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Data Recovery on Different Types of Data Tapes

Backup Tape is the most common form of enterprise data protection however each brand and model offers a unique set of challenges for data recovery experts


Many businesses use data tapes as a low-quality, high-density form of permanent data storage. Magnetic tapes are reliable and have a long storage life, provided that they are placed in a room temperature environment free from excessive dust.

Unfortunately, some data tapes become less reliable after repeated uses, eventually breaking down when their users need them the most. We offer data tape recovery for a number of different formats, including these common options:

  • DDS - Digital Data Storage (DDS) is a two-reel tape with a small form factor. DDS drives write data with a method known as helical scanning, which is also used by audio cassette recorders and VCRs. Like many newer data tape standards, DDS has write error protection.
    DDS capacity ranges greatly depending on sub-format, with the oldest drives providing up to 4GB of space and the recent DAT-320 format providing up to 320 GB.
    Most new DDS drives cannot read the oldest formats. This can make tape data recovery difficult for some providers that do not have Certified Class 10 ISO 4 Cleanrooms.
  • DLT - Unlike many of the other data tape types on this list, Digital Linear Tape (DLT) uses a single reel to hold its magnetic tape. DLT tapes have been in use since 1984, with variants including the DLT CompacTape II, which had a capacity of 2.6 GB and the more recent DLT IV, which had a capacity of 20GB or more.
    Modern businesses often use SDLT, a similar single-reel data tape that can store 110GB of data with a compression factor of about 1.4 to 1 on average. DLT VS1, which can store up to 160GB, is also fairly common, as is DLT-S4. All DLT variants use a linear serpentine method to write data.
    DLT drives were once a fairly widely used medium, and major hardware manufacturers like Fujifilm and Imation had DLT devices on the market. However, Ultrium LTO tapes and other high-capacity options have become more popular over the last several years.
  • 8mm - Exabyte tape drives are also sometimes called 8mm tape drives. These systems can typically write data at rates of up to 500 kilobytes per second, although average write speeds are significantly lower. The tape drive writes data using a method known as helical scan.
    Each 8mm Exabyte cartridge is fairly inexpensive and fairly reliable, with high data density and a typical capacity of anywhere from 2GB-24GB.

Many Linux and Unix users prefer Exabyte cartridges.

LTO - LTO stands for Linear Tape-Open, an open format developed by IBM, HP and Seagate. LTO tapes write data with a serpentine recording method. Modern Ultrium LTO tapes can store up to 400GB when using hardware compression. Other variants of LTO include Accelis and Ultrium.

There are several advantages to LTO technology. First of all, drives and tapes from different manufacturers work interchangeably. LTO systems also have error correction and work well with a variety of servers and operating environments. LTO tapes are also small and inexpensive, which makes them ideal for long-term data backup and storage. We specialize in providing LTO tape data recovery for all LTO formats.

AIT Tapes - Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT) were helical scan tapes with a capacity of up to 800 gigabytes, although early versions had much more limited capacities of 50-400 gigabytes. The advantages of AIT included fast write speeds and small physical tape size. Each cartridge has a chip with operating information.

There are plenty of other data tape variants, including VXA and Travan, but the formats listed above are still in common use. If you need professional tape data recovery, contact our expert team at 1-800-388-1266 to discuss case options.

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