Backup tape is still thriving in enterprises that need cost-effective, long-term storage, and it’s even finding new applications
There’s been a lot of talk about the cloud lately, so I thought it would be a good time to change the subject and mention backup tape. On the surface, it seems backup tape and the cloud are technologies heading in opposite directions — tape being the dying old technology, and the cloud the shiny new one that’s getting all the attention. However, that’s not the case. Backup tape is far from dead, and in fact, it is technology that is getting more advanced and people are even finding new applications for it.
Tape is still a great way to cheaply store large amounts of data, and thanks to LTFS, a new technology that lets you use a tape as if it were a hard drive, users are finding it a great fit for the ever-increasing amounts of video being handled by IT. (Here’s a video we shared a while back that explains how LTFS works.)
Tape is still widely used in the enterprise, whereas surveys put the rate of cloud adoption for primary backup somewhere around 2%.
While disk-based backups are a very popular, and viable, method of backing up data, tape still retains a few advantages. Tapes are more cost-effective than either the cloud or disk, and they are much more energy efficient. Tapes also boast a much longer life span than disk, and once data is on them, it can sit there for years without requiring maintenance or using any more electricity.
Further, all of these advantages tilt even more in favor of tape as you increase the amount of data that needs to be handled.
So while tape is a great format for archiving, new generations of LTO tape are improving the main complaints about it as a primary backup method: that tape is slow and hard to restore data from.
The big breakthrough is the aforementioned Linear Tape File System (LTFS). A standard adopted by all the major tape manufacturers with the debut of the LTO 5 tape, LTFS enables tapes to be indexed with the full contents of what is contained inside. Where you once had to guess where the data you needed was based on the date the tape was made. LTFS in effect makes the tape, or even tape library, a giant USB drive.
What are your thoughts on tape? Are you still using it? Are you planning a move to something else? I’ love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.
Tape storage finds new life in the enterprise and beyond | ComputerWorld