Drives, Autoloaders, Libraries, and

By Davis D. Janowski  |  Posted 2003-03-11 Print this article Print

Software"> Drives, Autoloaders, Libraries, and Software

A standalone tape drive can write to or read from one tape at a time. Autoloaders and small libraries are roughly analogous to jukeboxes or carousels handling multiple audio CDs. This type of device holds multiple tapes and uses robotic mechanisms to load and remove them from the enclosed drive, but still it can only write to or read from one tape at a time.

Autoloaders and libraries are about convenience; a user with a single-tape drive would have to insert one or more tapes every day by hand. But a user with an autoloader can just fill it with properly labeled tapes and walk away, maybe for weeks at a time.

The distinctions between autoloaders and libraries are rather blurry, even within the industry. An autoloader tends to have a single drive, while a library may have more. StorageTek, with its L20, L40, and L80 libraries, has gone even farther by engineering those devices to accommodate multiple tape formats. Libraries are generally considered more complex devices and tend to have more advanced features, such as bar code readers for keeping track of tapes, and they can hold more tapes. In fact, some large enterprise libraries can hold hundreds of tapes.

Unlike many other types of computer hardware, tape backup systems have evolved little in terms of native intelligence. This means they depend totally on software running on locally or remotely connected workstations or servers to carry out all functions. For an overview of the three most popular software solutions, see "Backup Software".

Davis D. Janowski Davis D. Janowski is Lead Analyst for Web Applications and Software, charged with covering the likes of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and millions of other Internet and Web companies. Prior to this, he served as Section Editor for Consumer Networking, GPS Products, Phones & PDAs (Mobile and VoIP), Associate Editor for Networking Infrastructure, and Associate Editor for Internet Infrastructure. Before joining PC Magazine, Janowski worked as a medical editor, covering epidemiology and infectious diseases, receiving training at the Centers for Disease Control. At one point, he acted as guide for a CDC team, collecting ticks for a study on the origins of human ehrlichiosis in the Florida bush. Before that he made a very modest living as a freelance writer and photographer, covering scuba diving and nautical archaeology.

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