What is Tape to Cloud Migration?

Learn why you should consider hiring a migration service when moving your tape data to the cloud.

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Data storage has come a long way from tape backups. Learn all about tape to cloud migration and why you should consider hiring a migration service.

Businesses have long relied on magnetic tape storage as a part of their backup and recovery solution. But as the cloud continues to evolve, many businesses are seeing the value of migrating their tape data to cloud services.

Here’s what you need to know about tape to cloud migration, and how to determine if it’s right for your business.

What is tape-based backup?

Tape-based backup is a method of data storage that uses removable physical media—magnetic tape—to store backup files or archive data that must be maintained but need not be accessed often. Magnetic tape backups are not a new technology. They have been in use since at least 1952, and the tape itself is a descendant of audio storage tape first introduced in the 1920s.

For decades, many businesses have relied on tape backup as at least a part of their data backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Tape formats

Backup tape storage can use numerous tape formats. Each one accomplishes the same general end result but goes about it in slightly different ways. Not every device can read every type of tape, so compatibility (including backward compatibility) is an ongoing concern for companies when they need to upgrade machines or tape formats. 

The LTO format (linear tape open) is one of the most common. Other common formats include these:

  • DLT (digital linear tape)
  • DAT (digital audio tape)
  • AIT (advanced intelligent tape)

Additionally, each format has multiple generations (LTO-8, LTO-9), which are not always compatible with the same hardware.

Why was it used?

Tape-based backup was and is used because, compared to legacy alternatives, it offered several advantages.


Cost was originally a driver toward tape. However, cost is also a major driver in tape to cloud migration. While tape offered a cost savings compared to other legacy backup processes, it is far more expensive than most cloud backup and cloud storage solutions.


Magnetic tape cartridges are physical, self-contained media that can be removed, handled, carried, and so forth. Many businesses can’t quickly and easily pick up an entire on-premises server and move it to a new location, but they can do the equivalent with tape.

This portability has security implications, too. Extremely sensitive data can be air-gapped, physically separated from any network- or internet-connected hardware.


Tape backup capacity has increased over time just as disk and flash storage has, but tape backup has always maintained a capacity advantage. The latest generation of tape can store as much as 15 terabytes (TB) of native data, 45 TB compressed.

This capacity has always been a double-edged sword, though. Tape is a linear medium. Just like cassette and VHS tapes of previous decades, magnetic tape can only be read start to finish. Accessing data randomly isn’t possible.

Cloud Storage: Why should you migrate?

Cloud storage offers numerous advantages over tape backups. We’re highlighting just three of those benefits below.

Access to data

First, cloud storage gives you far better access to your data. You can access any of your data much faster, without limitations that come with physical, linear media. No loading the wrong cartridge, no time wasted reading through the linear tape.

Cloud storage also makes it far easier to maintain up-to-date backups so that, when you need to access that backup data, you’re accessing a newer image of the data. Shorter intervals between backups lower the possibility of lost data.

Cost effective

In the past, tape was the most cost-effective way to store long-term data. But the cloud has enabled such drastic drops in cost that, in many ways, it has even supplanted tape as the most economically sensible storage model.

Tape backups come with significant infrastructure and maintenance costs. Tapes are long-lasting, but they don’t last forever, and their cartridges degrade much faster. Hardware, media, and software all must be maintained and updated, and some of these upgrades require additional chains of upgrades so that everything remains compatible.

There’s a human cost, too. All that maintenance costs staff hours, as does the physical manipulation and transportation of tape backup media.

With tape to cloud migration, businesses can access the near-unlimited resources of the cloud at a tremendously economical price.

New revenue streams

Cloud backups are a cost center, not a source of revenue. But a broader cloud migration does indeed unlock new revenue streams for many businesses. To give one example, with easier and more scalable access to compute power, organizations can more quickly iterate software solutions such as SaaS tools (with their attractive recurring monthly revenue).

Additionally, some organizations may be sitting on archive data with true revenue potential — if only they could access, analyze, and appropriately sell or monetize it. By moving such data to the cloud, businesses and organizations shed the access limitations of tape and gain new cloud-centric capabilities in data analytics and data science.

How does tape migration work?

At the 30,000-foot view, data migration seems uncomplicated: it’s simply the process of moving data from point A to point B.

Of course, when examined closer up, the process may seem anything but simple.

The first step is working with a cloud provider to determine what forms of cloud storage your tape backups should migrate to. Cloud providers offer tiers of access: lower-priced tiers offer slower speeds, marginally lower availability guarantees, and so forth, while higher-priced tiers offer near 100 percent uptime and maximum transfer speeds. 

Usually, an organization’s tape backups are a good fit for a cloud provider’s lowest tier. The types of data that generally get backed up to tape tend to have the least exacting requirements.

Once an organization settles on the right level of service, the next step is building a migration plan. Organizations should generally start with anything not essential for business functioning: data archives, large data sets that are infrequently accessed, and the like. As those files are successfully migrated to the cloud, businesses can make adjustments and gain confidence before moving higher value or business-critical data.

Beyond these broad outlines, the truth is that every tape to cloud migration is unique, full of challenges and intricacies that the business can rarely anticipate. Hiring a migration service such as one provided through Seagate’s Lyve Cloud is an ideal approach. Our team of migration experts has seen and solved challenges and intricacies like the ones you’ll encounter, and we can help you do the same.

Lyve Cloud has your back

Whether you’re looking to execute your first tape-to-cloud migration or you’re looking for something more complex (hybrid migration cloud-to-cloud backup, and more), Lyve Cloud has your back.

Lyve Cloud maintains your data’s integrity, security, and compliance, as we navigate the process of moving that data from legacy tape formats to a modern, connected, accessible cloud.

Lyve Cloud can help you reduce costs, optimize processes, organize and gain better access to your data, and more. Lyve Cloud is the strategic partner businesses trust for tape-to-cloud migration — among a host of other cloud services.

See how Seagate Lyve Cloud supports managed migration for tape technology upgrades. Get the case study now