10 Reasons Tape Refuses to Die


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The mere mention of tape backup evokes a cacophony of rolling eyes and deep sighs from all within earshot. Everyone hates tape. System administrators hate it. Managers hate it. Data center administrators hate it. Even the random person on the street, if asked his opinion of tape, probably hates it. Everyone hates tape. But tape works. It has its advantages and its disadvantages. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, tape's advantages outweigh its disadvantages. Tape, we admit half-heartedly, is here to stay. If you're puzzled over this hate-hate relationship with tape, these 10 reasons will enlighten you as to why tape will reside in our data centers for a while longer.

1. Cost

Of course, it's cost. It always boils down to cost, doesn't it? Cost is the primary reason for using tape. It's cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, and cheap to store. No other media comes close to the price of tape. This reason alone will keep tape in your data center for a few more years.

2. Portability

Just behind cost is portability. Tape is highly portable. Tape is a removable media. It is light to carry, it takes up little space, and it travels well. What more could you ask for from an inexpensive media?

3. Shelf Life

Tape has a long shelf life. The reasons for its long shelf life are that the media itself is durable: Plastic. It's flexible, it's resistant to moisture and mildew and it's temperature-stable. Tape has a standard shelf life of more than 30 years with some manufacturers boasting of shelf life exceeding 50 years. Unlike other media, tape is time-proven since its widespread adoption in the 1950s. Tape is here to stay because tape is built to be here to stay.

4. Reliability

Although everyone complains about tape reliability, it is a very reliable media. Rarely does the media itself fail. You can usually trace the problems surrounding tape's bad reputation back to incidences of human error and not tape error. Tape, when used correctly, is reusable and reliable, rivaling all other media types for reliability.

5. Convenient

Tape is a convenient medium. If you use virtual tape libraries (VTLs), you still use tape to offload your data for archival storage. VTLs are fast because they're disk-based, but they lack the portability of tape. Tape is convenient because it's used to offload data without clogging production networks or slowing disks to a crawl to make those snapshots. Disk-to-disk backups still rely on the convenience of tape.

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