A Look At Backup and Disaster Recovery Technology Through the Years

A Look At Backup and Disaster Recovery Technology Through the Years

June 11

Backup and disaster recovery isn’t new by any means. But the concept has come a mighty long way since the early days of golden age of computing. The technology used to back up and restore information in these days looked far different from what we’re privileged with today. After realizing how far we have come, those who were busy playing hide and seek, plotting their arrival to the world or doing anything other than dealing with primitive disaster recovery methods may consider themselves lucky.

Stack of vintage unused computer punch cards used for programming and data entry in the sixties and seventies, isolated on white

Up to the mid-1980s, most computer programmers created, edited and stored their programs line by line on punch cards.

The Infamous Era of Tapes

Outside of securing a box before shipping something off through the post office, I can’t think of many relevant uses for any kind of tape. Back in the day, however, tape was the bomb. It was used for storing video, recording audio and yes, even data backup efforts. According to a Backup History article, the process of storing data on magnetic tape came about in the 1960s. It would replace punch card systems as the primary storage method. This new medium was immediately embraced as a flexible, reliable alternative. It could store considerably more data than the notoriously slow, low-capacity punch card.vintage cassette tape isolated on white background with clipping path

Tape had a long, dominate reign as the king of BDR mediums, a first choice of both small and large businesses. But the very reliability that made it a hit eventually came into question. But critical aspects such as data transfer speed, capacity, and life span of tape mediums became an issue. Backing up data was tedious and recovering it in the time of need became too big of a gamble to call. While the information is conflicting, there is data suggesting that recovery failure rates can be alarmingly high with tape-based systems.

The other issues businesses faced were inherent problems that developed over time. Just imagine having to keep up with a library that has amassed hundreds to thousands of tapes over the years. It would be a drag — an expensive drag at that. Companies often had to pay someone to manually keep that massive library in order. Data stored on tape can only be accessed in sequential order. This is why restoring systems to specific points was a a time-consuming chore. Having a large archived data infrastructure introduced the treat of extensive downtime during recovery efforts.

When Hard Disks Trumped Tape

While tape is still used to this day, it stopped being the primary method for data storage and disaster recovery. Disk-based systems emerged in the late 1950s to replace it and became the standard storage mechanisms. The floppy disks were the ones to spark the removable storage trend. The disk-based approach introduced a digital component that was far more reliable than the analog-based systems of the past. They reduced recovery failure rates, and retrieving data was fast. This minimized the lengthy downtime businesses were exposed to with earlier methods. By the time the late 1980s and early 1990s rolled around, disks were embraced as worthy alternatives to tapes.

Open hard HDD drive

Backing Up In the Cloud

Fast-forward to the modern era — the internet is booming and businesses are increasingly turning to the cloud for their backup and disaster recovery needs. Cloud computing offers many compelling advantages over previous methods, including the ability to scale storage capacity based on individual needs. You lease the capacity from a third-party supplier, who stores your data on the hardware they manage. This way, you don’t have to bother with administering a huge library. And since that data is kept offsite, the cloud becomes a reliable disaster recovery solution that allows you to quickly rebound should the information be compromised onsite.

Transferring information or data to a cloud network server.

Some methods are obviously better than others, but savvy business owners have learned to make the best of all worlds. Instead of completely doing away with the old, they are using those tapes to archive inactive data or data of less importance, disk-based systems to back up mission-critical data locally, and cloud solutions to act as the ultimate insurance policy. With data-driven operations being vulnerable to everything from management mishaps to unavoidable disasters, this multi-pronged approach to disaster recovery is not as overkill as it may sound.

If you ask me, many things that were once cool have gotten worse over time. Today’s music, movies, and even sports, you could argue, have all fell off considerably in the quality department. Backup technology is one of few things I think we can all agree that continues to improve big time as the digital world turns.