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Tape Drives: Are They Obsolete Yet?

Let’s face it: data backup isn’t exactly a bundle of fun. You want to make it as simple and reliable as possible. Tape drives are a form of data storage that uses magnetic tape. They are usually used for offline storage, like when archiving. It is known for stability and cost effectiveness. But in the days where hard drives are getting cheaper and cheaper, is this really the case anymore? Are tape drives obsolete?
Removable hard drives are a popular substitute over tape drives. Much like you would when backing up with tapes, you can perform daily backups on to multiple hard drives (depending on how often you do it and how much data you have) which can be taken in and out of a hotswap drive enclosure. These can be placed in to a drive bay which means that it easy to remove the drives and swap them when needed, much like you would with a tape system.
Tape was once the reliable storage device, but that title has now been taken by hard drives. There is a lower mean time between failure of a hard drive compared to tape. Granted, if you drop a hard drive then it is more likely to bust due to the mechanical components inside, but overall a hard drive is the more reliable choice. Hard drives are prone to problems when in constant use, but if they are just being used for storage then they are very dependable. Not only that, but it is easier to get your data on hard drives thanks to the superior access times.
Hard drives are also cheaper compared to tapes. ZDNet compared the pricing and found that to build a backup solution to cope with 6.4 terabytes would cost $6088 while using a SATA hard drive solution it would cost $2272.
Even if you don’t use hard drives instead of tapes, then network attached storage is becoming an increasingly popular choice. It is highly available and quick – best of all, it is much more cost effective. It also means that everything can be fully automated, meaning that no one has to rotate the tapes, and that the server can monitor the quality of the backup.
It is fairly true to say that tape drives are becoming obsolete, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place. Besides, it isn’t necessarily a case of having to choose one solution over the other; tape drives can work with other back up devices perfectly fine. Some also prefer using tape drives for deep archiving, especially when backing up and not needing to retrieve the data. In this case tapes are safe and simple to use. Finally, if there is a lot of information stored that needs backing up then tapes can be useful due to the speed of which they can swapped out. They are also easy to transport and store off site if necessary. So it isn’t necessary to dismiss tape drives completely as they can still be a viable option.


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