Tape libraries vary widely in cost and complexity. A typical library contains multiple tape drives for reading and writing data, access ports for entering and removing tapes, bar codes to track the tapes, and a device for mounting and dismounting tape cartridges. A library can include hundreds, or even thousands, of tapes.
Although tape drives have improved in features and reliability, the concept of writing data to magnetic tape has not changed for decades.
A tape library and its features must be compatible with the rest of an organization's data protection system, including the backup software. Tape library vendors provide compatibility lists of which backup software and hardware will work with their products.
In determining specifications for a tape library, an organization must typically figure out how big the library backup or archival set will be, including factoring in data growth.
Tape drives were the standard backup targets for decades. Though advances in technologies, such as large-capacity disk drives and the cloud, have made tape less fashionable as a backup device, it is still a popular choice for archiving. The Linear Tape File System (LTFS), for example, puts a file system on top of a tape library, improving its suitability for archive use cases.
Organizations of all sizes use tape libraries. A large enterprise will often use a tape library as a secondary backup target or an archive, if not as a primary backup means.