Why is tape still used to store data?

Tape storage has been in use for nearly 100 years. First invented for recording sound in 1928, it has become one of the most ubiquitous storage mediums out there since tape was given a magnetic coating in the 1950s. Storing data on tapes has been common practice for more than fifty years, and it has managed to survive an onslaught of attacks from newer storage media like hard disk drives, DVDs and blu-rays.

There are several reasons why tape has survived this long. One reason is the durability of tapes compared to hard drives – they aren’t susceptible to the kind of damage hard drives are. Tapes can last upwards of 30 years, more than three times the lifespan of hard drives. As well as physical problems, hard drives can also suffer from logical, software failures which can lead to data loss, unlike tapes.

The reason hard drives are used over tapes in modern computers is faster write speeds. But reading data from tapes is four times quicker than reading data from a hard drive. The downside is, of course, that write speeds are considerably slower with tapes. But tapes are also considerably cheaper – it’s considerably cheaper to buy several tapes