Tape Remains Important Component of Data Management Strategies

Daniel Jan


Have you heard of the “zettabyte apocalypse?”

It’s a term coined to describe how organizations must be prepared to increase storage to an additional 40 to 60 zettabytes of data (per most analysts’ predictions) over the next four years or risk being left susceptible to the type of “apocalyptic” disasters—compliance violations and fines, data loss and theft, etc.—that could run them out of business.

Fortunately, however, tape storage—and most notably, its higher-than-ever level of capacity—is a key component in helping organizations prepare for the coming data influx. According to an April 2017 report from the LTO Program Technology Provider Companies, “a record 96,000 petabytes1 (PB) of total compressed tape capacity shipped in 2016, an increase of 26.1 percent over the previous year.” LT-07, one of the latest iterations of tape, now leads the industry in reliability; its capacity and data rates are growing faster than other storage options; and it is one of the most energy efficient options on the market.

Here’s a few more reasons why more data than ever is being stored on tape:


Bit Error Rate (BER) is a way to express the effectiveness of read ing data from a disk or tape drive. It’s a measure of the total number of expected erroneous bits as compared to the total number of bits received, and it serves to quantify the likelihood of a faulty bit.

LTO-7 is rated at one bit in error per 1×1019 bits read, scoring 1,000 times higher than top-rated HDDs, which are currently rated at one bit in error per 1×1016.   This means the likelihood of even the top-rated disk writing an incorrect bit is 1000x greater than tape.


Tape continues to grow its capacity at a greater rate than other storage technologies. LTO-8 plans to deliver 12.8 TB native capacity and the next iterations are aiming for native capacities of more than 15 TB.

Tape also benefit from a 2.5x compression boost, as most of the data written to tape is compressed. LTO-7 transfers data at 300 MB/sec and the TS1150 at 360 MB/sec, which is significantly faster than the typical 7,200 RPM HDD at 160 MB/sec.

Energy Consumption

One of the greatest benefits of tape is that when it’s not in use (i.e., when data is not being transferred to it) it sits virtually dormant. Not only does that result in greater reliability than disk, which is powered on and is therefore more susceptible to downtime, but also leads to significantly less energy consumption. Most industry estimates place the total energy consumption of tape at 5% that of disk.

Today, as most organizations strive to become “greener” and more energy efficient, tape is proving to be the most logical storage choice.

Media Life

Tape’s longevity is simply unbeatable. LTO tape has a life span of 30 years. By comparison, disk is typically operational from 3 to 5 years before replacement, and LTO tape drives can read the current version and the two prior LTO versions thereby minimizing the conversion effort.


Despite the prevailing media death knells, steady advancements have made tape the go-to backup and archiving choice for organizations worldwide. Its capacity, reliability, lifespan, and energy efficiency remain unmatched, and it should continue to be a superior storage solution far into the future.

In part two of our series on tape, we take a closer look at tape’s planned innovations and learn how it will evolve to meet growing storage needs in the coming years and decades.

For more insights into current trends, usages and innovations within the tape storage industry, check out the State of Tape report from The Tape Storage Council.


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