As I hear more people saying that they’re moving to the cloud and referring to cloud-based anything when they speak about storage, there’s no denying that cloud is fashionable.

Cloud clearly has advantages over traditional forms of storage, but it would be over-simplistic to see today’s modern strategies as simply a choice of one media over the other. It’s much more about how they can be used together. Tape and cloud should coexist to ensure the reliability of storage solutions. This confusion is generally related to the traditional use of tape-based storage. But, with rising and ever more sophisticated cyberattacks, tape - as an offline medium - still has a place and a role to play.

Ibm tape

The conventional use of tape

For years, tape has primarily been used for offsite backup and long-term retention. This use of tape today comes with inherent challenges. For example, tape can be cumbersome, and the physical handling of tapes and dusty storage conditions can impact the reliability of the media. To restore data, tapes must be retrieved from the vault, loaded into the library, and then searched. This can be a slow and difficult process.

In response to this, many firms are turning to cloud storage. The public cloud offers an efficient offsite storage solution for disaster recovery, which makes it easier to restore data. Virtualized applications can be brought up quicker, thereby restoring service to users faster in the event of a disaster. But that isn’t a reason to eliminate tape from the storage environment. Given the rising number of cyber-attacks and the importance of data protection, moving away from a mix-blend storage strategy isn’t the best move.

Mutating forms of cyber criminality

Cyber-attacks are becoming an unpleasant part of our daily conversations. Among notable data breaches we recently had SamSam and NotPetya, as well as Equifax. To put the issue into perspective, damage resulting from cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021.

For years, the best practice has been to follow the 3-2-1 rule to data storage. This is a policy that relies on the retention of three copies of data, on two different types of media, one of which will be stored offsite. But given the severity of today’s cyber threats and the potential costs of recovery, this needs to evolve - just as cybercrime has. A new rule — 3-2-1-1, should replace the old one. This policy is based on keeping three copies of data, on two types of media, storing one copy offsite, and storing one copy offline. After all, while backup software vendors may be reluctant to handle tape for business reasons, they all know how to do so, making this a viable approach to data storage in today’s security-threatened world.

Using tape as a truly offline medium

Tape stands out in the storage world as a truly offline storage medium. In fact, tape is the best option for offline storage, as data and files stored on LTO tape aren’t connected to any network. The only exception is when operations are performed. Being stored inside a tape library, offline, in a secured and protected environment means it cannot fall victim of network-based cyber attacks.

In a renewed security best-practice scenario backups are copied on to tape, which are kept on site in a library as a “secure, offline copy” to protect against malware. Beyond eliminating the cost of third-party vaulting services, this strategy has major financial benefits because tape is the least expensive media.

Ultimately, tape is no longer about offsite storage; it’s about offline storage. Protecting data against ransomware and other malware attacks requires offline data protection. And tape is the most effective and cost-efficient method of providing it. If storage needs have mutated in recent years, tape’s role has changed rather than disappeared. As an offline medium, it still offers the best protection against emerging forms of cybersecurity threats and can be perfectly adapted to long-term storage needs, helping businesses now and in the years to come.