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The Reports of Tape’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

by on December 11, 2009

Tape as a storage medium has been pronounced dead as often as paper has as a medium for documents. Those pronouncements from so-called experts don’t seem to have prevented the $3 billion printer industry from turning a tidy profit every year or from continuing to introduce new products.


Tape system makers may want to take note of that phenomenon.


While tape has its detractors—and has had them since the days of the CLOAD—the medium seems to have a knack for sticking around, evolving to meet the needs of the marketplace and is likely to do so for some time.


Companies that have made substantial investments in tape systems aren’t in a hurry to send them to the scrap heap. In fact, they can play a role in a data center’s storage architecture.


One way companies have attempted to preserve the value of their tape systems is by altering their role by moving them from the backup tier of company operations to the archival tier. And this makes sense when you consider tape can have a shelf life of up to 30 years, is extremely portable for off-site storage and costs about $1 per gigabyte. In fact, for long-term storage, disk is 23 times more expensive than tape.  


Instock, Inc. wrote a nice piece about tape’s advantages back in July . They state:


“Disk and tape storage are really designed to address different application requirements (short term vs. long term storage) and reliability comparisons should account for these differences. Tape drives and tape media have a proven track record of longer useful life than disk products, making them more suitable for long-term data retention requirements: predetermined content, compliance and archive functions.”


Of course, many point to the time it takes to recover data from tapes for eDiscovery purposes.  This is particularly important when you consider that FRCP only gives organizations 30 days to respond to eDiscovery requests. 


But this is a moot point if you have taken the time (and if you haven’t you should) to institute a system to manage all your archived data and media.


So although there are many Chicken Littles out there telling us that the sky is falling concerning the viability of tape, I don’t think it is going anywhere any time soon.


What’s your take? Where do you think the industry is heading in terms of storage media?

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