As the amount of data continues to grow exponentially, the need for scalable and affordable data storage is increasing. The best possible data provision is essential, and this starts with the choice of an appropriate type of storage. Is it as simple as storing hot data on SSD and cold data on tape? Sadly, no. You first have to know exactly which data it is and how it is used. The answer is to have more information about the storage media mentioned.
Solid State Drive (SSD): advantages and disadvantages
This relatively young medium is used to store data permanently on memory chips. This makes the SSD faster and more economical than HDD, for example. The lack of moving parts means that access to the data is extremely fast (barely 0.1 millisecond). The SSD is compact, quiet, and resistant to shocks and overheating. Because it quickly reverts to its inactive position, the SSD is relatively energy efficient.
If used intensively for several years, its speed decreases noticeably, however. Without power (offline) the electrical charge stored in the SSD becomes weaker. The consequence can be corrupt data which cannot be repaired. The current maximum storage capacity is 8 TB. And despite sharp price reductions in recent years, the price per gigabyte is still relatively high.
Data storage on tape has been around for over 70 years. After the introduction of Linear Tape Open (LTO) technology at the end of the 1990s, its use accelerated. This type of sequential magnetic storage makes use of open standards. Due to success factors such as reliability, capacity, sustainability and the low price per unit, tape is still a highly regarded storage medium which can be designated as ‘high end’.
Furthermore, offline storage is a powerful weapon against cyber criminality: advanced encryption keeps data secure. And it can still be read 30 years later. The LTO roadmap guarantees the regular appearance of new releases. The most recent is LTO 9 with tape capacity up to 18 TB (compressed 45 TB).
In contrast to disks, tapes do not need to stay constantly switched on. This ensures that they have a much smaller environmental impact. The carbon emissions generated during the lifecycle of tapes can be up to 95% less than in the case of HDD, for example. The lower cost of long-term storage is the biggest advantage. Combined with the high capacity, tape storage is ideal for storing large amounts of data.
Another advantage is the storage life and durability of tapes. Conditions need to be fairly constant but do not have the extremely narrow margins in which old tapes for storing images and sound (and cultural and historical archive material) had to be kept. Moreover, the tapes have been technically developed and produced such that they can also be transported (to an off-site location, for instance).
Points to consider in relation to data storage on tape
Needless to say, tape storage also has points to consider. One of the most commonly heard criticisms is that the data is not immediately accessible and retrieving or adding data takes more time compared to an SSD. In addition, it remains a physical and ‘interchangeable’ medium which, apart from the many advantages described above, is considered to be an anomaly in the data centre of the current digital age.
Tape as a compliment to SSD
When choosing an appropriate type of storage, the purpose and use are the determining factor. The SSD is made for speed and active use of the data. It is simply unsuitable for long-term offline backup. This is tape’s strength. Tape remains popular for backup and archiving due to its capacity, cost and reliability.
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