Why do Businesses Still Store Backups on Tape?

Invented nearly 100 years ago for recording sound, tapes have become one of the most ubiquitous storage mediums out there. But why, especially in the era of solid-state storage, are tapes still used to archive data?

With the recent rise of cloud storage and solid-state media, many businesses are moving away from storing and archiving data on traditional mechanical hard disk drives. However, tape drives are still used by some businesses for archival purposes. So what advantages do tapes have over other storage mediums, like hard disk drives and solid-state drives? One of the main advantages of tapes is their durability. Tapes have a much longer lifespan compared to other storage media, and can still be read accurately after decades of not being used. Even enterprise-level HDDs and SSDs can’t come close to competing with this. As long as the tapes have been stored according to the manufacturer, the data will be fine. Mechanical and solid-state media, on the other hand, can face a whole host of issues when stored long-term.

Cost is also a significant factor when explaining the continued use of tapes for archival purposes. Tapes offer a considerable cost saving when compared to hard disk drives and solid-state drives. With a lower cost per GB, tape storage is the most affordable option for businesses when it comes to backing up their data. On the subject of cost, tapes are also more energy efficient, especially when compared to spinning media like hard disk drives.

Mobility is one of the main advantages of tape over other forms of storage. It is incredibly easy to pick up a box of tape drives and ship them from your business’ main location to a facility dedicated to storing backups. On the other hand, it’s not as simple to transport hard disk drives or RAID systems due to their size. More often than not, a disk-based backup solution will involve copying data from one storage system to another across a network. The initial cost of this can be high.

With disk-based backup now coming down in price and offering numerous advantages like rapid restores, it might not be long before tape starts to become more of a drag than a benefit. But for now, tape is a decent long-term storage format for any business.

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