Introduction to a Reliable Backup Device: Tape Drives

by : James Walsh




In this dash against time to maintain a proper visibility with the fickle public, tape drives stand out clearly as an exceptional format. They are definitely the oldest type of backup media around, as they date back to the pre-digital times. Tapes have been around for a long time now - many decades in fact - and they have undergone the makeover from analogue to digital quite successfully.

There are certain media formats that are used because of their inherent qualities. The USB drive does not have the amount of space a hard disk has, but that is not needed either. Its slimness is what makes it a good portable device, and bulk in terms of logical or physical space is not needed. On the other hand, nothing can beat a CD in terms of price and it is very handy for sharing. The DVD renders the best audiovisual output quality. Basically, the devices that have captured the market for quite some time, all have their own specialities. The tape drive is no exception. We will be discussing its vantage points in the following.

Why the Industrial Choice for Backups

Tape drives are not used at home by domestic users, as getting the drive installed for it or maintaining a tape collection is neither simple nor does it fit easily into the pocket. This makes it, on the other hand, a great industrial backup choice.

  • Firstly and also most importantly, there is the matter of cost. Tape is cheap, and this absolutely cannot be denied. Big companies will prefer buying cartloads of tape and backing off their information on it at a fraction of the cost an array or remote backup system would take. We are not talking about home consumer at all. Tape drives cost anything between a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, and are easily affordable by most companies.


  • The data in question is massive in volume, and it must to be stored, updated, and protected in a system where there is zero chance of virus penetration. This makes tape drives the natural choice here. The information from it can be selectively shared, uploaded into another format any moment anyway, and is absolutely virus-proof.


  • There is also the space it takes up inside the machine itself. A tape wounds itself around and around the hub and remains curled in that little space. This isolates it from contact with other hardware parts of the system and is a great boon in case any of these malfunctions or crashes.


  • This property of the tape also helps it score another point over the optical drive - the surface on which data has been written is not exposed to the elements. It also cannot be scratched, tampered with, cracked, or chipped easily. Mishandling chances are relatively less than the CD, DVD and USB devices.


  • The new generations of tape drives used by corporate giants are faster, more versatile and surprisingly user-friendly. At the same time, they are not as costly as hard disks or arrays.


  • In case of a disaster, it takes sometime for a remote backup to start operating unless it was a perfectly maintained, perfectly humongous hot site. A tape just needs to be taken out and inserted, so the turnaround time with it as off-site backup media is also really fast.


Special Advantages

There are three other advantages that may be mentioned in this context.

  • The infrastructural costs are lower overall as tapes don't need all the fanciful heavy duty -gadgets as RAID does. It is not so difficult to make and maintain your own remote backup system manually, thanks to tape drives.


  • One need not adopt every time a new technology lands in the market. Tape formats are much more standardised where related hardware and software support are involved. This takes off a major headache in the industrial context.


  • It is hardly talked about, but tape has produced lesser toxic industrial waste than the other backup media formats.


Data Loss from Tape Drives

Data can be lost from the tapes through these ways:

  • Recycled tape can be cheap, is readily available, but also dirty and fragile. It will flake off and your data will disappear without you even knowing of it.


  • Bad maintenance can kill tape from humidity, moisture, high temperatures, heat, dust and fire.