August 4, 2022

How does tape differ from HDD?

When it comes to data storage and backup, tapes and the hard disk drive (HDD) have already proved their worth as reliable storage media. Continuous technological progress has ensured that both storage systems have become more effective. But which storage type is most appropriate for your organisation? The answer is not cut-and-dried. We can give you a summary of the distinguishing factors, though.

The cost factor

It is impossible to assess the effectiveness of a storage medium without taking account of the cost. A direct comparison per terabyte shows that tape is still the cheapest option compared to other storage media, including HDD: an important factor for organisations that work with large amounts of data.

To be able to effectively compare the cost of tape and HDD, it is a good idea to include any cost associated with data loss and application failure. Compared with tape, HDD offers faster backups and recovery for hot data. When it comes to the storage of cold data, this aspect is much less relevant, and the enormous storage capacity of tape means it is much cheaper.

The innovation factor

Backup methods on disk and tape are constantly being improved. Disk manufacturers focus on increasing the disks’ surface density and capacity. Improvements to tapes include greater capacity and compression, hardware encryption and higher data transfer speeds.

And yet the average hard disk lasts for less than five years due to all sorts of electrical, mechanical and magnetic faults. This makes it ultimately an unstable solution for the long term. Tape on the other hand has error rates four or five times lower than HDD and lasts decades longer. Not just a cost-effective solution, but a reliable one too.

The security factor

In terms of security, innovations in tape and HDD technology focus mainly on protection against cyberattacks. The latest LTO standards include the ‘write-once-read-many’ technology. This ensures that if a ransomware attack takes place, the cybercriminal cannot encrypt the content of the tape. Furthermore, the simple removal of tapes and offline storage ensures air-gapped ransomware protection.

Some disk options imitate this protection with a logical air gap which isolates the storage by removing disk access from host networks. In contrast to a conventional air gap, the storage is not physically removed, however, leaving the risk that a cyber attacker could discover this opening and make use of it.

The archiving factor

The amount of data most organisations have is expected to double every few years. In some cases, therefore, organisations try to keep their storage costs low by deleting rarely used data. But the consequence of deleting old data can be that, because there is a lack of sufficient historical data, the organisation cannot identify a long-term trend.

Tape offers the solution. Organisations can make use of the enormous storage capacity offered by the newer LTO standards and transfer the data they rarely need to cheaper tapes, just as cloud providers use tape storage for their archives.

Cost-effective and reliable: where tape outranks HDD

Nowadays, tape is mainly used for long-term archiving and active archive systems in which data which is only consulted occasionally is automatically transferred to tape. A complete backup plan means that the tapes are stored at various locations, one of which is an external location.

Disks can provide fast recovery of active data, whereas tape is the most cost-effective option for large, rarely used data sets and long-term storage. Furthermore, the physical air gap offered by tape is a powerful weapon against cyberattacks.

Want to find out more about data storage on tape? Feel free to contact us; we’re happy to help.

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