The hidden challenges of using cloud backup to replace tape

Replacing tape backup with cloud backup raises all sorts of thorny issues

It's no secret: IT pros absolutely love to hate tape. I've remarked on that fact in this column several times over the past few years, and it's no less true now than it was any of the other times I've mentioned it. But that's all changing! What local disk backup couldn't solve on its own, cloud storage providers with their hyperredundant and constantly maintained fleets of disk can certainly fix! Finally, we can put a stake in the heart of tape and it will simply become a ghost story that the old timers tell IT newbs. Right?

Maybe, but not so fast. Although the cloud absolutely can replace some of the use cases for tape, it can't satisfy them for everyone all the time. The very same reasons why tape was still alive and kicking when I wrote about it nearly four years ago are still largely true today.

However, you need not fret if you're itching to get rid of tape and make backup someone else's problem by moving it to the cloud. Things are definitely looking up -- especially if you're working with relatively small amounts of data, can deal with long restoration times, or have ridiculous amounts of bandwidth to spare.

To understand what the cloud is and isn't good for, as it relates to tape or any other kind of on-premises backup, let's dig into some of the basics. I'll show you two examples to illustrate that the issues -- and thus the decision -- are not as simple as you might think or hope.

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