Drawbacks of Traditional Off-Site Data Backup & Recovery


Whether it’s a flood in Brisbane, a bushfire in Victoria, or a tornado in New South Wales, disasters are bound to occur in spite of our best plans. Last summer’s string of catastrophes in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, and New South Wales was more than enough to set insurance companies back by $550 million. And with disaster season just around the corner; organisations have to brace themselves yet again for the crushing financial repercussions of data loss.

Even if there are no imminent disasters, business data is still vulnerable to a slew of cyberattacks designed to exploit system vulnerabilities. Of course, traditional data backup solutions can help businesses recover their data and live to fight another day, but in this day and age, it’s simply not enough.

Traditionally, off-site backups are limited to copying data to portable media — usually tape — and then transporting the media to the remote data storage facility. Yes, you heard that right. Tape, the same technology used in VHS or cassette tapes. Just let that sink in for a moment. A medium popular in the 90s is still being used to combat modern day problems. But not only are these solutions outdated, there are also a myriad of other reasons why traditional backup methods can’t meet the needs of a 21st century organisation.


First of all, the management and maintenance of tape backups alone is a full-time job in and of itself. IT staff have to manually configure backup software on each workstation, which is quite a task, considering how difficult it is to track and back up individual systems, especially during emergencies. Technicians also have to perform periodic backups and testing. All of this eats up a lot of your company’s time and resources — a pattern that you’ll notice with traditional data backups as you read on.

Slow recovery time

A poor presumption many business owners tend to make about tape backups is the length of time it will take to restore data. Although many traditional backup providers tout their ‘fast’ recovery times, tape drives are manually stored in remote storage facilities. This means that data needs to be carted back and forth between storage locations, slowing down the entire recovery process.

In reality, most businesses that have experienced an unexpected disruption may have to wait several days to retrieve the tapes and begin the restore procedure. According to numerous reports, the average Australian business can end up waiting for more than three working days, or approximately 27 hours. Moreover, when there are large number of files; outdated approaches can drain resources, overburden servers, and ultimately, substantially increase backup and recovery times.

When businesses have to wait that long just to restore mission-critical data, financial damages — around $21,300 lost per hour of downtime — begin to show.

Vulnerable to data corruption

Like any computer or hardware, tape is a physical object that deteriorates over time. While tapes can supposedly last for as long as 30 years, this figure is purely based on the assumption that the tape backups are kept under ideal conditions. Storage temperature, for instance, has to be kept at 20 degrees celsius with minimal humidity. Anything less (or more) than these prerequisites can result in accelerated tape decay, thereby corrupting the data stored in the backup media.

In addition to the unforgiving conditions of tape maintenance, traditional backup methods are inherently vulnerable to a number of other risks. Sun exposure, fingerprints, or getting too close to magnetised areas can usually corrupt the data, making it unusable. If the tape drive has been tampered with beforehand, it might already be too late by the time you need to restore your data. And because traditional backup methods are often transferred from one location to another, the chances of this happening increases.

Susceptible to theft and security threats

Much like how anyone can easily pilfer a phone that contains sensitive information, traditional tape backups are just as vulnerable to the same risks. In fact, last year, the sensitive information of thousands of Lloyds Bank customers was leaked, following the theft of a critical storage device.

Cybercriminals often have several opportunities to steal tape backups. The first is when backup units are transported to off-site storage locations. Accidents do happen, after all, and there’s no guarantee that data won’t suddenly get misplaced, even if you delegated the task to a third-party.

Another point of vulnerability is during storage. Low-tiered facilities generally have weak vaults and no physical security systems in place to deter attackers. Business owners who can’t afford these security systems will usually go for an even riskier option — having employees take the tape backups home with them. It doesn’t take a security expert to know that traditional backup methods only create more problems for your company rather than solve them.


Comparing the cost of tape backups to other solutions will have you wondering why you didn’t switch sooner. Tape drives start at around $450 dollars and may cost more depending on the data transfer rate. Standard tapes range from $30 to $60 for each workstation or server you plan to back up. Transport and storage can cost twice as much as the initial investment. On top of that, employee training, tape maintenance, and other security considerations can clean out your business in just a couple of months.

Opt for cloud-based backups, however, and you pay only a fraction of that price. Cloud backups eliminate the cost of tapes, extra hardware, and most importantly, transporting backups to and from facilities. All you have to pay for is an affordable ‘pay-as-you-go’ monthly subscription that includes 24/7 customer support and fully encrypted data backups minus the hassle of labour-intensive processes.

The bottom line

Traditional off-site backups may seem like an appealing option at first. But if you look closely, you’ll realize that this cannot be further from the truth. The effort and care required to maintain tape backups are just too great for any large enterprise, let alone a small business with only 20-40 employees. So if you’re ever in the market for a suitable backup solution, do yourself a favour by ruling out traditional backup and recovery methods and selecting the smarter option.

When disaster strikes, it’s in your company’s best interest to recover data as quickly as possible. As one of Australia’s leading cloud backup providers, Empower IT has the technology and support to help your business quickly get back on its feet. Not convinced? Contact us today to find out how our cloud backup solution is far more superior to traditional tape backups.