The test of time: How backup tape has managed to remain effective all these years

By Michael
February 17, 2016

In a world where the cloud, smart technology, software-as-a-service and asset security dominate the IT sphere, it would be understandable for magnetic tape to have fallen by the wayside. But in reality, tape backup has been among the most reliable forms of IT security services, even as other technologies have come to prominence. Read on to find out why.

1. Durability
Where IT solutions are defined by fragility and transience, magnetic tape backup is the armored tank. Organizations that rely on backup tapes can rest assured their digital assets won’t be compromised in the event of a natural disaster. Additionally, because tapes are physical assets, the data can be kept offsite and away from potential hacking threats and power failures. As data blog Kroll Ontrack notes, magnetic tapes can be effectively read after 30 years, whereas the average hard drive is lucky to last 5 years.

2. Low cost
No company, large or small, wants to shell out more money than necessary for data backup – no matter how important that backup is. With tape storage, organizations get the best of both worlds: a system that’s more reliable than other data storage but also less expensive. Part of the reason for that is tape’s long history – with any technology, the longer it’s on the market, the cheaper it tends to become. Tape has been out there for almost 100 years, so clearly it is no longer on the cutting edge. But as they say, “They don’t make them like they used to” – it’s hard to find a more reliable option, regardless of price. The low cost is just one more perk.

3. It isn’t going anywhere
Compatibility will never be an issue for data tape archives because they aren’t connected to the Internet and there is no pressing need to update the accompanying hardware surrounding data tapes. In other words, organizations that choose magnetic tapes won’t have to worry that, down the line, their assets will be rendered inaccessible because there is nothing that can read them. On the other hand, that is a concern that faces some of the backup hardware that has become available since data tapes, like Blu-ray discs. Not every DVD drive can read Blu-Ray, nor is it a guarantee that the technology won’t be altered in such a way that old discs will be obsolete.

4. Human factors are less troublesome
Data tapes are practically immune from the human influences that would damage the information stored in their reels, whether through neglect or intentionally disruptive malware, according to Tech Republic. Other forms of data storage, include the cloud and disc backup, are easier to corrupt or misplace. Data tapes can become even less vulnerable to human error through management systems like Vertices and AssetAware, both of which make it easier for companies to track, store, document and, if necessary, destroy their tape archives in a single, consolidated platform.

Magnetic tapes are the rare technology that has remained not only relevant for almost a century but actively useful and at the top of its class. There is no reason to believe organizations will begin to shy away from tape backup anytime in the near future, even as more technology develops.

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