In this BlogBytes article, we take a look at where LTO technology has been and where it’s going!.

Who would have thought that tape innovation could come so far! The naysayers, decades ago, were already harping that tape was dead but have been proven wrong time and time again.  


With the release of LTO-9, and the ability to build data protection systems that utilize new 18 TB (native) or 45 TB (2.5:1 compression), the LTO format has made another impressive leap forward in terms of capacity, speed, data management and security features.  We’ll be diving into the detail of LTO-9 in our next Blog Bytes, (coming very soon!) but in the interest of history and having a little fun, let’s take a look at where LTO technology has been and where it’s going!

Way back, more than 20 years ago, there were a slew of tape formats on the market including DLT, AIT, DDS/DAT, 4mm, 8mm and more! You might remember some of those. Sourcing tape products and sharing tape data within and outside of an organization was a difficult proposition given the assortment of incompatible formats that were being used. A standard open format was needed to help resolve this conundrum. Three leading technology companies got together and designed an open tape storage format that would allow the interchange of data between competing products that conform to a standard format specification helping to ensure compatibility, mobility and data interchange. Voila! Enter the first generation, LTO-1, in the year 2000. 


LTO-1 tape was the birth of LTO technology and could store 100GB uncompressed. That seems tiny now, but back then, it was a game changer and this was one reliable baby. It soon became the go to medium for data backup. Second generation, LTO-2 boasted 200GB native and whet the appetite for users around the globe in 2003. The technology provider companies published a roadmap that presented where the format would evolve. The LTO technology roadmap showed at least two generations into the future helping users to plan for their ever-growing data storage needs.


Users faced a number of protection challenges with storing data long term. The legal profession and others needed immutable data and users with sensitive information needed secured data. The LTO team answered with the offering of WORM (Write Once Read Many) tape beginning with
LTO-3, and LTO hardware based data encryption to securely encrypt backup and archive data followed with fourth generation LTO-4.


The experts at the LTO development labs were thinking ahead. They wanted to make tape easy to use in a manner like using a removable disk drive. The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) did just that. LTFS uses the LTO tape partitioning feature, introduced with LTO-5, to store an index to the data making viewing and accessing tape files easier than ever before. With the operating system’s graphical file manager and directory tree, utilizing data on an LTO tape cartridge is as easy as dragging and dropping the file from a USB flash drive.


LTO technology has evolved LTO-9 but a menacing threat persists: cyber sabotage. This criminal activity is like a swarm of hornets and threatens to sting an organizations data and operations. The costs of a cyberattack can be massive to include the costs to recover data, the loss of business and impaired reputation. The total cost to recover from a ransomware attack has risen to nearly $2m (USD) according to a Sophos survey.

An organization must put a plan in place to safeguard data and the business. The plan should include the ability to make critical data inaccessible to sabotage. An LTO tape when removed from the drive makes the tape data inaccessible by the system and therefore inaccessible by cyber-criminals. Learn more on how to win against cyber-crime here.

LTO technology has impressively progressed over the years from 100GB native capacity with LTO-1 tape to the latest LTO-9 technology, which has a massive capacity of up to 18 TB native  and 45 TB compressed.  There will be more info coming about LTO-9 in the next BlogBytes, but until then, happy backups and archives!