The benefits of LTO Ultrium tape technology

Today, whenever we talk about magnetic tape, we are talking about LTO Ultrium tape. Since 2000, Linear Tape Open (LTO) has provided the industry standard format specification for tape that allows full interoperability and consistent performance across different vendors’ drives and cartridges. Investment protection is assured through backwards compatibility with previous LTO generations of drives and cartridges and a development roadmap stretching to 2025.

LTO tape is the most efficient, reliable tool for efficiently storing the vast quantities of largely unstructured data generated by organizations today and is an essential component of a modern tiered storage architecture.


Lowest ownership costs for the life of the data

Ten year expected Total Cost of Ownership

High capacity, high density for long term data storage

With data growing exponentially, tape offers a robust and scalable solution for archiving massive volumes of infrequently accessed but essential data. There’s no practical limit to the amount of data you can store on tape at offsite locations and, when it’s needed for further analysis, you can move the data back onto faster storage systems. When included in a tiered storage architecture, active archiving software makes intelligent choices in real time about when to move data and where it should be stored. More about active archiving.  

Futureproof technology for tomorrow’s needs

Each generation of LTO tape introduces substantial improvements in speed, capacity, and accessibility to meet business needs and growing data volumes.

LTO tapes have almost infinite scalability, enabling organizations to migrate to newer technologies to keep pace with growing data needs. Existing tapes work just fine on their new drives: current LTO-9 drives are able to read and write existing LTO-8 and LTO-7 media.

LTO Ultrium Roadmap

High performance

The latest LTO-9 Ultrium drives can write or read data at a blistering 3.6 TB/hour, storing, encrypting, and protecting up to 45 TB (at 2.5:1 compression) on a single cartridge, so it’s ideal for large-scale, 24×7, mission-critical IT environments. The LTO roadmap plans to increase capacity up to 144TB by generation 12. This kind of performance makes LTO tape viable for a variety of storage needs, such as:

  • Nearline storage. With high data transfer speeds, low-cost and high capacity, LTO tape is perfect for managing nearline data and bringing it online very rapidly when required.
  • High-capacity transfer. A shipment of an LTO tape will often transfer data faster than from the cloud, and also provide a backup to the original.
  • Capture and offload. LTO tape is the perfect solution for large-scale offload and retention in areas such as video production and oil/exploration data aggregation.

Fast, easy access with LTFS

First introduced with LTO-5 technology in 2010 and adopted later by SNIA in 2013, the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) is an open software specification that brings drag and drop simplicity to tape backup and archiving. LTFS is independent of any hardware or software platforms, which means that recovery from disaster is as fast and straightforward as searching data volumes stored on disk or in the cloud. More about LTFS.

Reliable and dependable

Tape is an extremely durable storage solution that can safely protect your data for up to 30 years. LTO technology also features a powerful error correction algorithm, with an error rate of 1 in 10^19. This means, in real terms, that it would take a whole year for 130 tape drives writing data continually to encounter an error that could not be fixed by LTO error correction technology.

The probability of losing data through degradation, however, is far less than it being maliciously encrypted in a ransomware attack, or destroyed by fire, flood or acts of war in the data centre. Here, what really matters are redundancy, tamperproof content and encryption. Things that LTO tape does very well.

3-2-1 durability, WORM media, encryption, a life warranty of up to 30 years and low TCO make LTO tape the best option for long-term data storage.

Protection from loss, damage and cyberattack

Ransomware defence

LTO technology offers a vital last line of defence against cyberattack. Tapes can be taken offline and offsite, creating an air gap that ransomware and other malicious viruses cannot cross. What’s more, if you ever suffer a major IT breach, recovering your data from LTO technology will be much faster than streaming data back from the public cloud.


LTO technology offers hardware-based, AES-256 data encryption on LTO-4 and newer drives to protect data from theft or damage while in transit. A powerful drive-level algorithm encrypts the data without impacting compression, performance, and capacity during backup. Read more on data encryption.

The drives can carry out encryption at rated speeds and can compress the data before encrypting it, helping to maximize storage capacities. Tape drive encryption can also help reduce the size of storage infrastructure by eliminating the need to invest and manage an encryption appliance.

Tamperproof storage with Write Once Read Many (WORM)

Industry regulations, along with internal and industry policies, impose strict disciplines about how data should be stored, and for how long. Failure to comply attracts stiff legal penalties. To help organizations meet stringent compliance regulations, LTO technology includes a write-once, read-many (WORM) option (LTO-3 tapes and newer) that stores data in a non-rewritable format.

The technical specifications for LTO WORM media are identical to the standard RW cartridge. All the benefits of the LTO specification apply – performance, reliability, choice, scalability, and investment protection. The difference is in the multiple anti-tampering safeguards and security checks the drive makes between the cartridge memory and the media. WORM identity is encoded in the LTO-CM – and contains different information to the RW tape. The WORM servocode is also different. When a WORM data cartridge is inserted into LTO drive, the drive will recognize it as a WORM data cartridge and will not allow any user data on the tape to be overwritten. Data is guaranteed secure and tamperproof for up to 30 years.


LTO tape makes it easy to securely transport data from one data center to another. Traditional HDD is far less durable for routine transportation, and solid-state drives (SSDs) are expensive. You could transfer the information from the cloud, but this can clog bandwidth, expose your files to security risks and take a very long time. You can think of LTO technology as low-cost high bandwidth in a box ¬– easily handled, completely removable and transportable. Transferring an entire data center to an alternative site could be as simple as packing up and shipping a box of LTO cartridges.

The green choice

Many organizations with a green agenda are looking for technologies to reduce the costs and environmental impact of their data centers. For archival storage, LTO tape offers huge potential to cut energy consumption. Tape drives use little power when not reading or writing tape cartridges – and tape cartridges in an automated library use no power at all. Simply converting 33% of disk storage to tape could save about 200 million megawatt hours per year because HDD systems use 70 times more energy than tape.

LTO Value of Tape