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Utility Shuts Off Power to Tape Backup System

Tape has been a reliable means of data backup for many years, and a large number of companies have relied on it to protect crucial information from loss. Yet, the question today in many corporations is how much longer should tape serve as the primary backup system. Idaho Power asked itself that question as the license for their tape system came up for renewal. Their answer to the question was quite like that of many other companies -- not much longer.

Based in Boise, the company serves 982,000 customers in a 24,000 square mile area covering Southern Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. Idaho power has approximately 2,000 employees, owns and operates 17 hydroelectric power plants and two gas-fired plants, and shares ownership in three coal-fired generating plants to generate the electricity it delivers to customers.

The company has one primary data center that supports about 300 servers running Linux, Windows, and VMWare. The various devices generate about 36 TB of information, which had been backed up each weekend.

Idaho Power has been relying on a Sun StorageTek PowderHorn tape system to house its backup information, but the tape silo was scheduled to reach its time for renewal at end of 2009. "We had to decide what would be more cost effective moving forward -- disk or tape," says Bill Thompson, manager of storage and disaster recovery group at Idaho Power.

The price of disk had gone down considerably from when the tape system was purchased near the turn of the millennium. Traditionally, disk had cost 20 or more times as much as tape. But recently, technical advances have lowered that gap, so disk commands only a slight premium compared to tape.

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