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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | Backups and Disaster Recovery | Backup Methods, Devices and Media ]

Tape Drives

Once much maligned as too slow, too expensive and too unreliable, tape is making a big comeback as a storage device in the PC world. Tape is in fact, in many cases, the best backup medium for the average PC user, if you get the right kind and use it properly. The advantages of tape:

  • Capacity: Hard drives keep getting bigger and bigger, and tape is really the only economical backup medium that is of a similar size and growing in capacity to match them.
  • Cost: It is inexpensive, both for the drives and on a per-gigabyte basis for the media. A typical home PC user can buy a drive and enough media to do proper, reliable backups of several gigabytes of data, for less than $300. In fact, it can be done for less than $200.
  • Reliability: Tape is, in general, a reasonably reliable backup medium, provided that the drive is maintained properly and the media are treated with care.
  • Simplicity and Universality: There is a lot of support for tape drives today, and a number of software packages that will support a wide variety of devices. They are usually relatively simple to set up.

Tape is, of course, far from perfect. While reliability is good, it isn't as good on some of the cheaper units as it is on more expensive tape drives. Performance is also less than ideal in many cases, especially when random access is needed to specific files on the tape. Fortunately, this needs to be done usually only when restoring data (backups are large, sequential writes and quite suited to the use of tape drives.) Newer, high-end tape drives such as DLT, in fact have very good performance as well (but again, they are not cheap.)

Next: Removable Storage Drives


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