Tape cartridges may last for as long as 30 years if they are properly stored. In addition, many tape storage devices are backward compatible. For example, a tape written by a digital linear tape (DLT) drive, made nearly 20 years ago may be readable on recent DLT drives. Drives that can read nine-track tape from the 1980s are still available. And although many early tape formats are not well supported today, it is possible that tapes made today will be readable on future drives.
Hard drive interfaces may not be as long-lived. The original, tiny capacity drives of the early 1980s that used MFM or RLL interfaces probably can’t be read today because it is probably extremely difficult to find an old PC or a drive interface card that could read it. Parallel ATA (also known as IDE) drives are also well on their way to becoming dinosaurs. But SCSI has been around for more than two decades, and Fibre Channel (FC) has been in use for more than a decade, and they may continue to be around for a while longer. Serial ATA (SATA) is the new kid on the block, and drives as large as 2 TB in capacity are currently available, and it will probably be around for at least another decade. In general, for long-term storage and successful recovery of data, tapes may be the best option.
About this author: Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist with experience editing computer storage publications. He also runs his own networks, is owner and operator of a test lab, has written books about computing topics, and is an MCSA.