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Pros and Cons of Linear Tape Open (LTO) for Long-term Content Archiving

Pros and Cons of Linear Tape Open (LTO) for Long-term Content Archiving

Originally developed in the late 1990s, LTO (Linear Tape Open) is a magnetic tape data storage technology that offers extensive storage for a variety of applications comprising, long-term archive, data back-up, high-capacity data transfer, and offline storage almost over the past two decades.

The LTO technology has shown vast up gradation with new features added to its subsequent generations (1 – 8) including write-once, read-many (WORM); data encryption; and partitioning to enable a Linear Tape File System (LTFS) that aids in enhancing its overall performance in terms of storage capacity, speed, data transfer rate (MBps), digital encoding methods and compression techniques.

An overview of the LTO generations is depicted hereunder:

LTO TypeYear of IntroductionGenerationNative CapacityCompressed CapacityCompression RatioData Native Transfer RateCompressed Data Transfer Rate

LTO-1

20001100 GBup to 200 GB2:120 MBps

40 MBps

LTO-2

20032200 GB400 GB2:140 MBPS

80 MBPS

LTO-3

Late 20043400 GB800 GB2:180 MBPS

160 MBPS

LTO-4

20074800 GB1.6 TB2:1120 MBPS240 MBPS

LTO-5

201051.5 TB3 TB2:1140 MBPS280 MBPS

LTO-6

201262.5 TB6.25 TB2.5:1160 MBPS400 MBPS
LTO-7201576 TB15 TB2.5:1300 MBPS

700 MBPS

LTO-8

2017812 TB30 TB2.5:1360 MBPS

750 MBPS

Pros & Cons of data storage on LTO

Pros:

Storage Capacity & Costs

Archival on LTO for industries dealing with huge data size costs cheaper & effective as compared to storage on internal hard drives. The LTO Data Archival has shown rapid growth in sectors like media, entertainment, data analytics, science where there is a continuous flow of data throughout the operations. With the advent of the latest generation LTO-8 (as depicted above), one can store 12TB of uncompressed data @360 MBPS data transfer rate and 30TB of uncompressed data @ 750 MBPS on a single taped costing about $100.

Life Span/Durability

The LTO cartridges offer extensive lifespan with an average cycle of 30 years along with high-end backup & recovery throughout its life cycle.

Data Mobility

Transferring voluminous data through networks is an expensive & time-consuming process and may also lead to data crash /corruption in cases of any link or interoperability failures. Also, there are probabilities of unauthorized data access over the internet acting as a great threat towards the confidentiality of data.

LTO, on the other hand, provides an easy & rational means of data exchange physically over tape from one location to another.

Technology Upgrade

The LTO technology has shown remarkable growth since years with new releases every 2 to 3 years highlighting expansion in storage capability, increased data transfer rate & advancement of data compression & encryption solutions.

The LTO Program group has laid a product timeline with new releases up to LTO-12 delivering incremented storage capacity and performance growth.

Disaster Recovery

As backup data stored on LTO are preserved offline, the data is safe from any sort of virus attacks or malware and whole data can be restored as per necessity & requirements.

Cons:

Operational costs

The overall operational cost in Tape based archival is comparatively high as the cost of LTO drives that are used for digital recording in order to store data on magnetic tapes, range from $2000-$3500 and that may rise up for enterprise versions.

Keeping up with the technology

LTO1 was introduced in the year 2000, 12 years later LTO 6 was introduced, so a new version every second year. Typically what happens is that LTO’s are migrated every second generation since the writer and the reader only support 2 or 3 generations of tapes. If we record on LTO 6 and leave it on the shelf for 60 years there will for the guarantee not be a reading device available and with a very high probability, most of the data will be gone.

Tapes are not random access like hard drives

The LTO drive that does a digital recording of data on magnetic tape is only capable of moving tape in a single direction. As such, only sequential access storage can be possible in tapes. This adversely affects the speed of storage & retrieval of data due to its constraints of linear technology.

Due to limitations of linear technology, if new data is inserted/existing data modified in between leads to erasure of data beyond the point of insertion or modification. Data has to be necessarily added to tape right from the point of last written sector to avoid any deletion of existing data. This sometimes leads to data replication and also minimizes the optimal use of storage space of LTO tapes.

Conclusion:

Whether LTO and LTFS are optimum for storage depends on the amount of data that need to be archived and also their frequency of access by end users. There is no doubt that LTO is an ideal media for the offline preservation and protection of data for completed projects. LTO’s exclusive features make it too competent for long-term data retention and content archive applications.

LTO-tape data backup seems to be more consistent, durable, and cost-efficient for data archiving in long-term supported by an offsite tape vaulting service.

LTO Tapes serve as a better option for archiving huge amount of data in long-term especially for those industries that produce a substantial amount of data all through its lifecycle as media, entertainment, survey, medical records, verdict, library etc.

Whereas in-house disk system-or even cloud storage-can work efficiently for data that needs to be accessed frequently under low access latencies. Also, the ability for random access & modifications of existing data stored in disk minimizes the chances of data replication.