June 30, 2008, 11:20 AM — Let me first say thank you to the nice people in Charlotte who made me feel so welcome when I spoke at the ITEC IT conference there on June 25th and 26th. During the MasterMind Security Panel on the 26th, the issue of tapes came up in two different areas. The result? Time to wave goodbye to tapes of all kinds.
Well, not duct tape, of course, because you know the joke about duct tape being like the Force â€“ it has a dark side and light side and keeps the universe together. Magnetic tape, however, has run its course. I've recommended for years that small businesses not rely on tape for data backup, and now the same comments apply to video tapes used in surveillance systems.
You can't trust tapes for backup for three reasons. First, today's huge hard disks (my friend Kim just told me he bought a 1TB drive for $169) require multiple tapes to backup, and changing those tapes is a pain. Affordable systems require you to change the tapes manually, which means people forget.
Automatic tape loaders cost so much for the hardware and the upgraded backup software to run them most small business owners gasp and wheeze and worry about a heart attack when they see a quote for a system, and they can't afford it.
If you do have a backup tape system that successfully grabs your data, you have to physically take the tape offsite for backup redundancy and disaster recovery. I guarantee that if something happens to your server, the same calamity will happen to your tape machine and tapes.
Finally, if you do remember to take the tapes away from the office, the chances are high you will damage the tapes by accident. Put them in the trunk of your car? Guaranteed to overheat and damage them. Leave them in the back seat?
They'll either get stolen or overheated. The chances of successfully reading a traditional backup tape more than a month old is about 50/50. Yes, a coin flip. When you need your tape the most, when you're desperate to recover a critical file, tape will fail you.
Video surveillance equipment eases the mind of many small businesses owners. On TV cop shows, the police are always grabbing the VHS tapes to analyze. Guess what? Tape reliability for surveillance systems is slightly better than for old data backup tapes, but for some compliance regulations and better surveillance you need to upgrade to a digital surveillance system. That 1TB disk mentioned earlier for $169? That's the ticket for your surveillance system.
When the police do need a copy of surveillance footage (let's hope they don't, but you have to be prepared) surveillance systems can easily burn a CD or DVD of the times required. You get better performance, the police get better quality video, and you don't have to worry about changing and rotating the video tapes anymore.
High end enterprise networks still have the money for advanced tape management hardware and software, but not small businesses. Dump the tape, go digital, and eliminate two more problems. Fewer problems means fewer headaches, a goal for us all in today's world.