Magnetic Tape Storage & Magnetic Tape Data Backup

Magnetic tape is an almost indestructible medium that was invented back in the 1940s. Magnetic tape storage is a technology for storing data on a film of plastic coated with a magnetizable material and wound on spools. It is typically used for archiving or long-term storage because it is more durable and has a higher capacity than other storage media such as hard drives or flash drives. Tape storage is also commonly used for backups because it can be easily stored off-site and retrieved in the event of a disaster.

Where are magnetic tapes used?

Big Data is becoming increasingly important in the business world. As more and more companies accumulate large amounts of data, they need to find efficient ways to store and back up this information. Magnetic tape is an efficient and cost-effective way to store large amounts of data, and it is less prone to data loss than other storage methods. This storage medium also has many advantages over hard disk or cloud storage:

  • Magnetic tapes have a very high storage density, so they can store large amounts of data in a small space.
  • They are also relatively inexpensive, which makes them a cost-effective storage solution, unlike the hard disk.
  • In addition, magnetic tapes are very durable, so they can withstand rough handling and harsh conditions.
  • Since they are one of the offline storage media, unlike cloud storage, they cannot be hacked or stolen if you lock them in a safe. So, they are malware resistant

As the world generates more and more data, from social media, customer data, online transactions & co, magnetic tapes continue to have great potential in storing large amounts of data.

MAGNETIC TAPE MEMORY CAPACITY: Data storage without limit

How much memory does a magnetic tape have?

Since the invention of magnetic tape, continuous improvements in materials and manufacturing processes have led to ever greater storage capacities. The latest generation of magnetic tape can store up to 580 terabytes of data (and counting), making it an important part of the global data storage infrastructure.

The first tape drive to support the LTO (Linear Tape Open) specification for magnetic tapes appeared in the early 2000s. At that time, the media had a native storage capacity of only 100 gigabytes and the transfer rate was 20 megabytes per second. The storage density of LTO-1 media was 4,880 bits per millimetre. In retrospect, the performance of these storage media seems stone-age.

The current version, on the other hand, can store up to 12 terabytes of data without compression (with compression: 30 TB) and manages 360 (or 900) megabytes per second. In terms of storage density, the current tapes reach almost 21,000 bits/millimetre, which is a fourfold increase.

This increase in storage density is due to a number of factors, including advances in technology and manufacturing processes. For example, newer magnetic tapes are coated with thinner layers of metal oxide, allowing more data to be stored in a smaller space. In addition, manufacturers have found ways to increase the efficiency of data encoding methods, resulting in a denser packing of data bits on the tape. Thanks to these improvements, magnetic tape remains an attractive option for long-term data storage due to its high capacity and low cost.

LTO 9 magnetic storage capacity

The art of magnetic tape manufacturing currently culminates in LTO-9 magnetic tapes. With advanced technology, these magnetic tapes can offer more storage and faster data transfers. The LTO Consortium is currently working on the future LTO-9 and LTO-10 standards, which focus primarily on increased storage capacity and throughput. LTO-9, for example, offers a native (i.e. uncompressed) storage capacity of 25 terabytes, while LTO-10 is expected to reach up to 48 terabytes. Similar growth rates are expected for writing and reading data. Up to 708 megabytes per second are predicted for LTO-9, while LTO-10 is expected to be able to transfer more than one gigabyte per second of data between tape drive and computer. In addition, both standards will offer improved features related to LTFS, WORM and encryption. We provide a detailed report on LTO magnetic tape technology in the following chapter.

Magnetic tapes before hard disks

As magnetic tape continues to evolve, it is clear that it will remain a viable option for long-term data storage. The advantages of magnetic tape – high capacity, low cost and portability – make it an attractive solution for businesses of all sizes. The ability of this storage medium to increase or decrease capacity as needed makes it a flexible option that can be tailored to the needs of any business. With recent advances, magnetic tape technology is set to continue its upward trend in the coming years.

What is an LTO drive?

One type of data storage that is becoming increasingly popular is LTO (Linear Tape-Open) drives. LTO drives are a type of magnetic tape drive that offers high capacity and fast data transfer speeds. LTO drives use a special type of tape that is wound on two spools. Data is recorded linearly on the tape, hence the name “linear tape-open” LTO drives are available as both internal and external drives and are commonly used for backup and archival purposes.

All about data storage on LTO magnetic tapes

What is data storage on LTO magnetic tapes?

Data storage on LTO magnetic tapes is a method of transferring digital data, such as from your hard disk to an LTO magnetic tape. Roughly speaking, this involves creating a tape backup for your digital data on a magnetic tape. This magnetic tape is kept, and it is possible to pull your data back to your PC at any time.

How is the data transferred to LTO magnetic tapes?

The actual data transfer is similar to that of a USB stick or an external hard disk, with the exception that special software is required for the magnetic tapes. In the first step, we connect the LTO device to the computer on which the corresponding data is stored. Here we can select the folders from the documents, from which we want to create a tape backup. We then transfer the folders to the LTO tape until the tape storage is filled. The storage size depends on the type of tape: up to 2TB for an LTO-5 tape or, if you need more storage, up to 2.5TB for an LTO-6 tape. If this is still not enough, you can compress the storage capacity to increase it. In the last step, the data is written to the magnetic tape by the tape drive and the tape can now be stored safely and long-term for you.

What are the advantages of storing data on LTO magnetic tapes?

Probably the biggest advantage of storing data on LTO magnetic tapes is that this is one of the
most cost-efficient methods of backing up a very large amount of data. Moreover, hardly any other method is as secure as tape backup. After your data has been transferred from your hard disk to an LTO magnetic tape, it is available to you at any time and can be easily restored should anything on your hard disk ever be lost or deleted by you. The tape is also an offline data carrier. This has the advantage that the tape memory cannot be infected by malware. Another advantage is the very small space consumption of a magnetic tape. Compared to the amount of external hard drives that would be needed to store the amount of data on a magnetic tape, the tape takes up hardly any space. The cost efficiency and minimal space consumption make tape storage the optimal method for a long-term archive. This means that large quantities of magnetic tapes can be stored for a very long time. The low space consumption also ensures good mobility. If it is necessary to move the magnetic tapes to another location, this is not a problem.

LTO 5 and LTO 6 at the glance


With the fifth generation of LTO magnetic tapes – the LTO 5 – data storage on LTO magnetic tapes experienced a huge revolution. In this generation, the so-called Linear Tape File System or LTFS for short was introduced for the first time. This system facilitates the transfer from and to an LTO magnetic tape. Data transfer from the hard disk to the magnetic tape and vice versa is easily possible without the need for any other applications. In fact, data transfer from magnetic tape to hard disk through this Linear Tape File System is very similar to data transfer through a USB flash drive or DVD. The various data stored on the tape storage are directly displayed and can be dragged to your PC completely or individually.


The LTO 6 is not only equipped with all the advantages of the fifth generation but also has a larger storage capacity than all previous generations. Thanks to a larger compression buffer, the compression rate for this version is 2.5 to 1, with the original storage capacity of LTO 6 tape storage being 2.5TB and the compressed capacity of the same being 6.25TB. With the previous LTO generations, the compression rate was only 2 to 1.

Tape drives: Tape backup solution for professionals and companies

Tape backup is an increasingly popular option for organizations looking to protect their critical data. This is because it helps IT managers and data center directors with the key infrastructure challenges of the future. It protects all digital data assets from ransomware attacks and meets key compliance requirements. In addition, backup to tape helps manage the rapid data growth associated with Big Data and AI applications.

When combined with other storage solutions, tape backup provides comprehensive data loss protection. Tape backup transfers all or specific data from a digital storage device to a magnetic tape at regular intervals. If storage systems fail, the data is always backed up. Tape backup always offers the option of restoring data and playing it back to the original systems.

The LTO (Linear Tape Open) standard allows magnetic tapes to be used in a variety of drives and tape libraries. Tape backup is also referred to as “offline copy” because there is a physical separation between the magnetic tape and the IT systems. This separation protects data from potential defects in active storage systems and allows for rapid recovery of operations in the event of a system failure. With tape backup, companies can be sure that their important data is protected.

Transfer from the tape drive to the magnetic tape

The tape drive, which is also often referred to as a streamer, works like a cassette recorder in terms of its basic principle. As the name LTO magnetic tape (short for Linear Tape Open Magnetic Tape) already suggests, the writing of the tape by the streamer takes place linearly. The data is written linearly over the entire length of the magnetic tape using a read/write head. In order to be able to proceed more efficiently, the tape drive writes several tracks of the tape in parallel at once in this linear process. For this purpose, the streamer has several
read/write heads arranged side by side read/write heads, which all write to one track of the tape. After the heads have written the entire length of the tape from front to back in this way, they shift a little and make another pass, thereby writing a new set of tracks on the magnetic tape. This process is now repeated until all the tracks on the tape have been completely written.

Conclusion on tape storage magnetic tape

Not only is tape backup cheap and space-saving, it is also one of the safest and most convenient ways to back up your data long-term. All data that you have saved on a magnetic tape can be loaded back onto your computer at any time. The life span of a magnetic tape is about 30 years, and the tape storage has enough capacity to store a very large amount of your data for a long time.