compared to just 30% in 2015.

What are the Pros of Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is the go-to solution for individual and business consumers for a reason. According to Google, 26% of people were using not just one but multiple public clouds in 2022, and this number is accelerating fast.

  • Disaster Recovery – The cloud forms part of any standard disaster recovery strategy. If your on-site infrastructure fails, you can recover all of your data from the cloud at the click of a button.
  • Flexibility – The cloud is the ultimate option if you prioritize pricing in your offsite storage strategy. Pay-as-you-go pricing is widespread, allowing you to only pay for what you need. This flexibility is also ideal if you’re just starting your business. And with so many viable cloud providers, the competition keeps pricing down and flexibility up.
  • Scalability – Additionally, the cloud is easily the most scalable storage option today. Whenever you require more space, it’s usually a matter of clicking a button, upgrading your service plan, and adding more data. Likewise, you can also scale down if you’re cleaning up your data.
  • Delegation – Don’t have in-house cloud security experts? Outsourcing to a cloud provider enables you to delegate this issue to someone else. All top cloud storage providers ensure that their security arrangements comply with a range of standards, including GDPR and ISO.
  • Collaboration – Perhaps the biggest draw for businesses is the ability to access data anywhere in the world. All you need is a working Internet connection, which is essential for dispersed workforces.

What are the Cons of Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage has drawbacks, so it’s not recommended that this is your only storage platform. Instead, it’s recommended that you use a mix of options.

  • Cyberattacks – The fact is that cloud storage isn’t perfect. According to a survey, 45% of breaches are cloud-based. It’s one of the most popular locations for attacks by cybercriminals, meaning your data is never 100% safe.
  • Lack of Control – Since most companies work with a cloud storage provider, they have no control over how the cloud is set up, its governance policies, or how it utilizes its resources. Comparing cloud backup to tapes and the lack of control can be a significant drawback for companies.
  • Ongoing Costs – Working with a cloud storage provider typically means paying a subscription fee. This may be based on a monthly plan or incremental based on how much storage space you’re using. Businesses storing larger amounts of data can soon find themselves spending thousands every year to maintain their data.
  • Internet Required – Using the cloud requires an Internet connection. You cannot access your data if you experience any downtime or a natural disaster strikes. This can result in big losses due to disruption and downtime.
  • Migration – Potential issues with bandwidth and data transfer speeds can make migrating data onto another cloud or into a localized system slow. Some organizations may make things even more difficult with vendor lock-ins, so you may be stuck if your service quality declines.

Offsite Backup Tape vs. Cloud Storage: Which is Best?

It depends. This may not be the answer you were searching for, but it is a fact. Each storage option offers core strengths in different areas.

Tape storage is preferred for long-term storage and business archives because of the extra security and difficulty of compromising said data. However, the slowness of access can cause problems in getting your business back online quickly, should the worst happen.

On the other hand, the cloud may be less secure, and you may be giving up control, but its ease of use and the fact that you can access your data from any device anywhere in the world makes it so attractive. In terms of data, you must access regularly the cloud wins easily, but for larger amounts of data, the costs can rack up fast.

In short, don’t choose one or the other. Use both as part of a comprehensive data security and storage strategy to protect your organization.

Corodata Can Help With Your Storage Needs

Relying on the cloud alone is never smart because of its drawbacks. You must think outside the box to truly say that you’ve done everything possible to create an ironclad security wall around your business.

Corodata has supported businesses in building bespoke data storage and security for decades. We’re also a leading California provider of offsite tape storage services, enabling you to protect the things that matter most. To learn more about our data storage services, contact Corodata today.