We really need to talk about Virtual Tape Library, aka VTL.

So, any organization that has an actual real tape drive needs to read this post. You know the tapes you can touch, hold, and sometimes drop? You should be considering moving away from actual tape, seriously. Any customer looking to upgrade their tape drive or buy a net new one should really take pause.

The number one reason to move to VTL is COST!!! Yes, COST. Capitals intended. If you just look at the one-time cost of the old format tape drives versus the cost of any new VTL solution, then you are skipping over the human factor of tape and missing the real costs of the solution.

Tapes have been around so long that we do not even acknowledge them in organizations. We just keep perpetuating their existence. This is even more problematic when you have third-party tape management arrangements. You know the ones who get paid to touch the tapes, move the tapes, and then store the tapes. The annualized cost of that alone is staggering.

Then we have the ones where some poor group of admin people are moving tapes in and out of rotation like it is some form of organizational purgatory. Then you have the situation where you have highly-paid technical staff performing lower-skilled tasks to work with the tapes. My personal favourite is when you ask the staff, when was the last time the tape drive was cleaned and you hear the response, “They have to be cleaned”. When you hear that, you are guaranteed they do not know where the cleaning tape is or how to perform a cleaning. If that does not scare you as the person responsible for recovering the data on those tapes, it should. Be afraid, very afraid.

Then there is the business cost of having a backup strategy that literally has too many moving parts. The drive heads, the actual media moves and stretches, the tapes can be dropped and misplaced. Then there is always the big question “Can the business restore what is on the tape?”. If they can restore the tape, how long is it going to take to get the tape, mount the tape, restore the image, and then deal with the image?

This is mind-boggling to me. The cost of human capital, the risk cost of dealing with unpredictable media along with the administrative management of it when there is a very valid, cost-effective and secure alternative. An organization should pause to consider options for the organization.

The most important question to ask is: What if the tape is not able to be restored, how long will it take? Is the business at risk?

(Click to enlarge)
(Click on image to enlarge)

Enter VTL

First, the actual computers that have a tape drive today do not need to change. Older and newer operating systems remain the same. No change to backup processes, software, or jobs. There may be some tweaking but that is it. To your ecosystem, it looks like a tape drive. That is the big win.

Secondly, complete encryption means while it is backing up and in its final form. Then the naysayers enter the game. What about the “air gap”? I need to protect my data offsite. In 2021, they call that the cloud. VTL archive is the answer. So locally the VTL does the local backups fully encrypted and fast due to local connection. Once completed, a copy of the backup is pushed to the cloud. No humans, no delays, no dropped or missed tapes. Full protection, full security and without human intervention. Another big win.

Organizations can keep longer backups, restore without having to wait for couriers and humans to find the tape and then load the tape. No interruptions in backup strategy, reliable restoration processes. All of this can be done via web browser interfaces from anywhere in the world. No more need of scheduling humans to mount tapes at 2 am during an emergency restore.

Secure, simplified, respectful of staff, higher availability for the organization, more resilient, more reliable, and definitely lower overall costs for the organization, which is the biggest win of all.

It is 2021. and the case for VTL is very solid, very defensible and, more importantly, very affordable.

To learn more about Mid-Range VTL solutions and contact us for a consultation, please click here.

business continuity, The Case for Virtual Tape Library (aka VTL)

Tim Lalonde

Tim Lalonde is the VP of Technical Operations at Mid-Range. He works with leading-edge companies to be more competitive and effective in their industries. He specializes in developing business roadmaps leveraging technology that create and support change from within — with a focus on business process re-engineering, architecture and design, business case development and problem-solving.

With over 30 years of experience in IT, Tim’s guiding principle remains simple: See a problem, fix a problem.

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