What is LTO Technology?

Linear Tape Open (LTO) Ultrium is a high-capacity, single-reel tape storage solution developed and continually enhanced by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Quantum and promoted by the LTO Program. It’s a powerful, scalable and adaptable tape format that helps address the growing demands of data protection. It’s also an open format, licensed by some of the most prominent names in the storage industry to ensure a broad range of compatible tape drives and cartridges.

Delivering scalability and growth for generations.

First introduced in 2000, LTO technology is currently in its 8th generation. LTO-8 specifications support tape cartridge storage compressed capacity of up to 30 TB*, twice that compressed capacity over the previous generation, and tape drive data transfer rates of up to 750MB* per second for over 2.7 terabytes of storage performance an hour per drive. New generations have been introduced regularly with higher capacity and transfer rates along with new features to further protect your data and content. LTO specifications for backward compatibility up to generation seven of the technology is to write back one generation and read back two generations. The current 8th generation LTO Ultrium drives are able to read and write LTO -7 and LTO-8 media, so you know that your investment is for the long run.

*Assuming a 2.5:1 compression achieved with larger compression history buffer available beginning with LTO generation 6 drives.


LTO technology features a write-once, read-many (WORM) capability to ensure that your data isn’t overwritten and also help address compliance regulations.

LTO Program WORM implementation is designed to provide users a very cost effective means of storing data in a non-rewriteable format to address compliance regulations.

With the growing importance of regulatory compliance — including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and SEC Rule 17-a-4(f) — there is a need for a cost-effective storage medium that can preserve corporate data in a non-rewriteable, non-erasable and unalterable format.

LTO WORM (Write Once, Read Many) helps address these business compliance and regulatory requirements. It features robust algorithms using the Cartridge Memory (CM), in conjunction with low level encoding that is mastered on the tape media at the time of manufacture, and is designed to prevent tampering. It also appends data at the end of a WORM cartridge, which allows users to take full advantage of the high capacity tape media.

For more information on how LTO Ultrium WORM technology addresses the applicable conditions of SEC Rule 17a-4(f) read the Cohasset Associates compliance assessment that is included in our Resources section.

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LTO technology features strong encryption capabilities to enhance security and privacy during storage and transport of LTO tape cartridges.

It seems like every day that a company experiences a breach in security and exposes confidential or private information. That’s why recent generation LTO tape drives features one of the strongest encryption capabilities available to help protect the most sensitive data stored on tape cartridges.

LTO tape drive encryption is specified in all LTO generations since LTO-4. It features a 256-symmetric key AES-GCM algorithm that is implemented at the drive level, which enables compression before encryption to maximize tape capacities and deliver high performance during backup.

With a growing number of laws and regulations, financial penalties, and public notification costs, a security breach can be costly for corporations. Data managers are called upon to develop effective security for sensitive data and are turning to tape encryption.

Learn more about data security, encryption and an LTO tape drive encryption user story in the white paper Securing Sensitive Information.

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Recent generations of LTO technology include a partitioning feature, which help to enhance file control and space management via LTFS.

Starting with Generation 5, LTO technology specifications include a partitioning feature that allows for a new standard in ease-of-use and portability: LTFS.

Partitioning allows for a portion of the tape to be reserved for indexing, which tells the drive precisely where in the tape a file is stored.  The second partition holds the actual file.  With Linear Tape File System, the indexing information is first read by the drive and presented in a simple, easy-to-use format that allows for “drag and drop” capabilities – just like using a thumb drive.

Learn more about the benefits of partitioning in the LTFS section.

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How it Works

To learn more about how LTO technology works, check out the following tutorials.