This Video Shows What Happens When Backup Tape Dies

This Video Shows What Happens When Backup Tape Dies

Tape still has a role to play in backup, and if handled properly it provides cheap and effective archiving. This video shows what happens when you don’t treat it so well.

The clip was shot in the data management centre for specialist data management firm Spectrum Data. The release accompanying it explains how tape can go wrong:

Tape media in the main is made up of a mylar (plastic) substrate, covered in a binding agent that binds oxide to the substrate. The oxide then forms the data recording layer where tracks of data are written. As tapes age, the binding agent on the tapes (which is hydroscopic) absorbs moisture. The absorption of moisture has two effects. Firstly, the binding agent goes from a hardened material to soft and sticky. Secondly, it causes the tape layers to swell slightly putting massive pressure on the many layers of tape that are wound tightly against each other. The end result (known as stiction) is that the side of the tape holding the data sticks to the back of the layer of tape on top of it and in many cases results in the sticky binding agent simply peeling data off the tape layers in succession below it.

Bottom line: You won’t be getting that data back if this happens. Hit the link to watch the clip.

Spectrum Data


  • *warning*
    Clicking on that link means you will sit there and watch a brown thing go progressively less brown until it is no longer brown at all…

  • I think it’s fairly safe to say that almost nobody stores any worthwhile data on tapes any more.

    Tape backup has been dead for almost a decade.

    • I did weekly tape backups and transport to an offsite location as recently as 2012… I assure you tape is not dead.

      • I guess it all depends on how much you value your data, and how often you perform restores (both real and test).

        One of the biggest problems with tape is that you can’t recover when you need to. Backups are totally useless if you can’t restore. Seen it time and time again. Tape is far more trouble than it is worth.

        If anyone is still seriously using tape backup for data they consider important, good luck to them (really – luck will be needed). Glad it’s not my data 🙂

    • Tape is most definitely not dead. Most large corporates still use tape daily as part of a complete and effective backup and DR solution.

      Tape is also used extensively in the Oil and Gas industry with most seismic acquisitions being recorded directly to tape due to the cost effectiveness and stability of the medium in dangerous environments.

      The restoration of data from tapes recorded in the last 40 years when stored and managed correctly is still around the 90%. As has been said elsewhere, tape has moved from a primary storage medium to archive and long term retention, but is definitely not dead.

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