Are Tape Backups Still Used in 2024? Absolutely!

Did you know that magnetic tapes are still used for backing up storage in 2024? Find out how large and small businesses are using them to protect their valuable data.

What is tape backup?

If you were to Google “magnetic tape backup” right now, you’d probably find a heap of articles declaring that tape is dead. But the fact is that digital tape use is actually on the rise, and the Tape Storage Council even reports that shipped tape capacity grew by five times from 2008-2018. The continuing trend of tape backup in 2024 is driving that growth.

Tape backup, in simple terms, is the backup of data onto digital tape for short- or long-term storage purposes. Many types of media, libraries, and even servers can be backed up to magnetic tape storage. These tapes can either be stored on-site or taken to an offsite storage facility for an extra level of data protection. But the benefits of tape, such as longevity, affordability, and reliability of backup to tape, are making most large businesses take notice of this technology once again.

Backup to tape does require some investment. While tape itself is very affordable, a business would still have to invest in backup tape drives. And tape also fell out of favor in the 1980s because the speed of hard disk drives surpassed it, and now cloud storage. Recording data to tape also takes time and needs to be done by a technician.

Nevertheless, the year 2024 has witnessed a resurgence in the adoption of tape backup solutions for enterprises, and this trend is backed by compelling reasons.

Why should businesses consider tape backup in 2024?

Why would businesses be looking into this old technology today? After all, magnetic tape backup was created back in the 1960s – certainly, things have improved by leaps and bounds since then.

Hard disks and cloud computing have indeed become the data storage methods of choice for most individuals and businesses. Both are fast and non-linear, allowing users to upload and download data quickly and easily. Tape, on the other hand, is linear, and that can make it hard to search for specific data.

<>However, large businesses will find that there is a lot to find useful in data backup tapes. Compliance with data storage regulations can be a huge burden for large companies handling massive amounts of data. Keeping old data around for years on disk drives or in cloud storage requires a large monetary investment and also uses energy.

In contrast, tape storage is cheaper, and tapes don’t need to be plugged in. They are a good option for archives and data that doesn’t have to be accessed frequently, which is normally the case for compliance storage. They also have excellent longevity. When kept offsite in a secure storage facility, backup tapes can provide excellent protection of data from cybercrime or damage due to fire or natural disasters. Imagine a flood or fire destroying an entire campus. Data stored off-site on tape can be used to help the business recover from this disaster quickly, letting business return to usual as quickly as possible. Insurers of large companies know these benefits and have lately shown a preference for tape storage as a viable option for data backup.

What are the main advantages of using tapes for backing up data?

We’ve seen some of the benefits of tape backups as well as the downsides of this technology. It can certainly be slower in recovering specific data than alternatives to tape backup like hard disks and cloud storage. However, many of the world’s leading companies have chosen tape backup because the advantages simply outweigh the disadvantages.

Here are the main reasons why tape backup is such a good option:

Magnetic tapes are more physically resistant

The longevity of cloud storage is entirely dependent on the survival of the company providing it. If your storage provider were to go under today, your data could all be instantly lost. Hard disks provide more stability, but these tend to degrade more quickly than tape, many only lasting between five to ten years.

On the other hand, magnetic tape can last 30 years or more if kept clean, dry, and protected. Tapes do need to be kept away from dust, sun, and humidity in order to last this long, and they do require maintenance and periodic cleaning. However, if you need your data to last for decades, tape is still the best choice. And now, with AI-enhanced data mining helping so many businesses find important advantages, your old data may be more valuable than ever, so the longer you can store data, the better.

At Corodata, we use Firelock vaults to provide our clients with state-of-the-art media storage. Our vaults statewide have been designed and tested to withstand extreme levels of heat and humidity, all with the intention of protecting the contents inside at all times.

Backup tapes provide redundancy

To protect against loss or corruption, data needs to be protected properly, and this can include redundancy. A hard and fast rule in data storage is the 3-2-1 rule which can be explained like this. An enterprise should store at least three copies of its data in at least two formats, with at least one of these storage methods being held offsite.

If your business already uses hard disks to store data on-site, tape can be an excellent second system, especially for off-site storage. Tape is cost-efficient and, of course, totally mobile. Once tapes are recorded, they can be transferred to a storage facility at any time. And keeping tapes in storage doesn’t require the same resources as a hard disk backup. While hard disks are kept plugged in and running, using electricity and producing waste heat, tapes are kept in their storage cases and only need to be placed in computer tape drives when they need to be read. This redundancy helps to protect your data from physical risks at your premises by not storing all of your data in one place.

Magnetic tapes are less costly

Magnetic tape backup isn’t free. It requires investment in tape drives and personnel to operate them. You also need to pay for storage in a safe and secure facility. However, the tape itself is much more affordable than disk or cloud storage. Right now, it’s estimated to be three to four times cheaper than disk storage. And it’s also becoming more and more affordable as its storage capacity increases.

The most popular format for data storage, LTO (linear tape open), has a current capacity of 19 terabytes of native storage and up to 45 TB of compressed data. If you’re already surprised by how much that is, consider that this is projected to double by the next generation of LTO and reach 144 TB native and 360 TB compressed capacity within three generations. This will dramatically increase capacity while lowering the physical space needed to store tapes.

Greater security against certain threats

Aside from cost-effectiveness, the biggest reason to store data on tape backups is that they’re simply more secure than hard disks and cloud storage. Cybercrime continues to rise, with malware and ransomware attacks becoming ever more prevalent. Data is worth money, and cybercriminals continue to find ways to get their hand on it.

But with tapes, they simply can’t reach the data. This is because, except when they’re being recorded or read, tapes are kept disconnected, physically separated from any networks or computers by an air gap. In addition, data on tapes can still be encrypted to prevent anyone from simply getting their hands on the physical tapes and copying the data. For businesses with sensitive data, this makes backup tape storage a preferred solution for protection against cybercrime.

Who else can benefit from tape backups?

While tape backup makes sense for most large businesses because of its scalability, affordability, and high level of security, they’re not the only ones looking again at this older but reliable technology. Small businesses can also take advantage of tape backup though their methods might be different than those used by large businesses.

Small businesses might keep their day-to-day data stored in the cloud and on hard disks but use tape archival storage to keep older data long-term, possibly for compliance reasons. With small businesses that have limited storage needs, it may be smarter to invest in a more accessible format like DAT (digital audio tape) which can be managed in-house to keep a small tape backup library.

Tape backup for homeowners is equally viable; anyone with a computer can consider taping a redundant storage option. As long as you have access to a magnetic tape drive, you can backup data from any system and keep it safely stored for years.

Find your tape backup solutions

Tape backup is a viable, affordable, and reliable way to backup data, even in 2024! Using tape backup can reduce the high costs of storing data for compliance and provide a safe and secure buffer to protect data against cybercrime and natural disasters. And that’s why tape backup will be a rapidly growing industry this year.

Tape backup can be done in-house, but most large enterprises opt to use a professional tape backup service for their storage needs. Companies like Corodata can provide professionally managed off-site data storage for big businesses and small business tape backup solutions, making this technology accessible to everyone. Our temperature and humidity firelock vaults are tightly controlled to meet long-term storage requirements. If you need a better way to store your data, reach out to Corodata for tape backup services and suggestions today. That way, even in the event of a ransomware attack, malware strike, or any other hard-drive failure, a copy of your data will be kept safe and secure.