What Advantages do Tapes have for Backups?

While analysts have long predicted the demise of tape-based backups, the format is still here, albeit not as common. But why would you want to use tapes to back up your data to?

Tapes were invented over a century ago for recording sound, but have since become commonplace in business environments for data backup purposes. In recent years, however, there has been a shift to storing backups on hard disk drives, solid state drives and RAID servers. Despite this, tapes are still used by many businesses. Part of the reason why tapes haven’t disappeared altogether is that data backup has been broadly segmented into two different categories. Firstly, there’s file recovery, getting back files or folders immediately due to a system failure or user error, like an accidental deletion. In these circumstances, fast access to the backed-up data is required, especially in a business environment where data would need to be accessed from the backup in seconds. Then there’s longer term backups, which can range anywhere from a few months to several years, or even decades. Basically, the longer the data needs to be stored for, the more attractive tape is as a storage format.

One of the main advantages of using tape drives to back up data is their lifespan compared to other storage media like hard disk drives and solid-state drives; they can still be read decades later. On the other hand, hard drives have a comparatively limited lifespan, and data can “leak” from solid-state drives over a period of years. Temperature and humidity can affect HDDs and SSDs, too, causing oxidisation, degrading the media. Tapes also offer a significant cost benefit compared to hard drives and solid-state drives, and is often a much more affordable option for businesses. The cost per GB is much lower than any of its competitors, and compared to spinning media like HDDs, are way more energy efficient, thereby pushing costs down further.

There is also the scalability factor. A tape drive or library is, in theory, infinitely scalable – all you need to do is buy more tapes. On the other hand, HDDs require purchasing more hardware in order to achieve significant increases in capacity. Adding further disks to an array also results in additional power, leading to higher costs for energy and cooling. Tapes are also easier to transport than HDDs, making it easy to move backups offsite.

Perhaps the greatest explanation for the survival of the tape format is the amount of legacy data already stored on them. It makes more sense to keep backing up to this storage medium than to move to a new one. The technology is also well-supported, making tapes an easy format to manage.

Our data recovery team have experience retrieving data from all manner of tape formats including LTO, DLT, DAT, QIC, Exabyte, Travan, 3590, 3592 and 9 track reel to reel tapes. Our free tape data recovery assesment will allow one of our technicians to see what data can be recovered and how much it will cost. 

Tape Data Recovery