What's the Best Ransomware Backup Solution: Disk or Tape?

Slashdot reader storagedude writes:

With the release of LTO-9, just about every tape vendor has pushed its wares as a solution to the ransomware problem. After all, is there any backup technology that’s more air-gapped?

Tape IS great for backup — just not so much for recovery. Writing for eSecurity Planet, [CTO of Seagate Government Solutions] Henry Newman notes that not only is disk about 80% cheaper than LTO tape, but even an entry-level RAID card can restore data 6 times faster than tape. “Backup is not about backing up the data, but the time it takes to restore that data to meet your business requirements,” writes Newman. “Tape drives are not striped, but disks generally are put into stripe groups,” he writes. “With RAID controllers and/or software RAID methods, you can easily get many 10s of GB/sec of bandwidth to restore data from a single set of SAS connections. Doing that with tape is very expensive and requires architectural planning. So the bottom line is you can surely backup to tape and it is cost effective – for backup, that is. If you actually need to restore that data quickly, you have my best wishes.”

Tape may have a better bit error rate than disk, but disk can be architected in a way that removes that reliability advantage, he notes. “Tape vendors often state that the BER (bit error rate) of tape is far better than disk, which is 100% true, but you can make up for tape’s advantage with RAID methods that check the reliability of your data and ensure that what you wrote is what you read. This has been the case with RAID since the early 1990s, with parity check on read to validate the data. With other ANSI standard techniques – which sadly are not used often enough – such as T10 PI/DIX you can achieve data integrity on a single device equal to or greater than tape. The net-net here is disk is far faster than tape, as there is native striping that has been in use at least since the 1980s with RAID methods, and disk can achieve equal data integrity to tape.”

“The most often overlooked part of data backup is the recovery part – the longer it takes to restore your data, the more damage it can do to your business,” Newman writes. He concludes: “Yes, tape can be air gapped but so can disk. Does tape provide better protection against ransomware? Likely, but is it so much slower than disk that you can turn off your system and turn on when you need to. Does having slower restoration make tape a better defense against a ransomware attack? As far as I can see, the marketing claims made by tape vendors do not hold up to a rigorous engineering analysis. If you want to use tape, that is your choice and there might be good reasons, but disk-based backups can be air gapped just like tape, for lower cost and with a much faster recovery time. Why tape vendors are making claims such as this, I will leave it to readers to speculate.”
But Slashdot reader BAReFO0t takes the “tape” side of the argument. “Being slower does not equal it not working as a solution at all,” they argue in a comment on the original submission — adding “Also, it’s not even slower, since tape can just as easily be made into a RAID. You can flood ANY bus if you just use enough mirrors, no matter the medium.”

And a follow-up comment also defended tapes. “If tape meets the service level agreement and provides a reasonable risk mitigation from ransomware, then it’s still a perfectly viable solution regardless of certain performance limitations. LTO development would have likely died long ago otherwise.”

But what do other Slashdot readers think? Share your own experiences and opinions in the comments. What offers a better ransomware backup solution: disk or tape?

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