What Is a Tape Drive?

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There are numerous ways to back up data. One of the simplest is by using a tape drive. Typically utilized for archival storage, these devices read and write data on magnetic tape. Unlike disk drives, which offer random access storage, tape offers sequential access storage. While disk drives are able to move from one position on a disk to another in a matter of milliseconds, tape drives must sequentially move through tape to reach a particular strip of data. This results in slower seek times; however, this storage system has long archival stability and a very favorable unit cost.

About the size of a pack of gum, the tapes used in a tape drive are relatively sturdy. Typically utilized to back up the most vital computer data, tape drives can be built into a computer system or used as an external device. They are also available in a variety of sizes with varying storage capacities. For instance, home and single office uses may demand a drive with the ability to store between 20-80 gigabytes; while computer networks and large servers may require a drive with the ability to hold hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes of data.

The benefits of using a tape-based storage

Obviously, the main function of any storage device is to restore important data when necessary. Tape drives do this well, while providing several advantages, including automatic back up capability, ease of use, and reliability. The user simply inserts the tape into their drive, and within moments, it will be able to back up, protect and restore critical data. Tapes are able to back up more than just single files; they can store folders or whole computer drives. Usually, the software that comes along with the device is intuitive and very easy to understand. Additionally, users can set the drive to back up data at convenient times, such as in the evening or during lunch breaks and other times when the computer may not be in use.

There are a few disadvantages to using a tape-based storage. The back up process can be time consuming. Additionally, unlike online back up services, tape drives require physical intervention. For instance, every so often, the user will need to add new tape and store the used tape in a safe, secure location. Tape drives can also be relatively expensive; however, most users value the peace of mind that comes with knowing their data is safely backed up and will be available in case of an emergency.