Tape Drive Sales Are Exploding: Why Tape Is a Compelling Option for Your Data Backups

JANUARY 24TH, 2023

A recent Tom’s Hardware website headline caught our eye, blaring, “Tape Storage Soars While HDD Sales Crash.” The article points out that unit shipments of hard drives fell by nearly half in 2022, and the capacity of hard disk drives (HDDs) also dropped year over year. The Tom’s Hardware article cites a Trendfocus long-term forecast that tape capacity will grow at an impressive 21 percent CAGR through 2027, reaching more than 207 exabytes (EB) in capacity.

The article also notes that LTO tapes are the cheapest way to store data when it comes to capacity costs. That’s why LTO shipments represent 81 to 85 percent of the total capacity shipped. Interestingly, HDD sales declined in both the consumer and data center spaces—something that hasn’t ever happened before. With this change in market dynamics, it’s worth taking a quick look at the history of tape data storage.

A “Dinosaur Technology”

People once thought tape data storage would go the way of the dinosaurs. No wonder, given that it has been used for data backup for over 70 years, with the first magnetic tape data storage system built by IBM in 1952.  Tape continued to evolve, and in the 1960s, IBM introduced tape cartridges, a smaller and more portable solution.

But tape took its most significant leap forward, at least in terms of data storage, with the introduction of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology in the 1990s. LTO is still widely used today. And tape continues to evolve, with recent LTO-8 and LTO-9 generations released that deliver increased capacities and compression, hardware-based encryption, and faster data transfer rates.

Tape Still Delivers Big Benefits

Today, tape is a reliable and cost-effective data backup and archiving option. As we wrote in this recent post, the dinosaur is still very much alive—and experiencing a renaissance. A Google search on “price per GB calculator” today brought up sites that showed an average cost of $5 per TB for tape devices, while the same search yields an average of $15 per TB for disk devices. That speaks volumes.

In addition to its low cost per TB, tape has a long lifespan. And tape cartridges can store large amounts of data that are easily moved offsite for secure storage and disaster recovery. That makes tape perfect for air-gapping—physically isolating your backups from your networks and systems—to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data while protecting against data loss.

Tape Backups and the 3-2-1-1 Strategy

We often write about the 3-2-1-1 data backup strategy because it’s crucial to ensure you can always recover your data after a disaster. The strategy is simple. Keep three copies of your data—one primary copy for active use and two backups on two different media (a hard drive or in the cloud, for example).

The first one in 3-2-1-1 tells you to keep one copy offsite. That’s where tape is a perfect fit, protecting your data from natural disasters, cyberattacks, and ransomware attacks as a cost-effective air-gapped backup.

Arcserve Tape Backup is the world’s most powerful tape backup software for protecting your high-capacity storage. The software features unique technologies that give you longer retention periods and reduce storage usage by integrating deduplication into your existing backup environment. And you can store critical data on nearly any tape device, from a single tape drive to huge tape libraries.

With Arcserve Tape Backup, you get centralized management and storage resource manager (SRM) reporting, so you can monitor the status of all your backup activities, find the nodes that are taking the longest, locate backed-up data, and track volume, disk, and memory usage. That reduces time spent managing backups regardless of whether your infrastructure is simple or complex.

The software incorporates sophisticated functionality into your VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer platforms while simplifying system management with a view of your entire environment and mitigating data loss risks on virtualized servers. You also get increased reliability with smart restore capabilities that let you redirect restore jobs to other media containing the same data without any manual intervention.

The software lets you quickly restore individual application objects from Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft SharePoint. UNIX and Linux data movers for SAN-based backups deliver faster, more efficient backups and restores. And you can meet application-specific requirements with backup to disk, backup to tape, disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T), disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C), virtual tape library (VTL), hardware snapshot support, multiplexing, and multistreaming.

With the release of Arcserve Backup 19.0, the software now supports LTO Ultrium Gen 9 tape devices from IBM and HPE, as well as Dell tape libraries and drives and select NEC tape devices. It was also recently certified for NetApp ONTAP versions 9.10 and 9.11.    

Immutability Matters Most

The final “1” in 3-2-1-1 stands for immutable storage. With immutable storage like you get with Arcserve OneXafe network-attached storage (NAS) appliances, backups are written using a file system based on an immutable object store, with every object written only once and never modified. Your data is protected, even if ransomware gets past your defenses because your backups can’t be altered or deleted.

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