The Benefits of Tapes for Backing Up

Invented over a century ago for recording audio, tapes are still used to back up data. But what advantages do they have over hard disk drives when it comes to backing up data?

Analysts have been predicting the demise of the tape for some time, but the format is still around, but it isn’t as commonly seen as it once was. Tape backups plays an important role in data storage beginning in the 1970s, but in recent years, there has been a shift to storing backups on mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs), flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs), and in the cloud. But many businesses are still storing their backups in tape format.

One of the main advantages of using tapes for backups is their lifespan when compared with HDDs, which have a limited lifespan, and flash memory cells found in SSDs can leak charge over time, resulting in data loss. Environmental factors like humidity and temperature can speed up the degradation of HDDs and SSDs, too. Tapes, on the other hand, can last many years, or even decades, and the data can still be read. Their ability to offer long-term retention of data is an obvious advantage. Tapes are also much more cost effective than HDDs and especially SSDs, making them a great option for businesses looking for an affordable backup solution. Tapes are also much more energy efficient, further bringing costs down.

Scalability is another advantage that tapes possess. The tape backup infrastructure can easily be scaled up if necessary by buying new tape drives and adding them to the library. But if you want to grow the capacity of your HDD-based backup, you’ll need to purchase more hardware. A tape library is, in theory, infinitely scalable. Tapes are also physically much easier to transport from one location to another compared to heavy hard disk drives, making it much easier to move backups offsite.

One of the biggest reasons for the survival of the tape backup is the amount of legacy data that is already backed up on the format. It makes sense, then, to keep backing up to tape rather than switching to a new medium. Tapes also offer ease of use – there is a lot of support for tapes, and plenty of software for restoring data stored on them.

Tape Recovery