Magnetic storage sees record-breaking sales as ransomware attacks increase

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,527   +1,059
Staff member
In a nutshell: If you are at least as old as me, you might remember back to the days when magnetic tape was the only option for computer storage. Those memories are not fond ones for me — having to wait an hour to load up a video game was not fun. However, tape storage has not gone away. In fact, it is seeing a surge thanks in part to ransomware.

Hard disk drives (HDD) replaced magnetic media decades ago because of their speed, and now solid-state drives (SSD) are poised to supplant HDDs for precisely the same reason. However, Linear Tape-Open (LTO) devices, which came out in the 1990s, are still in use by many companies.

Today, LTO drives are primarily used as a backup storage solution because they are far too slow for anything else. A typical use case is to start a backup at the end of the workday, and it completes after several hours overnight. Keep in mind these LTO cassettes are nothing like the ancient Commodore cassette drive from your childhood. The latest LTO 9 cartridges can hold up to 45TB.

Interestingly, last year, LTO solutions saw a record-breaking surge in sales, with companies like HP, IBM, and Quantum reporting more than 148 exabytes of tape having sold. Sweclockers notes it as a 41-percent increase over 2020 and a 30-percent spike over the previous sales record of 114 exabytes sold in 2019 (below).

The Swedish outlet contends that the rise in magnetic media sales is partly due to the increase in ransomware attacks. Using LTO drives creates an "air gap" in storage because the device is offline and, in my experience, often off-site.

So the only way an attacker could destroy a company's data entirely would be to physically break into where the LTO is stored and either copy or delete the data off of numerous cassettes — a process that would take far too long to be practical.

However, LTO is not intended as a primary backup solution. Restoring from the drives is just as time-consuming. It also does not protect from attacks threatening to release or sell a company's data. Tape can store massive amounts of information and sit on a shelf for years. Storing it off-site also protects data from being lost to a fire or natural disaster.

Permalink to story.

 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
I'm not doing tape backups again. That's insane. Who would bother to go back to the old ways? Yes, it's more secure, but who has time to wait for those things to finish?
We used to use them - our backups were done overnight... but eventually they took too long to finish in a night so we flipped to doing them weekly (Friday nights)...

Never going back to that... would probably take a month to back everything up - even incremental would take too long...
 

amghwk

Posts: 1,203   +1,127
Just disconnect from the internet before going to sleep and use a normal external HDD to back up and keep it offline.
 

ferrellsl

Posts: 75   +70
This story must be click-bait because no one, other than the Swedes mentioned in the article, are going back to tape storage. You can't even find the media anymore let alone the hardware. And besides, backing up to standard USB hard drives and USB SSDs is so much faster, safer (no tape to get chewed up by the hardware), and more secure as it can be quickly moved to an off-site/off-line location.

I also recall a local company who had been making tape back-ups for a couple years during the 1990s. Unfortunately, no one had been confirming that the back-ups were successful because it was such a slow and painful process, so when they finally had a system failure and had to resort to using their back-up tapes, they were out of business because the drives hadn't recorded any data whatsoever. Not to mention that these days it would literally take rooms full of tapes to store the volume of data most businesses deal with today,

Title of the article needs to be changed to "Morons in Sweden going back to 40 year-old tape tech for back-ups". The figures quoted in the article should be treated as suspect as it looks like Sweclockers is simply trying to promote a business model and tech that's been in decline for the past 35 years.
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,521   +5,372
This story must be click-bait because no one, other than the Swedes mentioned in the article, are going back to tape storage. You can't even find the media anymore let alone the hardware. And besides, backing up to standard USB hard drives and USB SSDs is so much faster, safer (no tape to get chewed up by the hardware), and more secure as it can be quickly moved to an off-site/off-line location.

I also recall a local company who had been making tape back-ups for a couple years during the 1990s. Unfortunately, no one had been confirming that the back-ups were successful because it was such a slow and painful process, so when they finally had a system failure and had to resort to using their back-up tapes, they were out of business because the drives hadn't recorded any data whatsoever. Not to mention that these days it would literally take rooms full of tapes to store the volume of data most businesses deal with today,

Title of the article needs to be changed to "Morons in Sweden going back to 40 year-old tape tech for back-ups". The figures quoted in the article should be treated as suspect as it looks like Sweclockers is simply trying to promote a business model and tech that's been in decline for the past 35 years.
Maybe you should do some basic google work before posting
 

PEnnn

Posts: 803   +939
That's insane!!

That sounds so fancy in theory....till something happens and they need to restore from a 45 TB tape backup....
 
Off-site backup is the cloud with multiple daily restore points, tape backup at the enterprise level is just silly.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 434   +348
A shame there's no industry standard for removable HDs like there is for Blu-Ray, etc.


sure there is - its called a usb hub attached to multiple drives

there hasn't been a premium buying a usb3 drive for a decade now!
 
Last edited:

ypsylon

Posts: 520   +541
Wow, resurrecting tape drives as go-to backup sounds pretty mad today. I agree tapes are more secure, being de facto off-line (often off-site) medium.

But tapes are useful for small scale operations. Not for corporate business which dump gazillion of bytes every hour. 20, 30 years ago yeah tapes were the thing. I had even at home few streamers. Right now I wouldn't go to tape even if somebody paid me good money. Tapes are super slow, they are not as long-lasting as perceived because tape degrade over time either in magnetic field or from numerous operations on it.

I want to see the Board faces when all of corporate data is read from backup tape to restore after ransomware attack, and then tape does its thing - breaks and sends mess of broken spool fragments into the air. Oh the memories...
 

yRaz

Posts: 4,521   +5,372
Wow, resurrecting tape drives as go-to backup sounds pretty mad today. I agree tapes are more secure, being de facto off-line (often off-site) medium.

But tapes are useful for small scale operations. Not for corporate business which dump gazillion of bytes every hour. 20, 30 years ago yeah tapes were the thing. I had even at home few streamers. Right now I wouldn't go to tape even if somebody paid me good money. Tapes are super slow, they are not as long-lasting as perceived because tape degrade over time either in magnetic field or from numerous operations on it.

I want to see the Board faces when all of corporate data is read from backup tape to restore after ransomware attack, and then tape does its thing - breaks and sends mess of broken spool fragments into the air. Oh the memories...
You have billion dollar companies many of which run their own data centers using tape drives. It's not like HDDs are infallible, I frequently buy used datacenter drives on ebay because they have to be swapped out and replaced after so many hours of use. These people probably know something that we don't. On top of that, why can't the just swap out tapes like they do with hard drives?
 

ZedRM

Posts: 1,062   +748
I'm not doing tape backups again. That's insane. Who would bother to go back to the old ways? Yes, it's more secure, but who has time to wait for those things to finish?
We used to use them - our backups were done overnight... but eventually they took too long to finish in a night so we flipped to doing them weekly (Friday nights)...

Never going back to that... would probably take a month to back everything up - even incremental would take too long...
You both misunderstand the technology. LTO9 is not a slow tech. It's actually fairly fast. At 400MB per second(900MB compressed), a tape drive can backup a 4TB drive in a couple hours, a 14TB drive overnight. This tech makes nightly backups a trivial effort. Restoring data is even faster.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
You both misunderstand the technology. LTO9 is not a slow tech. It's actually fairly fast. At 400MB per second(900MB compressed), a tape drive can backup a 4TB drive in a couple hours, a 14TB drive overnight. This tech makes nightly backups a trivial effort. Restoring data is even faster.
Yeah…. That’s not fast… or practical when your data is in the hundreds of TB…
 

ZedRM

Posts: 1,062   +748
Yeah…. That’s not fast…
It's fast enough to do nightly backups
or practical when your data is in the hundreds of TB…
I think you underestimate the scope of the type of platform on offer. For example 16 drive arrays can read/write 14GB per second, and if you multiplex several arrays together you begin to understand the potential.

So yes, this is a viable and efficient backup data storage medium for common users and businesses of all size.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
It's fast enough to do nightly backups

I think you underestimate the scope of the type of platform on offer. For example 16 drive arrays can read/write 14GB per second, and if you multiplex several arrays together you begin to understand the potential.

So yes, this is a viable and efficient backup data storage medium for common users and businesses of all size.
The COST of that is exorbitant! I could be backing it up to numerous HDDs cheaper, faster and more efficiently... not to mention I could restore it quicker...

Tape may still be viable... but viable doesn't mean "preferred".

I could still watch a movie on 8-Track too...
 

ZedRM

Posts: 1,062   +748
The COST of that is exorbitant!
That is a subjective opinion.
Tape may still be viable... but viable doesn't mean "preferred".
For you, maybe.

Yes, the drives are expensive, but the tape carts are not. $160 per 45TB of long term storage? Yes please! Businesses and Corporations would and do welcome such solutions because they are greatly and cheaply expandable.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
That is a subjective opinion.

For you, maybe.

Yes, the drives are expensive, but the tape carts are not. $160 per 45TB of long term storage? Yes please! Businesses and Corporations would and do welcome such solutions because they are greatly and cheaply expandable.
The price for 16 Drive arrays is exorbitant.... we're talking THOUSANDS of dollars per drive here... I could buy 5 20TB NAS drives for the price of a drive (without any tape)...
 

ZedRM

Posts: 1,062   +748
The price for 16 Drive arrays is exorbitant.... we're talking THOUSANDS of dollars per drive here... I could buy 5 20TB NAS drives for the price of a drive (without any tape)...
With no expansion capabilities.

You seem to be overlooking or discounting the utility of that capability. Yes, arrays cost nearly $50,000, but given their capacity and near infinite expandability, long-term costs end up being rather inexpensive.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
With no expansion capabilities.

You seem to be overlooking or discounting the utility of that capability. Yes, arrays cost nearly $50,000, but given their capacity and near infinite expandability, long-term costs end up being rather inexpensive.
You've never used a NAS or rackmount server? Hotswappable drives have been a thing for years... you could buy dozens of extra HDDs for the same cost as tape - and just keep swapping in larger HDDs as you require... or add another NAS/Server... all cheaper, more reliable and faster than tape.
 

TheBigT42

Posts: 660   +687
I'm not doing tape backups again. That's insane. Who would bother to go back to the old ways? Yes, it's more secure, but who has time to wait for those things to finish?

So what is your plan if your backups get encrypted? Look for a new job because you didn't want to be inconvenienced to do your job? Tape doesn't need to be your primary. Our primary is disk that is replicated to off site storage. We also export our weekly backup to tape that is kept in a safe. You need to keep multiple copies of your backup in multiple locations.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 730   +1,159
The price for 16 Drive arrays is exorbitant.... we're talking THOUSANDS of dollars per drive here... I could buy 5 20TB NAS drives for the price of a drive (without any tape)...
According to IBM, the total cost of ownership when using tape backups instead of HDD ones is lower, especially with increased backup sizes. The breakeven point is anything greater than 25 TB backed up. Feel free to drill into it and their assumptions: https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/resources/tools/storage-tco-calculator/
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,981
According to IBM, the total cost of ownership when using tape backups instead of HDD ones is lower, especially with increased backup sizes. The breakeven point is anything greater than 25 TB backed up. Feel free to drill into it and their assumptions: https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/resources/tools/storage-tco-calculator/
When flipping to LTO-9, and leaving it at 100TB, price is about the same... but the calculations on cost are based on the admin side... and they don't factor in convenience or speed...

Tape would be something I'd want as my absolute last resort... never something I would use daily or for restoring anything but total system failures...
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,527   +1,059
Staff member
As others have pointed out, LTO is NOT the same as the tape drives of the 1990s. The other thing to consider is use case. For the most part, this is not a storage solution for your standard system backups. It is meant for long-term storage. Lemme give you one use case I'm familiar with.

I used to work casinos in Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Commission requires casinos to keep win/loss records (among other records) for every gaming machine in the building. When we opened a new casino in 2003, we were on paper backups. The win/loss statements on our 5,000 machines for one day took up at least three file boxes. These records had to be kept for seven years by law. That's 3x365x7=7,665 boxes rotating in and out of a storage facility daily. Switching to LTO eliminated the need for a storage warehouse and the physical carting away of dozens of boxes daily. That data will never be restored to the casino's database. However, if the NGC ever wants to look at the records, it is all there on LTO tape.

That's one of many use cases where LTO is the right solution.
 

BigRedPDX

Posts: 284   +200
So what is your plan if your backups get encrypted? Look for a new job because you didn't want to be inconvenienced to do your job? Tape doesn't need to be your primary. Our primary is disk that is replicated to off site storage. We also export our weekly backup to tape that is kept in a safe. You need to keep multiple copies of your backup in multiple locations.
We have servers that are backed up daily by a third party. I also have offline backups to large hard drives and sometimes multiple. Tapes are an old school way to backup data. That's all I'm saying. I misinterpreted the tech that was described in the article. I've been at this for a very long time and I'm a system admin for a law firm. Backups are important and everyone does them their own way.