As the pandemic continues to upset business-as-usual, the magnetic tape has stepped up in fascinating ways.

The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak extends far beyond the tragic toll it has taken on public health. Its pervasive influence has touched nearly every facet of business and our everyday lives. In these unprecedented times, technology has had to step up to fulfill unexpected needs in record time. As a leading manufacturer of tape-based data storage solutions, Qualstar has seen the pandemic change the industry’s landscape in important ways, some of which will be short-lived, while others may have lasting effects.

Entertainment at a Distance

To stem the spread of the disease, many regions have been or are still under lockdown restrictions—guidelines and mandates encouraging people to stay home and minimize contact with others. As many of us experienced, these periods of isolation made us run straight to our electronic entertainment devices for stimulus. This situation led to a scramble in Hollywood to feed the insatiable demand for content while production on new movies and TV was shut down. The answer was to turn to their vast archives. For instance, on the network TV front, CBS brought back Sunday Movie Night and NBC debuted Family Movie Night—appointment television events based around classic films and gimmicks like sing-a-longs. Meanwhile, studios held live streaming events for films ranging from Mallrats to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All of these movies have to be pulled from the studio’s digital archives before being broadcast, and most of them are stored on tape.

Because of its huge capacity and low cost-per-gigabyte price point, tape has become the default choice for Hollywood studios to archive their expansive libraries of footage. Not only is tape a cost-effective medium with low power requirements, it’s also extremely durable, maintaining data integrity for 30 years if stored correctly. It’s also incredibly space efficient, as the cartridges can be removed from the libraries and stored en masse (which carries the side benefit of keeping the data completely safe from cyberattack). Video files are also the perfect data for storing on tape because they are linear, meaning they can be written to the tape in a single drive pass and read in a single drive pass, keeping access times short. In extraordinary times, LTO tape rose to the occasion, saving us from the tyranny of boredom during quarantine.

Medical Data on the Rise

In the modern age, responding to a global pandemic means a whole lot of data needs to be collected and stored. This isn’t limited to just results from patient testing, but also from all of the research and modeling being conducted by scientists to gain a deeper understanding of the pandemic. Given the advantages mentioned above, these healthcare providers and research institutions often store their data on LTO tape.

At the federal level, the influx of COVID-19 data is huge. Tens of millions of people have gotten tested for the virus at screening stations spread across all 50 states, and all of these screening and diagnostic facilities must report the data they collect back to the CDC. Furthermore, early in the outbreak, every hospital in the country was required to provide daily updates to the White House to assess their capabilities and distribute resources accordingly. These are only a few of the new Coronavirus-related federal programs collecting massive amounts of data that needs to be preserved.

Medical data is even being collected and recorded at the workplace as companies attempt to introduce new measures to try to mitigate risk of transmission among employees. How this data will eventually be managed is still being decided as states begin to put legislative guidelines in place. If employers are required to retain some of this data for a given period of time, tape would be the obvious storage solution.

Remote Workforce

One of the most significant pandemic-related developments has the potential to rearrange the modern working landscape. More employees than ever are telecommuting in order to shelter in place and minimize the health risks posed by large gatherings of people. However, this shift may not revert for a significant segment of workers who have demonstrated that they can perform their duties from home. If the worker is happy and productive at home and a company can save money on office-related expenses, it’s likely that these arrangements may persist even after a vaccine is available.

However, facilitating collaboration between remote workers presents its own unique set of challenges. We’ve all gotten used to the peculiarities of Zoom meetings and keeping teams dynamic even over distance, but practical matters like data storage also need to be addressed if working from home becomes more normative.

That’s where Qualstar’s newest product offering, the Qi Desktop LTO SAS, comes in. This single-drive tape-based storage solution has an attractive price point and compact form factor that makes it easy to deploy across multiple locations. The unit is lightweight—just 7 lb—and can be oriented horizontally or vertically, whichever best suits the workspace. Data can simultaneously be distributed to teams working on different tasks, who can then save their completed projects back onto LTO cartridges for redistribution. This allows remote employees to work on extremely large data files and transfer them back to HQ or other team members as needed without relying on slow residential internet connections. Available with either an LTO-6, LTO-7, or LTO-8 tape drive, the Qi is compatible with nearly every generation of LTO still in common use, making it easy to integrate into an existing LTO ecosystem.

More remote workers also means that cybercriminals have more access points to steal or ransom important data. That’s why it’s crucial for IT teams to establish backup protocols for remote workers, which can include regular backup to tape. Security features include encryption capability, write once, read many (WORM) protection—which keeps data from being written over or erased—and the world’s absolute most cyberattack-resilient storage method: physically removing the cartridge and keeping it offline.

Lockdown Security

Stay-at-home orders, business closures, and employees working remotely have all contributed to a glut of mostly abandoned offices, warehouses, and storefronts. If this sounds like the perfect storm for burglars, don’t worry, they got the memo as well. Many cities, including New York, have seen significant upticks in break-ins during lockdowns. To combat this, companies and security services are relying more on cameras and surveillance sensors to monitor their vulnerable targets.

All of this extra digital security creates tons of data that needs to be managed. Recently recorded data can reside on mediums like hard drives for quick access, but after a while, the data is less likely to be accessed and ready for cold storage on LTO tape. This archival process is critical in the current lockdown climate because some locations may not be visited for weeks or even months, meaning theft of property may not even be noticed for some time. By keeping all of their recorded security data on tape, companies and security firms can better respond to this unfortunate spike in burglary.

Our Singular Drive

In these unprecedented times, we have seen how tape-based storage solutions can rise to the occasion when faced with unexpected challenges. The pandemic may change some things, but here at Qualstar, our commitment to the customer will never waver. If you would like to find out how our tape storage   solutions can meet your own specific challenges, please get in touch with us today. To learn more about how the new Qi Desktop LTO SAS (now available for purchase) can help address the storage needs of a telecommuting workforce, please visit its product page.