Data storage - why the world needs tape more than ever

Data storage - why the world needs tape more than ever
Data storage - why the world needs tape more than ever

Magnetic tape was first used to store computer data in 1951. By the mid-1970s pretty much everyone relied on tape cassettes and cartridges. Then, with the arrival of data storage discs and the cloud, tape was seen as a dated, costly, inflexible, unreliable technology that forward-thinking organisations would not dream of using as part of their data storage and protection infrastructure.

However, tape storage is facing a new dawn in a world struggling to get to grips with the impact of big data, environmental pressures, complex IT infrastructures and resource limitations. Investment in the technology has also created new high-performance versions that can store vast amounts of data.

Four top reasons to use tape

  1. Bring on the big data

Few aspects of business are unaffected by the surge in data volumes and variety. IT departments need to manage and store all this data efficiently and securely. It's neither possible nor desirable to store it all on servers on site and not every organisation is ready to embrace the cloud. Time for the secure, cost efficient and low maintenance option. It's called tape.

  1. Innovation and investment

Anticipating the storage crunch caused by big data, IBM and Fujifilm have announced a tape capable of storing 85.9 billion bits of data per square inch. This builds on other recent innovations, including the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) format and Linear Tape File System (LTFS) which have boosted the format's capabilities.

  1. Tape makes sound business sense

Tape has the lowest total cost of ownership of any major data storage system and is the most energy-efficient. This means firms can cost-effectively archive data, on or off site, and focus resources on other options for active or business-critical data. Nowadays most organisations are also building hybrid or tiered storage solutions which include optimising the use of tape.

  1. It's legacy-proof

Many IT infrastructures today comprise an assortment of server, software and storage components, with legacy systems running alongside the latest technologies. Tape is widely supported and has a mature interface, enhancing the long term compatibility of its stored data.

Recent research suggests that while enterprise-size firms appreciate this, mid-market companies may not yet have adjusted their perception of tape. 

A snapshot of 50 mid-market companies in Europe[1]  found that tape is used by around half. Those who use tape for data storage have integrated it into efficient and tiered information storage solutions that generally also include on site storage, disc and, increasingly, cloud.

You wouldn't judge the performance of today's mobile phones on the basis of one you owned a decade ago – so why do so many firms appear to be doing that for tape? It's high time we took another look.

Contributed by Christian Toon, head of information risk for Europe at Iron Mountain