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Cloud storage rises to the challenges presented by COVID-19


We see over and over again how COVID-19 is transforming the way we work and connect with each other. Employees across virtually every industry are now working effectively from home, even if such an arrangement would have been unthinkable at the start of this year. It's been extremely heartening to see the range of innovations that have been embraced in response to the crisis, but it's important not to forget the foundations of your IT infrastructure as you explore these solutions. For example, consider how you are backing up and storing the lifeblood of your organisation: your data.

As organisations require greater business agility and resilience than ever before in the current climate, storage must be efficient, cost-effective, secure, scalable and compliant. And yet as they embrace remote working, many organisations are finding that their on-premise legacy storage solutions are struggling to keep up with their newfound agility…

How magnetic tape became an industry standard

Magnetic tape has long been the default solution for short- and long-term data storage across a range of industries. Indeed, new tape-based products have been launched as recently as 2017. It's not hard to see why. Most obviously, it's a secure, reliable, on-premise solution, which makes it a sensible choice for industries with highly specific compliance requirements around data location, or organisations who are cautious about storing sensitive or business-critical data in the Cloud. In spite of a comparatively high installation cost, the cartridges themselves are relatively affordable and less resource-intensive in terms of power and administration time than alternatives like HDD and SSD disks.

Finally, from a purely practical point of view, many organisations have already invested in tape, and can be (understandably) reluctant to proceed with a perceived costly, time-consuming and potentially disruptive migration!

The ongoing challenge of legacy systems

However, tape is not without its disadvantages, as many organisations who have been forced to rapidly reconsider their infrastructures have found in recent weeks. Having your backup and storage solutions on-premise, in a fully isolated system, is significantly less of an advantage when the majority of the workforce are connecting to your network from home. With magnetic tape, cartridges must be inserted and removed manually, on-site - a serious problem when access to office space cannot be guaranteed. This is even more of an issue when one considers the relatively slow access speeds of tape, as organisations require greater business agility and resilience than ever before. After all, if you have SLAs in place with your customers regarding downtime, every second counts during a restoration.

In addition to disaster recovery and business continuity challenges, there is also the question of scalability. It's true that cartridges generally take up less space than disks, but they are limited by their capacity. With the rise of big data, organisations at all levels are working with progressively larger volumes of data on a daily basis, which means storage must be regularly upscaled to keep up. This that can prove quite challenging and time-consuming with tape, especially given that many organisations are contemplating downscaling their office space, in light of recent successes with remote working, and the fact that tape is prone to wearing out after a certain number of years if not kept in controlled conditions.

So, what's the answer? 

The Cloud responds…

A big part of magnetic tape's longevity comes from perceived security weaknesses in the Cloud. The idea that on-premise storage is inherently more secure than a Cloud-based solution is still a common one, and yet while it may have been true in the earliest days of the Cloud, this is no longer the case. For example, Exponential-e's Online Backup solution utilises our own private Network and government-class data centres to streamline the backup process while maximising security and compliance. In contrast to many Cloud storage solutions, it is a true Private Cloud that allows organisations to simplify and automate their backup process while meeting their compliance goals and enjoying the freedom to restore their data, should it ever prove necessary, and add additional storage resources on an as-needed basis - all with a single click. Bear in mind that the availability of Hybrid Cloud solutions means you no longer have to undertake a full-scale 'lift and shift' of your entire infrastructure. You can securely connect Online Backup to your own infrastructure, then conduct a scaled migration of your backups, perhaps even reserving tape for backing up specific types of data

The next steps

Of course, when it comes to storage, day-to-day operations are just part of the picture. There's also the question of archiving data that will not be required on a regular basis, but still needs to be retained for compliance purposes. This data must be securely stored in such a way that it can be retrieved when needed, without becoming a burdensome long-term expense. We'll delve deeper into these challenges in a future post…

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