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Tapes make a comeback

Why Big Data is increasing demand for an ageing technology.

We’ve blogged before about Big Data and the Cloud, and it is well known that both markets are growing at an astonishing rate.

The darlings of the sectors tend to be the software developers creating new platforms for accessing and utilising the Cloud, or new methods for collating, analysing and understanding Big Data.

Behind the Big Data buzz, there is a less talked-about industry growing at an equally exciting rate – data storage.


The 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created globally every day need to be physically stored.

It used to be the norm for companies to store their data and back-ups on their own disks, tapes or servers. But because data creation has grown so rapidly in some sectors, providing secure, flexible and cost-effective outsourced data storage has become big business.

For big producers of data, outsourcing storage has significant benefits. Most importantly, using a specialist data centre means companies do not have to manage, maintain, upgrade or expand their own data storage hardware.


While hard disks might be the first sort of digital storage that springs to mind, the Big Data revolution has also sparked a renewed interest in the oldest storage technology available – tape.

Tape is typically used to store ‘cold’ data that does not need to be frequently accessed. However, it also has advantages over hard disks when it comes to storing very large volumes of data:

  • Speed of access. Data tapes are accessed from an archive by a selecting machine. Selecting a tape can take about 40 seconds. But data can be extracted from the tape four times faster than it could read from a hard disk.
  • Reliability. If a tape snaps, it can be spliced back together, usually restricting the loss of data to no more than a few hundred megabytes. When a hard disk fails, it is not unusual for all the data it contained to be lost.
  • Longevity. Tapes can still be read reliably three decades after something is recorded on them. For disks, that figure is around five years
  • Cost. Tapes are cheaper to buy than hard disks, and do not need power to preserve the data held on them. Disks must be kept continually spinning in a temperature-controlled clean room.
  • Security. Data that could be erased from hard disks in a matter of minutes would take years to delete from tapes.


Oxford Capital is already closely linked with Big Data and the Cloud, through our investments in companies like iJento and Abiquo. We have now invested in data storage, by backing digital archiving company Arkivum. You can read more here.