Here’s why tape storage is anything but dead

(Image credit: Shutterstock / kubais)

Companies in the tape storage space have had to suffer repeated claims that challenger technologies will soon make their products obsolete, but new figures paint a different picture.

According to data collated by the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program, the organization behind the popular magnetic tape format of the same name, more than 105,000 PB (105 million TB) of LTO tape capacity was shipped last year.

Although the figures are down slightly from 2019 (a record-breaking year), when the disruptive effects of the pandemic are factored in, the latest shipment volumes begin to paint a sunnier picture.

"Despite the unexpected headwinds for many segments of the technology industry produced by the pandemic, overall LTO tape paucity shipped in 2021 was strong in context,” said Eric Bassier, Senior Director at tape vendor Quantum.

“We are optimistic that there will be a return to the prior capacity growth trend in 2021 as companies return to making storage purchases, account for new trends requiring stronger security measures, and we continue to see shifts in purchases from older to newer generations of LTO tape.”

Demand for tape

One of the main factors driving tape investment, the industry suggests, is the rise in the volume and potency of ransomware attacks, whereby criminals encrypt business data and demand a ransom in exchange for its release.

New vulnerabilities brought about by the rise of remote working (such as shoddy cyber hygiene among home workers and additional strain on IT teams) are thought to have contributed significantly to the rise in frequency of ransomware attacks of late.

While many criminals now also exfiltrate data to use as leverage in negotiations, in some instances, businesses are able to recover without negotiating with the hackers thanks to comprehensive backups.

As the LTO Program explains, tape acts as an important weapon in the data backup arsenal; because it is not internet-connected, tape is immune from software-based threats that might compromise other forms of backup.

“LTO tape continues to keep pace with the IT market as current and emerging users discover new ways to incorporate it into their data protection practices,” noted Phil Goodwin, Research Director at analyst firm IDC.

“With the native ability to provide air gap and fast restore, LTO tape will continue to be a core component of data management best practices.”

Although the development of next generation LTO tapes has hit a few snags, LTO-9 tapes are set to launch later this year, delivering per-cartridge capacity of up to 45TB (compressed), as well as improvements where transfer speeds are concerned.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.