Tape vs. Disk vs. Business Continuity Backup – Which Is Best for Disaster Recovery? (Part 2 of 2)

In our last article, Part 1 of this series on backup options that will help your business technology safely withstand the winter weather and other common hazards, we discussed why backup solutions are so important during the winter months and we also talked about the surprising benefits and drawbacks to tape backups for modern companies. If you haven’t yet read that article and you’d like a strong introduction to your backup options, we recommend you check it out. [link to part 1]

If you’ve already read Part 1, or if you’re a rebel who doesn’t like to read things in order, it’s time for Part 2, in which we’ll talk in depth about disk backups and disaster recovery/business continuity solutions including backup appliances and a recent newcomer to the scene: DRaaS.

Ready? Let’s jump back into backup.

Disk Backup: Not as Modern as You Think

If you thought that the 1951 tape backup creation date was a long time ago, you’ll be surprised to learn that disk backups debuted only 5 years later, in 1956. That was the year Elvis released his first hit song (“Heartbreak Hotel”) and Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the creation of the U.S. interstate system.

As you’d expect in that long-ago time, the first disk backup was unwieldy and featured small storage capacity: the original disk drive weighed 1 ton and took up the space of 2 refrigerators, yet it only stored up to 5 MB of data.

Since then, disk storage has exceeded the pace of Moore’s Law, but disk still can’t hold anywhere near the storage of tape; today’s largest disk drives can hold up to 12 TB and modern SSD can handle up to 30 TB of data.

Despite its smaller storage capacity, disk still holds significant advantages over tape backup in terms of disaster recovery because it has:

  • Fast restore speeds

Finding a single file or restoring a full system can be accomplished quickly and easily with disk’s flexibility, which means it reduces downtime and can be handled in-house.

  • Deduplication

Since disk doesn’t need to store duplicate files or data, this backup method naturally makes more efficient use of your backup space, which means you probably won’t need the much larger space that tape backups offer.

  • Incremental backup optimization

Because of deduplication, disk backup is a better option for incremental backups that help you save time in the event of a full system failure, such as from a cyber attack.

However, disk backup systems also have their drawbacks, including:

  • High energy costs from always-on, always-cooled disks.
  • Overwriting mistakes and write errors that happen all too frequently in a system that was created for the purpose of efficiently shuffling space, so data can be stored non-sequentially.
  • Restore can be slower than other modern options, including replication and duplication methods.

When it comes to disaster recovery, disk backup can be used to store and retrieve data quickly, but in the event of a winter-weather related disaster, disks’ on-site storage may leave you without reliable backups because disks don’t react well to power outages, extremely cold temperatures, or any kind of flooding.

Business Continuity: Today’s Solution for Backup and Disaster Recovery

The term “business continuity” includes a few options for data replication (which differs from traditional backup) and is paired with a clearly outlined plan that explains what your company should do in the event of an emergency. Since emergencies arise far too often these days due to the rise in cybercrime, having a response plan is of critical importance to your success.

In order to develop your response plan, you’ll need to inventory your hardware, software, apps, and data; and then you’ll need to determine the best strategy to ensure that your mission-critical systems return to normal functionality in as short a time as possible. To plan properly, you’ll probably want to speak with an IT disaster recovery/business continuity expert.

As you’re creating your plan, you’ll want to determine your ideal solution for storing your data. You’ll probably want to make your choice between 2 popular options: use a backup appliance or utilize DRaaS.

You may have heard that some companies choose to backup straight to the cloud using a service known as BaaS (Backup as a Service), but using solely cloud-based backup can be costly and can result in slow storage and retrieval speeds, so we don’t really recommend it, especially for large-scale use. Therefore, let’s look at the 2 more realistic options:

  • Backup appliance

Backup/duplication appliances automate your backup and testing processes, so you always know you have the latest data available when you need it, even if you’ve been too busy to remember to back up. These systems store your data on-site in the backup appliance and duplicate your data to a secure off-site location in a remote data center.

With backup appliances, you get the safety of the best-practice, off-site duplicate backup method, which is especially useful if your local environment gets shut down by winter storms, but their local storage also provides the speed of a local backup and disaster recovery solution, helping you limit your downtime to as little as 5 minutes.

  • DRaaS

Disaster Recovery as a Service, or DRaaS, is a data replication method that differs from a backup appliance and BaaS. Though BaaS and DRaaS sure do sound the same, they’re completely different services. In essence, BaaS simply provides off-site storage for your files, whereas DRaaS fully replicates your full environment in real time, so you can switch back and forth seamlessly between your virtual DRaaS environment and your local environment.

This flexibility helps you reduce your disaster recovery time to as little as 6 seconds and can ease updates and maintenance for your company because it finally makes rolling updates a reality.

Both backup appliances and DRaaS are highly effective for disaster recovery because they both can reduce downtime by making data retrieval nearly instantaneous. The drawback to these systems is obvious (cost), yet once you factor in downtime costs for the slower-to-restore methods of tape and disk, the numbers can match up between business continuity solutions and their pure backup counterparts.


Need to figure out which solution is right for your needs and your budget? Contact your MSP or speak with the friendly disaster recovery experts at BitxBit to learn more about how you can protect your business from winter storms.

After all, Winter Is Coming.

Recent Posts

Email Newsletter