Backup media refer to storage devices where people save electronic file backups, sometimes for forensic investigations. Examples include disks, disk drives, and tapes. They don’t usually include CDs, DVDs, and USB flash drives where people store unique, relevant files. But should disks and flash drives be used to store file copies, they can serve as backup media, too.

For storage devices to be considered backup media, they need to contain copies of files currently or formerly stored on devices. They are kept for several reasons, primarily avoiding data loss in case of device failure. Should investigators need evidence on a suspect, all of the files on backup media can serve as sources, too.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about “Backup Media

The backup media an organization uses depends on the hardware and software they utilize.

What Are the Types of Backup Media?

Users typically use two major types of backup media—small- and large-capacity media. We’ll discuss each in greater detail below.


Tape backup can range from half-inch reel tapes for legacy systems to Digital Linear Tape (DLT), which is most commonly used today. Users can buy DLT drives as simple desktop or standalone models that can be directly connected to computers. Some also come as massive, robotically sorted tape libraries that may not require human intervention to sort, catalog, file, and/or retrieve data from.

Here’s an image of tape backup media:


DLT drives can store up to 80GB of compressed files per tape. Super-DLT can fit up to 600GB of compressed data. Linear Tape Open (LTO) is physically incompatible with DLT but offers greater storage capacity. An LTO-3 tape can hold up to 800GB of uncompressed data. As such, it is the most widely used type of tape backup today.

Given the number of files users can store on tapes, they are considered large-capacity backup media.

Cloud Storage

Most companies that don’t have the physical storage space opt for cloud storage hosted by data centers.

Users can store backups on cloud storage through a formal backup process or by manually moving data to the cloud, such as into a Google Drive. Companies, therefore, don’t need to buy physical devices to back up their files. But should their cloud service provider go offline, they would lose access to their backups. Retrieving data, however, is simple. They just need to connect to their cloud-hosted drive and get a copy. Updating a file is also just as easy to do.

Cloud storage as a backup media is probably the most flexible in capacity. Users can get as little as 15GB of Google Drive capacity to as much as 750GB. iCloud offers between 5GB and 4TB storage capacities. Data centers can offer large enterprises as much capacity as they require so long as they can afford the cost.

Given the flexibility of cloud storage, it can be considered both small- and large-capacity storage. It all depends on a user’s needs.

Portable Drive

Small offices can rely on portable drives like external hard drives. Such drives can store up to 18TB of data. But while they are less expensive and easy to obtain, backing up files on them is time-consuming.

Here’s an image of a portable drive:

portable drive

Given the amount of data portable drives can hold, they can be considered mid-capacity backup media.

Optical Drive

Optical drives like CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks are okay if users just want to back up a few computers. Blu-Ray disks, which have the biggest capacity, can only store up to 100GB of data. While optical drives and media don’t cost a lot, are easy to store, and can easily be connected to computers via USB, they are prone to damage, such as cracks and scratches and problems like buffer underruns. That said, they are not ideal for business use.

Here are examples of optical drives:

optical drive

Optical drives and media are small-capacity backup media.

Flash Storage

Flash storage refers to flash drives or thumb drives. They usually use USB interfaces to connect to systems.

Here’s an example:

Flash storage

Flash storage devices can only store up to 1TB of data, making them another kind of small-capacity backup media.

SD and Micro-SD Card

Today’s SD and micro-SD cards can store up to 128TB of data, making them mid-capacity backup media. Like thumb drives, they are easy to use, but they aren’t easy to update as it takes time to connect them to devices. Not all computers also have SD and/or micro-SD card slots.

Here’s an image of SD and micro-SD cards:

SD card

Given the digital nature of the world today, it’s no wonder that even court cases accept backup media as evidence.