How are you storing your data? How much of it do you need to access at a moment’s notice? And what is it costing you to store it?

If questions like these leave you shrugging your shoulders, you’re not alone. Considering all the storage options available today—cloud, hard disk drives, flash and tape—it can be difficult to determine the most reliable, cost-effective option for your production data. Which option(s) will be here five, 10 or even 20 years down the road?

Though it may come as a shock to anyone who has written the medium off as “dead,” the answer is tape.

What you picture in your head as “tape” might be a big, blocky hunk of plastic, but modern tape storage works a bit differently than your old 8-track. Tape storage today is highly reliable, portable and eco-friendly (since it consumes minimal power) and can offer even higher throughput for streaming data. Tape is also the lowest-cost form of data storage by far, which can translate to significant savings if implemented properly.

Production data needs today are growing exponentially, which is why it’s getting more expensive every year to provision all that capacity with disk or cloud. If you’ve ever had to purchase additional cloud storage for your cat video collection, you know the struggle is very real.

Flash + Tape Storage = Flape

So, what’s your best move, financially? Can your business afford to get from Point A to Point B over the next few years with 30% annual storage growth? If you’re paying too much for storage performance that you don’t need, probably not. The solution is more than likely a combination of flash and tape storage, or flape.

According to renowned data retention expert and Worldwide Tape Executive at IBM Randy Fleenor, flape is here to stay. For data where performance is crucial, companies like IBM are largely turning to flash, and choosing to store their dormant data in a tape-based solution.

Think of your data like an iceberg. The tip above the surface is I/O-intensive high-speed data that’s accessed frequently and requires minimal response times. This is where flash storage shines. However, below the surface is an enormous amount of data that’s constantly growing but rarely seen. The problem lies in the continuous growth of data moving to this lower-performance tier, and the cost associated with migrating it to a subsystem years later.

In fact, most cloud providers store so much data, even they are beginning to turn to tape to store dormant data. This means that all your pictures of Sunday brunch, while technically in the cloud, may actually be stored on tape.

How to Utilize Flape

The ideal solution would utilize flash storage for all “hot data” because of its outstanding performance, microlatency, macro efficiency and enterprise reliability, with tape storage being used for the much larger percentage of “cold data” due to its cost-effectiveness, high capacity, lower power consumption and smaller footprint. If you have heard of hierarchical storage management or data tiering, it’s that same concept employed for the next generation.

The next time you’re tasked with choosing a future-forward storage solution, take a good, hard look at your data. First, determine how much of your production data you’ll access on an everyday basis, and how much of it sits there eating up storage space. From there, you’ll be able to choose the solution that puts your business on the track to success.

To learn more about tape, flape and the future of data storage, watch the webinar, Storage Wars: Tackling Data Growth with a Next Generation Tape Solution. Then discuss your storage options with your Sirius representative, or contact us for more information.