Is Tape Storage an Effective Modern Backup?

A study by InformationWeek found 59% of businesses still include tape backup in their backup strategy and 41% have defected to using the cloud, the study also found a trend of users moving away from tape and relying on cloud services for their backups. If you’re still using tape as a backup method it may be time for you to move to a more efficient, reliable and cost-effective backup method.

Tape storage is not an effective modern backup for many reasons. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and the tapes are difficult to manage. This blog post explores why tape storage should be avoided as a modern backup strategy.


We’ve included 5 reasons why tape backup isn’t the best backup solution.

Tape Backup Strategy

Tape is extremely vulnerable to corruption and exposure. Tape is delicate and may become corrupted when exposed to fingerprints, dust, dirt, sunlight, humidity or getting too close to a magnetized object. Once corrupted, your files become unusable, making restoring your data impossible (unless you have another backup method). Tapes physical presence makes them more vulnerable as they can be destroyed by a multitude of factors.

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Theft or Loss

Tape backups are often taken off-site as part of an organizations backup strategy, this makes it easier to get lost or stolen. Again, tapes physical presence makes them more vulnerable to theft or loss as they are easier to access and remove. Many organizations fail to encrypt their data on tapes, this poses a risk as a thief or finder of the tapes now have access to all files on that tape.

Issues with Continuity

Tape backup usually involves the movement of tapes to an off-site location by a staff member or third-party provider. This means the backup is often hours or days behind. When a disaster does occur and backup is needed it may cause issues with missing data and affect your RPO.

Your RTO may also be affected in a disaster as it may take time to get your staff member or third-party provider to return your tape backups to your location and recover your data. These situations pose large problems for your business continuity.

Not Cost-Effective Backup

Tape is rarely the most cost effective backup regime. Tapes are quite expensive once you consider the time to manage a tape backup system, management time of restoring backups and testing, cost of the tapes, cost of the off-site storage and retrieval (even if done by your own staff you will need to calculate gas for driving to storage location and secure facility), depreciation of the hardware, costs associated with powering the hardware, depreciation of software used, the cost of purchasing the hardware and software itself, and several more.

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Relies Heavily on Human Interaction

Unfortunately, running a tape backup requires hands on work. Other backup options allow for more automation, making your IT teams job easier and more efficient. With tape backups requiring so much human interaction, it opens your organization up to more opportunities for human error and is extremely time consuming for your staff. The time your IT staff save by moving to a more time efficient method can be used for other tasks that further the organizations goals and contribute to innovation.


Using tape as a primary backup is risky. The inefficiency and vulnerability of tape backup removes it from the running of effective modern backup strategies. The cloud provides a more reliable, cost effective and efficient backup model. Many however still prefer to use a ‘hybrid approach’, utilizing several backup methods.