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Data Protection InfographicMore than 1,600 IT professionals responded to our recent survey on data protection. As highlighted in a previous blog post, most IT pros think that businesses need to:

  1. Protect the majority of their data, which is increasingly generated by virtualized applications
  2. Protect that data often (at least every six hours)
  3. Recover that data quickly (at least in six hours)

Great, everyone agrees that data protection is crucial. But what media are your colleagues using? Is tape dead? How much is disk being used for data protection? And is anyone really using the cloud? Let’s take a deeper look.

The Tale of the Tape

Is tape dead? Far from it, according to survey respondents. Although half of all respondents still use tape, this varies widely between the largest and smallest businesses, with 59 percent of large businesses using tape but only 32 percent of small businesses. Large businesses typically have an established data protection infrastructure and process, as well as longer retention requirements and compliance requirements. When it comes to very long-term-retention use cases such as archiving over a 5-year window, tape is hard to beat in terms of cost.

Still, tape is difficult to manage, and adds complexity to the storage environment. It’s difficult to keep up with offloading to tape during backup windows, and perhaps more importantly, virtually impossible to meet aggressive recovery times of less than 6 hours. These difficulties place downward pressure on the growth of tape, as businesses look for better solutions. In fact, only 13 percent of large businesses think it will grow the most. Most respondents think that all other media types will grow faster, eating into tape’s market share. Given the large installed base, though, tape should be around for quite some time.

Disk Dominates Data Protection

About 70 percent of respondents use general disk storage (including general purpose storage arrays) for data protection. It doesn’t matter if a business is small, medium, or large – they all use disk the most for their data protection needs. And it makes sense: Capacity disk is cost-effective and alleviates a lot of the management headaches associated with tape. Also, we saw earlier that fast recovery times of less than 6 hours are a big need for businesses today – disk enables those fast recovery times because it is effective at recovering data randomly, vs. tape, which is a sequential media.

Backup appliances based on disk, also known as “purpose built backup appliances,” are storage appliances that are solely targeted at data protection and that typically have data reduction technologies built in. They’re used by 49 percent of respondents, but there’s a much wider gap between small and large businesses here than with general disk, with only 36 percent of small businesses using these appliances, while 57 percent of large businesses are using them.

Disk growth is expected to remain strong when it comes to data protection – with general disk outpacing backup appliances. In fact, 54 percent of respondents from large enterprises expect general disk to grow the most, surpassing all other media types.

What About the Cloud?

Our survey respondents report that they’re using the cloud today for data protection – small businesses use it the most at 54 percent of respondents. Large businesses are less trusting of the cloud: Twenty-eight percent use it today. This makes sense because small businesses may not want to invest in yet another storage silo for data protection, and typically like the pay-as-you-go model. Large businesses typically have security, compliance, and tougher service level agreements to worry about. There’s a strong expectation that it will grow the most at 56 percent and 47 percent for small and large businesses, respectively, so there is definitely optimism about using the cloud for data protection.

Of course, while the cloud may be suitable for some data protection use cases such as longer term backup and archiving, it’s not suitable for aggressive data protection. Simply put, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to meet 6-hour recovery point and recovery time objectives with anything other than an on-site solution. From this perspective then, it seems that what’s really happening is that cloud services are replacing use cases that were previously the domain of tape.

Summing It Up

There are two key points we can conclude from the data:

  1. Disk dominates data protection today and is expected to do so in the foreseeable future. This makes sense given enterprise’s aggressive data protection needs.
  2. Tape continues to slowly grow and will be around for some time, but more businesses expect to shift to cloud services over time.

This of course is very interesting to us at Nimble Storage – given that we have a flash architecture with powerful disk-based data protection capabilities built in. We’ll explore this in a future post that will look at the data protection methods used by our survey respondents.

Written by:
Sheldon D'Paiva