Magnetic Tape Supply Shortages

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March 10, 2020
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Magnetic Tape Supply Shortages

It’s odd to think that in 2020 the world still relies on magnetic tape.

It’s odd to think that in 2020 the world still relies on magnetic tape—those clunky old cartridges that were used decades ago to store data. And yet that’s still the preferred method of backup for many companies needing to safeguard their most precious information.

Our critical financial data and scientific records may be kept on cloud servers at Microsoft, Amazon and Google, but duplicate copies are often backed up to tape.

The problem is that consolidation has left us with just two companies—Sony and Fujifilm Holdings—who still manufacture tape. In May 2019 the companies became embroiled in a patent lawsuit in which Fujifilm accused Sony of infringement. Fujifilm won, and the court banned Sony from importing media tape. The case was settled in the fall, but it caused widespread shortages of tapes.

Tape isn’t a big business unit within these otherwise sprawling companies, and potential shortages could lead to problems down the road for the world’s data archives, especially given that the amount of critical data created every year increases significantly.