Online storage seems to be all the rage today – from Dropbox to Google Docs and options like SkyDrive, it appears everyone is “living in the cloud” these days. In the multi-device world we now inhabit, files from a computer are also increasingly being stored in “the cloud”…but while these are indeed fast and secure, there’s more to be learned by taking a look at data backups and archives. As we here at Multiverse Media Group enter May with a new round of exciting blogs, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, while also looking at how these approaches can be applied to film and video production.
The Difference Between Data Backups and Archives
We have found that the one thing many business owners and filmmakers confuse is the concept of backups vs. archives; put succinctly, backups are designed to protect against short-term data loss from either hardware, software or human error and are typically found on hard drives, cloud storage and flash or optical media. Good archives, to the contrary, are designed to last for many years as a long-term storage solution.
To drive home our point: Backups refer to short-to-medium-term redundancy designed to protect against hardware failure such as complete primary storage breakdown or single-disk failure in addition to human error such as accidentally deleting files. Backups are typically designed for daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly – up to a couple of years – use, while archives are different in that they’re designed for long-term storage (hence the name).
A true archive is something that can last a decade, and is often more preferable; however, the best archive method to date – if you take into consideration cost, longevity and ease-of-use – is LTO tape archive, which is exactly what we use here at Multiverse.
We know that this seems a bit dry and all borders on “somewhat boring”…but we must tell you that as a business owner, it’s important to understand the differences at play here. It is also important that the media and marketing agency you work with boast the proper media management workflows and tools for your precious data protection and security.
Getting Into the Details About Archives for Film & Video Production
Knowledgeable media/marketing firms have been offering LTO tape backup and archive services for a myriad of reasons, namely in the area of video production, media and data rich applications. By taking advantage of LTO tape backup, you reap the benefits of 50-year archival medium used by major film and media productions as well as large corporations to store your data. This is not only a safer method compared to hard disks, flash media and optical storage, it avoids the high cost of ownership with regard to LTO tape backup drives while still providing the benefits of long-term storage requirements.
When the subject of “optical” or “recordable media” comes up, you often hear people mention such terms as “shelf life” or “ruggedness” of the physical media (which is, in the case of optical disc, an actual DISC). When it comes to shelf life of an LTO tape, we can tell you that it’s one of the best archival choices available today mainly because of its shelf life of 30 to 50 years…coupled with a relatively low cost of ownership.
Let’s break it down like this, so you can perhaps visualize it a bit better:
• Hard drives last one to five years
• DVDs last three to seven years
• Flash drives last five to eight years
• LTO lasts 30 to 50 years
Now, is it easy to see why the LTO tape backup and archives approach is the perfect choice for video production and media rich applications?
The most difficult aspect to swallow when analyzing LTO tape backup and archival and how it relates to small businesses and production houses is that the LTO hardware and software needed are very costly. However, a professional agency like Multiverse Media Group can pass these savings and benefits of LTO to you because we do a LOT of LTO backup. What does this mean, essentially? For about the cost of a hard drive, you can get an LTO tape that last for years.
“Linear Tape-Open” is what “LTO” stands for, and literally refers to a magnetic tape data storage technology that actually dates back to the late 1990s, where it was envisioned as an “open standards” alternative to the proprietary magnetic tape formats available at the time. Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Seagate initiated the LTO Consortium, which to this day directs development and manages licensing and certification of media and mechanism manufacturers.
The standard form-factor of LTO technology goes by the name Ultrium, the original version of which was released in 2000 and could hold 100 GB of data in a cartridge. Just some three years ago in 2012, LTO version 6 was released, able to hold 2.5 TB in a cartridge of the same size.
In the world of video and film production – something we know a little about – digital tape storage has become a viable and cost-effective alternative to hard drives for the long-term storage of video productions and other digital content…at least where hundreds of terabytes are concerned. The technology is stable, long-standing and doesn’t require any significant learning curve to understand or use – a win-win for business owners and film producers alike.
Look, there’s no arguing the fact that digital technologies – much like the way the Compact Disc changed the home audio listening experience – have altered the landscape of shooting video. Indeed, the absence of tape-based media has led to being able to manipulate the video directly through computer software applications. But the transition – or “changing of the guard,” if you will – from analog to digital has not really changed the need for storage of what has been shot; you see, what was once box-loads of tape has been replaced by multiples of hard drives. Couple that with the advent of higher resolutions, which necessitate the need for even more storage for what’s been shot, and the result is an ever-increasing cost for storage and the need for a solution that is as efficient as using a hard drive, but more cost-effective.
With hard drives becoming more expensive to purchase courtesy of the “pleasure” of having to buy more and more of them – to say nothing of their maintenance against hazards – the choice of going with digital tape or LTO has surfaced as a means for archiving video for storage, be it short or long-term. Taking all this into consideration, it’s no surprise LTO is in heavy rotation for data archiving and storage due to the inherent strengths and low cost…but it’s also being used by those producing video because the cost allows for just about anyone to create a competent backup and archiving system for their video.
We here at Multiverse have witnessed improvements to the technology including LTFS – also known as “Tape NAS” which describes a hybrid fusion of the best features of LTO and the direct access search capabilities of hard drives – as well as a recent development from Sony in the form of a magnetic tape technology utilizing a magnetic coating measured in terms of nanometers. The recording capacity thus attained has been seen as being approximately 74 times that of the current magnetic tape storage media, yielding a storage capacity of over 185 TB per data cartridge. While we haven’t seen this in practice within a commercially available product as of yet, the appearance of such a product can be considered a furthering of the use of tape storage – even as it cuts down on the number of cartridges needed for any particular use.
The LTO Impact on Tomorrow and Concerns for Long-Term Archival Storage
What we have been trying to stress is that video productions require backups and storage as a matter of course, and the use of LTO as an archiving medium for video – over that of hard drives or network drives – can only increase over time, especially as more video producers become aware of the cost-effectiveness and safety/security aspects offered by this local storage technology. But each technological jump has seen the introduction of a new system for storing data; long-term storage is as much dependent on a regimented duplication process as it is upon the technology itself. So, while an optical disc – you know, those trusty DVDs and CDs – may be considered a more durable storage medium than that of tape-based approaches (due primarily to a lack of actual physical manipulation and immunity to magnetic fields), it is just as susceptible to failure over time based on its life-expectancy. You may have taken notice of this if you were, at any time, a home audio recording buff and you’re beginning to now hear some degradation of sound on those CD-Rs you spent hours and hours burning…
If one assumes that a disc will begin failing after five years, engaging in a system-wide duplication of all discs approaching the three-year mark avoids having to evolve to a whole new technology – and this is true of any technology used for tape storage, providing that the technology itself isn’t seen as being out-of-date to the point where obtaining replacement devices (or parts) becomes impossible. Therefore, it is incumbent on those performing these backup/duplication processes to have a system in place that will take these time limits into consideration, if only to ensure another copy or copies can be made within the safety margin.