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What Is A Tape Library?

There are different ways of storing data and different physical and virtual devices to store it on. In recent years, it has been understood in the minds of many that the primary means of data storage has been on hard drives, with clouds gradually coming in to gain popularity because of their convenience and the security of being able to keep data away from physical objects.

However, there is also a largely forgotten element of the data storage world, and that is the use of tapes. Although it may seem to young people that these were things used by their parents or grandparents that no longer serve any particular purpose, this is not the case. In fact, tapes and their associated libraries are still very much in use these days, and they have recently been developing into exciting new forms.

The history of storing material on tape

Tape libraries (otherwise known as tape silos) involve the storage of tape drives. A tape drive is a device that stores data on a magnetic tape. They are primarily used for backup and storage.

Tapes have been around, in some form or another, since the 1950s. The original cassette tapes, used for audio storage, are formally known as compact cassettes, or musicassettes as their original purpose was to store music. We who grew up in the 80s remember them as simply “cassettes” or perhaps “cassette tapes.” They were able to be purchased either blank, for recording purposes, or with written material on them. You had to be careful with your cassette player, though, so that you didn’t accidentally hit the record button while listening to your favorite music and inadvertently end up recording your little brother talking over the music.

The audio cassette tape eventually developed into VHS (video home system) tapes that stored both audio and visual material. These tapes contained the same ability to record and re-record at will. Given these now primitive-seeming original purposes, people might be tempted to think that tape storage has gone out of fashion. But this isn’t necessarily true. The virtues of tape storage will be explained further below.

What is the difference between tape storage and hard drive storage?

Tape drives are containers for tapes. They contain data stored on celluloid material. The difference between a tape drive and a hard drive is that tape drive material can only be accessed in a sequential manner. Those of us who are old enough to remember cassette tapes remember frantically trying to forward and rewind tapes to just the right spot so that we could hear our favorite line of the latest song. Navigating one’s way through the tape necessarily required moving through the sequence to find any given spot.

The underlying component of the tape drive is the tape cartridge. The cartridge is inserted into the drive, which is then inserted into the library.

Hard drives, on the other hand, store data in a uniform, non-sequential manner. Any piece of datum can be accessed at will, without having to find its place in a sequence.

The continued use of tape drives

Considering these particulars, it may seem given that hard drives (and at this point, virtual drives) should be the unquestionable favorite when it comes to data storage. However, tape drives are sometimes considered more reliable means of storage because of their reliability.

Hard drives can be subject to problems as a result of electrical issues, viruses, or other types of corruption. Tape drives, on the other hand, carry no such risk. Some experts say that tape storage can be up to five times more reliable than hard drive storage.

So it is not uncommon for tapes to be used for storage purposes. They are also considered to be more cost-effective than hard drive storage. A surprisingly large number of companies use tapes for either primary storage or as a secondary backup means.

Tape libraries and virtual tape libraries

Tape libraries, then, are repositories for storing tape drives. They can vary in size with larger libraries containing potentially thousands of tape drives. They contain barcode systems that allow people to find tapes, either for the purpose of finding data, or writing onto them.

The next advancement beyond the tape library is the virtual tape library (VTL). In the VTL, the virtualization process takes the data of a tape and transfers it directly to a virtual platform, bypassing the need for a hard disk. Data is then stored on a cloud using a magnetic tape-based foundation.

In the VTL, backups and recovery are performed at an even faster rate than on traditional tapes, and with fewer potential issues in the process.

Virtual tape libraries are a good alternative (or addition) to standard tape libraries. With VTLs, you’ll get the advantages of tape library storage – reliability, longevity, and cost-effectiveness – along with the added security of storing your data in a cloud. This option allows you to bypass many of the potential bugs and other associated problems connected to hard drives and rest assured that your data will remain unscathed in a secure virtual environment.


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