Why Tape Backups Are Obsolete in Todays Schools

By: Chris Schutte

Most schools use tape to backup their important data. Tape is a form of magnetic media in a linear form, similar to VHS tape. It is not very quick or inexpensive, and is not extremely reliable. In the past though, it was just about the only form of removable media that had the capacity to hold an entire network's data.

To keep things reliable tapes need to be alternated in a rotation and then replaced about once per year. This costs quite a bit of money just for the media, not to mention the extreme prices for the drives themselves.

Tape drives are also very slow, and constantly need to be tested and monitored to make sure that they are really backing up and that the backups actually work.

I have seen many cases with servers going down and the tapes being corrupt.

Today, there are many different forms of removable media. If you have purchased a hard drive or a flash memory stick in the last few months you have probably noticed that the cost of these devices has dropped significantly.

I recommend using external hard drives for backup. A 200GB drive can be purchased for about $200.00. This is by far cheaper than tape. By using a rotation of multiple external hard drives you get a form of backup that is much faster than tape and can be taken off-site. The backups can be checked by just browsing the drive, similar to browsing your C: drive.

External hard drives work with most backup software, and some drives even come with their own. Switching from a tape based system to a drive based system normally requires very little modification to your current system.

In summary, external drives are faster, easier to verify, and much cheaper than tape. When it comes time to upgrade your schools data backup system do a comparison between tape and external hard drives. I think you will see that unless tape drive manufacturers makes some big changes they are quickly on their way to becoming obsolete in the school market.

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