Online Backups Vs. Traditional Tape Drives

February 25, 2018,

Online backup systems and traditional tape drives have been around for a while now but there is a question that still floats around, even today – which is better?


Tape drives cost a lot of money. At the time of writing (Feb 2018) an LTO-4 3TB external tape drive with 30 tapes and proprietary backup software will cost approx. £3,000. Corporates will increase their costs even more by replacing or archiving tapes periodically.

Tape drives need to be upgraded periodically and replaced when they are broken. A tape drive will need to be replaced every 3 years, so working on the above example, the cost is £83 a month.

Online backups, however, don’t have an initial cost outlay and can be used immediately. You are only paying for the software and storage.

You can backup your customers’ data to any cloud operator or your own server via FTP \ SFTP and only pay us for the software.

If you are concerned about the costs, online backups could be better for you because there are no hardware purchase or repair costs, and the human cost is near zero.

Online backups (business users) can check their expected costs on our platform with our calculator. You are only paying for a subscription and not hardware.


When you are using tape drives, someone has to insert them every day. This allows for human error when the designated person forgets to swap the tape or is on holiday.

In addition, the previous day’s tape needs to be stored somewhere safe and secure. Very often backup tapes have been found in the back of a car or with ex-employees. It is very easy for someone to read the contents of a backup tape away from your server and with undesired consequences.

Our online backup service encrypts your data at source and only you know the password. If someone should capture your data during transit, it will be impossible for them to read it. Our data security white paper tells you everything you need to know about our security.

Online backups run all the time and will backup data to the cloud automatically. You can access online backups from any device, allowing you to monitor your backups from anywhere.

Online backups report to one central management console where the IT Admin can check all backup job statuses in one place. Tape backups normally require the IT Admin to connect to each server to check the backup statuses.

If you require 100% automation, online backups would be better for you because they can upload to the cloud automatically. No more changing and finding backup tapes.

Durability of data

Tape drives can be lost, damaged, stolen or lost in a fire.

Online backups are stored on a cloud which means they cannot be destroyed at the same time as the source computer.
In addition, online backups can be encrypted and mirrored to a local USB disk or NAS for improved durability. If you are worried about durability, online backups would be better for you because they cannot be stolen, lost in a fire, or left in the glove compartment of the designated backup Admin’s car.

Speed of backups and restores

Tape drives can be quicker to restore data from because they are local to the server. However, when you try to view a file, the tape has to be scanned to find that file, and this can take a while.

Online backups can take a while to restore data depending on your bandwidth, but you can view files quickly because the underlying media will be hard drives. If you use a local mirror to a USB disk, data can be backed up and restored at LAN speed.

Online backups are a lot quicker and easier to use after set up and only require 400Kbps + to run correctly. You can, of course, schedule backups to run during silent hours and also to use a pre-defined amount of bandwidth at certain times.


Data written to tape drives normally isn’t encrypted. Also, if not disposed of properly, tape drives can be stolen and used.

Data stored by online backups is encrypted.

If you are concerned about security, tape drives would be better if you can have them with you at all times.
Because the data will never be stored on the internet, this will stop online hacking.
People can steal from you but it is extremely unlikely because you have the tape with you at all times, won’t you???

Looking at all of the information, the best type of backup could be online backups.

Reasons why include:

Costs are less with online backups.

Online backups are a lot more secure than tape drives because they are encrypted and tape drives can easily be stolen with the source computer.

Online backups also have an online cloud, which allows sharing of files and data with anyone who you give permission. The cloud also allows for fast backups and restores.

Online backups cannot be damaged because the cloud is self-healing.

Tape drives can be damaged and if damaged at the same time as the source computer, you can’t recover the data.

Have a different opinion? Tell us what you think!

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