Tape Backup Evolution

The need for dependable and effective backup solutions is becoming more evident as businesses depend more and more on technology to store and manage critical data. Over the years, tape backup technology has advanced significantly to become a reliable data backup solution. It has been around for a few decades.

From the old-age reel-to-reel cassettes to newer devices like Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Tape backup has not only impacted the business’ data backup but also has witnessed several modifications to satisfy users’ needs. However, is tape backup still feasible, given how quickly technology advances?

This blog post will explore the evolution of tape backup from the first reel-to-reel tapes to the most recent digital tape backup solutions. Additionally, it will discuss the value of tape backup in data storage and how it offers businesses a safe, affordable, and scalable solution.

Whether you work in IT or operate a small business, this blog post will thoroughly grasp tape backup technology and its significance in contemporary data storage.

The Evolution of Tape Backup

Since its early days in the 1950s, tape backup technology has advanced significantly. Data was initially stored on reels of tape using big, cumbersome tape backup machines. But over the years, technology has kept improving. Modern technologies’ user experience, dependability, and efficiency have all improved.

  • The First Tape Backup Devices

During the early days of computers, businesses used reel-to-reel cassettes as the first tape backup devices. However, the loading and unloading tapes into this heavy equipment required physical labor. The largest tape cartridges could only store up to 224 kilobytes of data, and these tapes also had a small storage capacity. These issues made businesses demand a more portable, easy-to-use, and highly capable backup device.

  • The Introduction of Magnetic Tape Technology

The introduction of magnetic tape technology in the 1960s completely changed the tape backup sector. Faster transfer rates and more storage capacity are possible. The initial magnetic tape backup systems had a maximum data storage capacity of 2.3 gigabytes and a maximum data transfer speed of 500 kilobits per second.

  • Advancements in Tape Backup Technology

Today, Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Digital Linear Tape (DLT), and Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) Technologies are the three types of tape backup available. Each possesses unique qualities appropriate for various kinds of businesses.

Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Technology:

In 1990, the introduction of LTO technology achieved maximum capacity, making it the most widely used tape backup technology currently available. This high-performance tape technology provides fast data transfer rates and runs continuously.

The most recent LTO-8 cartridge has a 360 megabyte-per-second transfer rate and can store up to 12 terabytes of uncompressed data. Several organizations favor the LTO technology since it also has backward compatibility with earlier tape versions.

Digital Linear Tape (DLT) Technology:

Compared to earlier tape backup methods, Digital Linear Tape (DLT) technology was released in the 1980s and offered greater capacity and faster transfer rates. Although the 1990s and early 2000s saw wide use of DLT technology, newer tape backup methods have now supplanted it. The most recent DLT-S4 tape cartridges have a transfer rate of up to 120 megabytes per second. They can store up to 1.6 terabytes of uncompressed data.

Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) Technology:

Sony created AIT technology in the mid-1990s, intended for high-density data storage. The most recent AIT-5 cartridge has a transfer rate of up to 480 megabytes per second. It can store up to 2.6 terabytes of uncompressed data.

AIT technology is known for its excellent dependability and data integrity. This attribute makes it a great solution for enterprises requiring high-speed data transport and storage.

Comparison of Tape Backup Technologies

With several available options when it comes to choosing Tape Backup Technology for your business, here are the comparison in terms of capacity, transfer rate, reliability, and compatibility:

  • Capacity

Over time, tape backup methods’ storage capacity has grown substantially; the most recent tape cartridges can now hold up to 15 terabytes of uncompressed data. The latest LTO-8 cartridge can store up to 12 terabytes of uncompressed data, making LTO technology the most extensive capacity option.

  • Transfer Rate

The latest tape cartridges can transport data at up to 750 megabytes per second, significantly improving the tape backup systems’ transfer rate throughout time. The IBM 3592 tape technology offers the fastest transfer rate among tape backup technologies. Its most recent cartridge can transport data at a remarkable speed of up to 750 gigabytes per second, which is incredibly efficient for data-intensive operations.

  • Reliability

When selecting a tape backup solution, reliability is a critical issue to consider. The outstanding dependability and superior error-correcting capabilities of LTO technology are well recognized. Additionally, it features a robust media verification procedure that guarantees the accuracy of the data stored. Similarly, DLT technology is renowned for its dependability and toughness.

  • Compatibility

When selecting a tape backup system, it is crucial to consider compatibility as it can impact the simplicity of data recovery and transmission. LTO technology, widely used in tape backup, is compatible with most backup software and hardware. Moreover, a wide range of backward compatibility enables users to read data from tapes that are older. Likewise, DLT technology also provides backward compatibility with earlier tape releases.

The Current State of Tape Backup

Since the beginning of computing, tape backup has advanced considerably. Technology advances have increased tape backup’s dependability, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness.

Tape Backup in the Modern Data Center

Currently, tape backup remains a prominent option for data backup in modern data centers. This is due, in part, to its affordability. Tape backup offers a lower cost per terabyte than alternative backup solutions like disk or cloud backup. In addition, tape backup is a safe offline storage choice that guards against ransomware and intrusions. The vast capacity of tape backup is another factor in its appeal in contemporary data centers.

The eighth generation (LTO-8) of the linear tape-open (LTO) technology has native storage capacities of up to 30 terabytes (TB) and compressed storage capacities of up to 120 TB. Because of its vast storage capacity, tape backup is the best option for businesses that must keep a lot of data for a long time.

Tape Backup as an Archival Solution

Tape backup is a perfect archival solution for businesses needing to archive data for a long time. In contrast to other backup systems, tape backup doesn’t need electricity or an internet connection to keep data safe. Because of this, it serves as a dependable long-term storage option for businesses that need to keep data for compliance or legal reasons.

Tape Backup vs. Other Backup Technologies

Regarding data backup, there are several alternatives to tape backup. They are; disk backup, cloud backup, and hybrid backup. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages; the choice ultimately comes down to the company’s requirements.

  • Disk Backup

In recent years, disk backup has become a tape backup substitute. Disk backup offers faster data recovery times than tape backup and is speedier and more adaptable. On the other hand, disk backup is more expensive than tape backup and might need to be more trustworthy for long-term storage.

  • Cloud Backup

Another option to tape backup is cloud backup. Automatic backups and off-site storage are also advantages of cloud backup. Nevertheless, tape backup might be safer than tape backup, making it more expensive for businesses to store significant data volumes.

  • Hybrid Backup

Hybrid backup combines tape backup with disk or cloud backup to create a more comprehensive backup solution. Organizations can profit from the speed and adaptability of disk or cloud backup while simultaneously utilizing the cost-effectiveness of tape backup with hybrid backup.

Future of Tape Backup

Despite the development of more modern backup technologies, businesses searching for a solid, affordable choice for long-term data storage and disaster recovery can still consider tape backup. In fact, with new developments and rising trends in technology, the future of tape backup appears bright.

  • Emerging Trends in Tape Backup

One of the newest developments in tape backup is the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to boost its effectiveness and dependability. For instance, AI can evaluate the backup data and identify recurring trends, enabling businesses to optimize their backup strategy and improve their overall data management.

Shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology is another new trend in tape backup. By overlapping the tape’s tracks, SMR technology expands the storage capacity of tape cartridges. The storage capacity of tape backup may rise by as much as 50% thanks to this technology.

  • Predictions for Tape Backup

Although alternative backup technologies are emerging, tape backup looks set to continue playing a significant role in the backup strategies of many enterprises. Analysts anticipate a 7.8% annual growth rate for the tape backup market until 2030.

Tape backup will keep evolving and improving as technology progresses, offering dependable and affordable backup solutions for enterprises of all sizes.

To Sum Up

Since its beginnings, tape backup has advanced significantly and still plays an integral part in data storage and preservation solutions. Tape backup has established itself as a dependable, effective, and affordable backup solution thanks to technological breakthroughs, including Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Digital Linear Tape (DLT), and Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT).

Yet, tape backup has its challenges. Developing a thorough tape backup strategy that includes backup system monitoring and maintenance, disaster recovery planning, and the appropriate hardware, software, and tape backup technologies is crucial.

Future developments in tape backup, such as the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, will further boost its effectiveness and reliability.

Overall, tape backup is still a crucial part of any data storage and backup plan; therefore, it’s vital for businesses to thoroughly weigh its advantages and disadvantages before selecting a backup option.

text written by:

Paweł Piskorz, Presales Engineer at Storware