THE BLOG

The Little Black Dress of the Storage World...

01/09/2014 14:52 BST | Updated 01/11/2014 09:59 GMT

It's a scenario we can all relate to. The one where you've been working tirelessly to finish a document at work, under vast amounts of pressure to get it done in time for a looming deadline. Then, the stomach sink moment hits. Your PC freezes and - after much panicking and shouting at the screen - the document's been lost. It's inevitable you'll miss the deadline so you know you now have to face an angry boss and client all because that document has gone. You frantically contact your IT manager and just hope they can help you salvage the situation.

Now, imagine if you were that person on the other end of the phone, the IT expert responsible for handling document storage for the entire business. Imagine the pressure they are under to find the right storage solution for the company, so to avoid such 'SOS' situations. In this role, you would need to consider the minefield that is storage to uncover the best solution... and it might not always be what you expect.

To explain this, first a quick history lesson. In the 1970s, tape cassettes and cartridges were relied on to store data in a majority of businesses. Then with the arrival of data storage discs and the cloud, tape's popularity began to plummet. The shiny new alternatives positioned tape as a dated, costly, unreliable technology that few forward-thinking organisations would dream of using as part of their data storage and protection infrastructure. And so, its image bruised and tarnished, tape was expected to quietly disappear into IT oblivion. Only it didn't.

In fact, tape is facing a new dawn in a world struggling to get to grips with the impact of big data, environmental pressures, complex IT infrastructures and resource limitations. Investment in the technology has created new high-performance versions that can store vast amounts of data. Just like the little black dress - tape has evolved over time, but remains a classic everyone can turn to.

So much so, all 10 of the world's largest banks, all 10 of the world's largest telecommunications companies and eight of the 10 largest pharmaceutical firms make use of tape storage (1). However, a recent survey we conducted showed that of 50 mid-market companies in Europe (2) tape is used by around half. Those who use it have integrated it into efficient and tiered information storage solutions that generally also include on site storage, disc and, increasingly, cloud. Those who don't seem to be influenced by negative past experiences in terms of reliability and data recovery issues.

Imagine again that you're in the shoes of your company's IT manager. You might say that you you're not convinced by tape. But you wouldn't judge the performance of today's mobile phones on the basis of one you owned a decade ago - so why do we appear to be doing that for tape? It's high time we took another look. Our world is powered by information and how and where we store it has become a critical part of it and tape belongs at the heart of that conversation.

(1) Internet.com Debunking five myths about tape storage, 2011

(2) Opinion Matters for Iron Mountain, April 2014. Ten interviews were conducted with IT professionals in each of the UK, France, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands, representing the manufacturing, healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, professional services, hospitality, media and broadcasting, advertising, retail and software sectors, with between 50 and 10,000 employees.