A tape drive, which is also known as a streamer, is a data storage device that reads and writes data stored on a magnetic tape. It is typically used for archival storage of data stored on hard drives. Tape media generally has a favorable unit cost and long archival stability.
Instead of allowing random-access to data as hard disk drives do, tape drives only allow for sequential-access of data. A hard disk drive can move its read/write heads to any random part of the disk platters in a very short amount of time, but a tape drive must spend a considerable amount of time winding tape between reels to read any one particular piece of data. As a result, tape drives have very slow average seek times. Despite the slow seek time, tape drives can stream data to tape very quickly. For example, modern LTO drives can reach continuous data transfer rates of up to 80 MB/s, which is as fast as most 10,000 rpm hard disks.