Is Tape Still Better than HDDs or SDDs?


I can Still remember the Early days of HDDs, when 25 Mb (Yes that is Mega Byte) was amazing. This was in the era of the Cassette Tape used to store digital programs or Floppy Disks (360 k) being bigger than tapes to also store data. 25 Mb was an unheard capacity that the average user would never reach. Now if your storage drive (HDD, SSD, CF, SD, Ect.) doesn’t have the Gigabyte (Gb) Range you fall short of storage needs of today.

For comparison needs a Bit is the smallest piece of data a computer can have, only 2 items can be used in it – On or Off. A Byte (b) is a group of 8 Bits organized in a range of 0-255 different combinations. A Kilobyte (Kb) is 1024 Bytes. A Megabyte (Mb) is 1024 Kb. A Gigabyte (Gb) is 1024 Mb. A Terabyte (Tb) is 1024 Gb. A Petabyte (Pb) is 1024 Tb.

HDDThis day and age home computers usually have big HDDs in the Gb Range (500 – 1000). Some power users or Servers use Terabytes (Tb). I have Servers using 12-23 Tb of Storage. One would ask Why so much storage??? That is an easy question to answer, data storage needs need to store more and more data in our digital age. Good examples would be the better digital hi-def cameras, they used to be in the Kb range and now they are in the Mb range. Videos digitally stored onto HDDs take up a lot of storage as well. People now have Digital Media Library’s using up more and more Gb into the Tb range. I for one overflowed one of my personal digital media library’s that was stored on a 1 Tb HDD. Now that computer is using a 3 Tb HDD, hopefully it will behave itself.

SSDWill all this mentioning of HDDs, some people would ask what about the SSD (Solid State Drive)??? SSDs use a memory solution to store and retrieve data instead of using the old magnet technology of HDDs. This format (SSD) uses lower power, faster, no moving parts and usually can last longer than HDD. Unfortunately SSDs are not as big as HDDs but cost as much as HDDs, soon they will out due HDDs in price and storage capacity.

Someone asked my will Tape ever come back??? Well Sony thinks it will stay around for a long time (Tape Technology that is). When DAT tapes were used back in the 2000’s for data backup of coöperate data (Due to the amount of data needed to back up) tape technology was the only storage capable of storing that much (usually 10-20 times more than the current HDDs), the only problem was the accessible nature of the tape. The tape backed up a chuck of data in a session, not like the HDDs/SSDs which use random access to store / retrieve the data. In a backup environment the tape copies all the data (say in the selected folders of a server) in one session on a per-scheduled setup (like once a week). If you needed all the data or just 1-2 files the operator only needed to access the tape with the backup software and restore that data needed. Not fast access but secure access and tapes can be locked away in a secure area for long-term needs. HDDs say 10 years ago surpassed tape storage thus needing more and more tapes to back up a server in one session, not very practical. That is until now….

TapeSony has now brought out a Tape that can store up to 185 Tb on one tape (Wow). And that puts HDDs / SSDs to shame. Now companies using this tape tech can now go back to backing up their servers with one tape. I know from experience that when more than one tape is used the tapes have to stay in order or they become useless. Its like the old FORTRAN Programming Cards, a good program was usually 50-200 cards in correct order… it just took one to be out-of-order and the program was crap. IT was the same for the Tapes, just one out-of-order and it took days to retrieve the data. With this new Tape from Sony, 185 TB can back up multiple servers (in a small company setup) or a big server (as in huge companies).

Some companies forgo tapes altogether and use SSDs to run the current data (for speed) and HDDs to back up all the data (for long-term storage). Which solution is best for you??? Depends on what you find important and what you can afford to spend on your backup data solutions. The old Storage Mantra is the more the better. Currently HDD technology is great but moving parts fail (Spinning Platters with Magnetic Heads moving back and forth), SSD storage can be lost by a random power surge and Tape is Tape, like the early days of tape it can stretch or shrink causing data loss.

The best solution I see now is HDDs in a RAID 5/6 configuration. This allows a group of HDDs to be configured as a bigger drive with fault tolerance, if one or more drives fail then after replacing the defective drives you data is restored. I know it sounds like magic but remember it takes a minimum of 3x HDDs the same size configured as 1.8 the size of the 3x total capacity, it sounds like a loss of space but that where the fault tolerance comes into place.

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