March 20, 2023

The Death of Tape

The lid is closed, but the final nail is not quite driven into the coffin that overflows with backup tapes. But there’s no escaping that the bell has tolled for tape backup. A survey conducted by the Santa Clara Consulting Group revealed that 2012 backup tape and tape drive sales were down by almost 30% when compared to the 2011 figures, indicating a major shift in the backup market. TDK Corporation, one of the industry’s largest suppliers of backup tape media is also withdrawing entirely from the LTO tape business following years of declining sales.

The reason for tape’s sharp decline is simple. Disk-based storage, whether online or local offers many organisations a better way to protect their data and business from downtime and crucially, business loss. Tape has always been vulnerable to damage or destruction through operational error or mishandling. Missing and stolen tapes are also a security threat and stories abound for tapes lost during transport or ‘mislaid’ in the server room. Only recently 267,000 customers at a US bank had their personal details compromised when two unencrypted backup tapes were lost."

For many businesses tape can no longer meet the requirements of customers or regulators. Regulators can stipulate that companies have a disaster recovery/business continuity plan that ensures no more than two hours downtime. Customers can demand that their suppliers have business continuity in place the assures business processes they rely on will not be impacted by a loss of service based on data loss or server failure. The recovery time possible from tape backup fails miserably to meet these guidelines.

Other problems associated with tape include:

  • No Continuous Operation: in the event of a server failure, work conducted on this server will have to stop while it is repaired, disrupting business. Sending someone off-site to retrieve the right tape for recovery can mean further downtime.
  • Lost Data: as backups take place once daily, up to an entire day’s work on that server could be lost.
  • Slow Disaster Recovery: if a disaster prevents access to office based systems, offsite tapes need to be ordered from the library and suitable recovery servers found or built.
  • Backup Window Too Short: As data volume increases the overnight window to secure that data to tape is finite and increasingly too small for many companies. Having the backup process continue into the next working day can slow down production machines ultimately disrupting business.
  • Media Decay and technology updates: While a disk drive can be moved onto a new backup server, the shelf life of tape is limited with new backup equipment being purchased every 3 to 5 years. Even if the tape is still viable after a few years on the shelf, finding a machine to recover from may be a difficult and expensive challenge.

While the days of backup to tape are numbered, the use of disks to power backup, replication and cloud recovery, look set to stay. This alternative provides a quicker, more resilient and safer way to backup data and overcome the problems associated with tape backup.

In brief, disk to disk backup provides a quick way to backup data . But the benefits of recovery of a backup image directly from disk into a virtual environment  are too great to be ignored. Not only does this system allow for periodic backup throughout the day limiting data loss to minutes instead of hours, but the time to recover a system is also measured in minutes instead of hours or even days.  When coupled with replication of the backup image to a data centre providing an additional recovery option from “the cloud” for disaster recovery, it is hard to make a case for continuing to use the outdated, insufficient method of backup to tape.

While the reason businesses choose backup methods are various and no one solution is right for everyone, no business in today’s cut throat environment can afford to be caught short using an outmoded technology when there are others, easily adopted that can more appropriately protect a precious company. Extended downtime or data loss can lead to lost business and breach of regulatory compliance associated with data or continuity can lead to some pretty hefty fines. Making sure you have the right backup and recovery method that meets the operational and legislative needs of your business is vital to its continued health and growth. Talk to DATAFORT for more advice.


DATAFORT provides dependable and secure data protection services that offer enterprise-level functionality with a focus on security and reliability. Its software and services are used by thousands of organisations worldwide, ranging from SMBs through to large enterprises and local government departments. Every hour of every day someone, somewhere backs up with DATAFORT. The company was founded in 2000, is headquartered in Guildford, UK and has offices in London and New York. For further information please visit or call 0800 45 44 35.Guildford, UK and has offices in London and New York.

Press and analyst contacts:

Nabeel Qureshi
01483 872 052