Tapes - the Preferred Backup Media

By: James Walsh


Every company has therefore come up with a policy to protect such importantly volatile data. Plenty of back up devices are available. However, none can compete with the magnetic tapes as better storage devices.

Magnetic Tape

The magnetic tape used for storing data is very similar to the audio and video cassette we all are so familiar with. It is celluloid like material looped inside a plastic cartridge. People record data on this using the tape drive. This is at once inexpensive and highly portable; the qualities that have endeared itself to many IT managers.

Why are Magnetic Tapes the Preferred Backup Media?

Given below are the many advantages of magnetic tapes. This would help one understand why a large number of companies prefer to use it as their back up media.

The Price Factor

Another reason for its increasing popularity is the economical pricing of it. The tapes offer more storage per price ratio. The improved versions of the magnetic tapes are smoother and thinner. This enables more tape to be wound around the same cartridge increasing the data storage capacity. The data held per square area of tape has also been increased by increasing the number of tracks. The number of tracks has been increased by making them thinner on the smoother magnetic tape. They store about 100 GB of information. If one were to price 100 GB of information, it would value at one million dollars! However, having such valuable information in one cartridge is risky and IT managers are all too aware of this fact. They therefore create double mirror backups to eliminate the risk factor.

In spite of such developments the magnetic tapes continue to remain light weight making them easy to transport.

Easily Portable

Light weight tapes are easily portable. This offers the benefit of placing the storage device offsite. Company officials either place the media in another branch of theirs. Or they place it in a fire proof vault offered by a storage firm. Backup media is truly effective only if it placed offsite.

However, how safe the data is, is determined by the manner it is stored.

Storage Place

CDs and DVDs lose their data when improperly handled or when scratches are formed on them. Magnetic tapes have no such problem. The plastic cartridge is protective covering. However, a few points are worth remembering while storing the tapes. Magnetic tapes be never placed next to generator or motor rooms. Electrical fields can destroy the data written on them. And like any other storage device it should be placed in a dust free environment away from direct sunlight and humidity. The improved versions of the magnetic tapes that hold more data are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions. Maintaining the tapes in the right condition is bound to increase their durability.

Archival Life

Magnetic tapes are probably in use even today for their longevity. When company managers come up with important data that has to last long, they select the magnetic tape as the storage media. They enjoy a life span for 30 years or more.

When magnetic tapes have so many advantages it is not difficult to understand why they are being increasingly used. Every year, data storage experts experience a 50 to 100% increase in the quantum of data to be stored. In such a scenario the quest for better storage devices is a continuous one. Technological developments are ensuring that magnetic tapes retain the advantages of being reliable. The rate of transferring data on to the tape is also fast. In fact it is faster than recording data on a hard disk. The storage cost per bit of information is the lowest. The one drawback of this media is the low data retrieval speed. Magnetic tapes allow for sequential data retrieval. Varied methods are being tried to overcome this drawback. However, disadvantages are outweighed by the many advantages and magnetic tapes are here for long.

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