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I've Changed my mind about tape

More recently I have found myself breaking through my "I hate tape" mentality in large part because of the way LTO technology has revolutionized tape backup and the fact that tape is doing a good job of carving out a new niche in today's disk-centric world.

It was this combination of variables that resulted in tape leaving a bad impression with many in small and mid-sized enterprises. However the introduction of the LTO format, and most recently LTO-5, has addressed many of the negative connotations that people historically made when they thought of tape.
  • Faster retrieval times. With the introduction of LTO-5, tape-based backup and archive now operates at speeds of 140 MB/sec or 504 GB/hour uncompressed, which means that unless you need the near-instantaneous recoveries that disk provides tape can now give you a lot of data back in a very short time.
  • Better access methods. The recent introduction of LTO-5 also includes a hidden jewel: tape partitioning. This feature is one which allows the tape cartridge to look like a hard drive, CD, DVD or memory stick to the operating system, and allows you to "drag & drop" data to and from the tape. In effect, an LTO5 tape can look like a huge portable hard drive.
  • Lower cost of ownership. LTO is an open and standardized format that allows multiple manufacturers to provide tape drives, tape libraries and data cartridges. This competitive environment encourages vendors to produce high quality products at competitive prices, ultimately providing a lower overall cost of ownership for end users.  
  • More tools in the data protection toolbox.  With complete data protection solutions that include a disk-based front-end for instantaneous access to short-term data and a tape-based back-end for high-capacity storage of long-term data, and improved data management software that accommodates these disk-to-tape solutions, tape really shines by doing what it does best ... affordably storing large amounts of data.
In the last decade the maturation and stabilization of the tape market has addressed many of the concerns that led some users to dislike tape.  The "I hate tape" and "I want tape out of here" attitudes that I sometimes encounter are residual emotional backlashes to previous negative experiences with tape -- some of which were the result of improperly implemented archive and backup configurations and tape formats being used in settings where they really did not belong.

I have come to understand that many of the problems that people perceive tape to have either no longer exist; can be mitigated with proper data management techniques; or, can be overcome with the use of reliable tape libraries such as those provided by Overland Storage.  So, not only is it premature for anyone to assume that tape is unreliable or impractical for use in today's world, it might be that tape's best days lie yet ahead.
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