Many industries are faced with growing amounts of information that needs to be protected and stored for longer. With data becoming a crucial part of business, you need something big, stable and secure to backup and archive your data onto
A tape drive is a data storage device that reads and records digital data, and writes on to a magnetic tape. Magnetic tape data storage is typically used for offline, long term archiving.
A tape drive provides sequential (linear) access storage, unlike a disk drive, which provides random access storage. A hard drive read/write head can move to any position on the disk in a few milliseconds, but a tape drive must physically wind tape between reels to read any one particular piece of data. This means that tape drives have very slow average seek times. However, once the tape is positioned for sequential access, tape drives can stream data very fast.
Tape drives range in capacity from just a few megabytes to hundreds of gigs of uncompressed data.
Because data can be compressed to take up less space, tape drives are often marketed with their compression ratio. The capacity is given with the assumption of a 2:1 compression ratio; so a tape with a storage capacity of 80 GB would be sold as “80/160”. The actual storage capacity is also known as the native capacity or the raw capacity. The amount of compression achieved depends on the type of data being compressed. Some data, like large video files, for example, already use compression technology and cannot be compressed any more. A database, on the other hand, may allow compression ratios better than 10:1.
Tape drives can be connected to a computer with SCSI (most common), Fibre Channel, SATA, USB, FireWire, and a few other interfaces. Tape drives are used with autoloaders and tape libraries which automatically load, unload, and store multiple tapes, increasing the volume of data which can be stored without having to physically change tapes
Magnetic tape, that your data is recorded on, is usually contained in a casing known as a cassette or cartridge- for example, the 4-track cartridge and the compact cassette. The outer shell, made of plastic, sometimes with metal plates and parts, allows easy handling of the fragile tape, making it far more convenient and wear-proof than having spools of exposed tape. Tape media generally has a good unit cost and offers stable archiving over a long period of time.
The Future: Earlier this year, Fujifilm and IBM announced that they had managed to record 29.5 billion bits per square inch with magnetic tape media developed using the BaFe particles and nanotechnologies allowing for an uncompressed tape drive of 35TB. The technology is not expected to be commercially available for at least another decade.