Considerations in choosing a backup tape drive

Considerations in choosing a backup tape drive

By Steve Richardson, VP of Marketing, Overland Data

The benefits of tape automation are plentiful: massive increases in available capacity, better data protection with automated backup procedures to eliminate operator errors, and increased drive reliability through robotic media handling.

While some of the newest tape drives have been specifically designed to ease implementation into automated environments, virtually all tape formats may be found in automated products. A customer should keep in mind that the duty cycle capabilities of tape drives differ significantly.

Using a tape drive in an automated environment with too low of a duty cycle capability in an application will result in drive failures due to the drive literally "burning out." The technical specifications of a tape drive indicate how high of a duty cycle in which it will best operate.

The specifications that will assist you in matching the best drive for your application include:

  • MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures, hours), recording head life (hours)
  • MSBF (Mean Swaps Between Failures, cycles)
  • Media durability (number of passes)

The MTBF for tape drives for entry to mid-range automation applications is usually rated at a 20% duty cycle and ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 hours. Drives that are in this category include: Travan NS and DDS.

Drives capable of high-duty cycle applications are usually rated at 100% duty cycle and around 250,000 hours or more of MTBF. Drives capable of medium to high-duty cycle applications include: DLT, SDLT, AIT, Mammoth, LTO Ultrium, 9840 and MagStar.

About the author: Steve Richardson is the vice president of marketing at Overland Data

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This was first published in February 2001
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