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Tape Libraries and Autoloaders

Information is rapidly becoming our most valuable asset as we have become ever more dependent on our ability to store, manipulate and retrieve electronic data. Unfortunately for most of us, the importance of tape backup doesn't become clear until our data becomes lost or corrupted. By that time, the best we can hope for is a speedy recovery.

Backup and restore operations can be very taxing on your IT staff's resources. Managing the daily rotation of media, off-site storage and requests from users to recover lost files can leave your staff struggling to maintain and manage your data resources accurately.

Although you cannot stop backing up your data, solutions are available that can help to automate many of these tasks while delivering easier management, scalability and even better performance.

The most common approach to easing the burden of backup and restore is the tape library or autoloader. There are some subtle differences between these two types of tape units, but for the purposes of this document, we will treat them as the same.

A tape library in its most simple terms is one or more tape backup drives in an enclosure that also contains a robotic mechanism for changing tapes. The enclosure will also have magazines or slots to hold the tape cartridges.

Some of the advantages of these devices are rather obvious. Because a library can change tapes automatically, manual intervention to complete backup jobs will no longer be necessary. In fact, a properly configured library can handle your backup needs for days at a time with little intervention from your IT staff.

A common use of a tape library is for centralized backup and restore. A tape library can have several tape drives and potentially hundreds of tape cartridges so you can use just one to replace the single tape units in dozens of servers. You then run the backup via your LAN, WAN or SAN. This can cut down greatly on the daily maintenance needs of backup and free your IT staff for more pressing tasks.

Even with the implementation of a tape autoloader or library, the need for tape rotation and offsite storage of tapes can be a daunting task. To facilitate this many libraries come with (or have the option of) a barcode reader. When combined with bar coded tape cartridges and a good software application much of the backup and restore operations previously thought to be complex are simplified. Additionally, accuracy and integrity are restored to the process, which creates peace of mind to know that your data backup is handled accurately and efficiently.

If your backup needs are always in flux due to constant storage growth, a tape library can help you as well. Scalable tape libraries are becoming more and more prevalent. You can start out today with a dual drive, 20 tape slot tape library and then when your storage needs grow you can add 20, 40, 60 or more slots and several drives to the same unit. Not only can this save on the initial procurement costs but it can also save you from getting a unit that you outgrow too quickly.

Lastly, a tape library is the solution of choice where performance or high storage capacity is needed. With their ability to hold several tape drives and hundreds of tapes you can find a library to fit your capacity needs that has the horsepower to get your backup or restore done in time.

Perhaps you can see a use for a tape library or autoloader in your environment. If you want to learn more please look at some resources given below.


  • Automated tape changing to reduce management overhead.
  • Barcode readers to simplify tape rotation and off-site storage tasks.
  • Scalability to meet to needs of today and the future.
  • Allows for centralization of backup and restore tasks.
  • Most cost effective solution for high capacity and high performance backup.


  • Tape libraries can be costly, at times outstripping the server itself in price.
  • Centralization on LAN or WAN will impact performance.
  • The best strategy for centralization is a SAN which has a high cost.

How can a tape library or autoloader deliver a good return on your investment?

Autoloaders and libraries save time and money by automating much of the backup, and more importantly restore processes. As important as the direct cost savings, libraries and autoloaders improve accuracy and efficiency with which your offline data is managed. As important as data is to the livelihood of your business, proper offline data management is every bit as important as online. Libraries of today are scalable, which allows you to keep your investment up to date without the need to rebuild as your business needs change.

  • Bar code scanners keep track of tapes accurately.
  • Centralized management, backup jobs execute and complete without intervention, high level of backup success.
  • Disaster recovery capabilities, simplified management.


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