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Archive Without Compromise

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Content is king, and smart content owners give it the royal treatment throughout its life cycle, says Janet Lafleur, Product Marketing, Quantum.

In media workflows, this means protecting content at every stage in the workflow, providing the appropriate level of access for each stage, and ensuring long-term data integrity, while optimizing storage infrastructure costs. Media facilities typically will address these requirements using a combination of content backup and content archiving.

Backup processes are intended to minimize or negate the damage done if primary copies — or the supporting storage media — are somehow compromised or lost. Prior to digital workflows, shelves and shelves of video tape and film served a dual role as both backup and archives. With the shift to digital workflows, most facilities replaced videotape and file with removable hard drives and LTFS tapes as their archives. Unfortunately, this scheme leaves the content less than accessible and vulnerable to damage.

The good news is there are more intelligent archive solutions available for file-based workflows. Digital archives are engineered to hold content on secondary storage media in order to preserve media over the long term and at a reasonable cost while also keeping the content accessible. Such an archive allows facilities to take valuable content that is no longer active — a finished project or fixed, unchanging asset — off of more expensive storage with confidence that it always will be available if ever it is needed.

The movement of content to an archive is performed automatically by a hierarchical storage management (HSM) system. When moving content from primary storage to the archive, the HSM system can replace each asset with a link to its location the archive. Through this link, users and workflow applications can transparently access the archived content as if it were still stored in online storage. This convenient function allows media facilities to enjoy the cost benefits of improved storage efficiency, and it gives production teams continued direct access to content even after it has been archived, in turn accelerating completion of new projects or monetization of content for new distribution platforms.

How are media facilities using archive systems to protect and preserve content while also optimizing storage efficiency? As content is ingested to the servers that support postproduction, a copy can be made to a long-term, managed archive, such as object storage or an LTO tape library. In the event of a hardware failure, this copy will serve as the backup that will save the day and help a facility to keep projects on track and on time.

During work-in-process, traditional backup software is only needed to protect the EDLs and files created by workflow applications; the large media files do not need to be backed up because they were archived on ingest. Once the project is completed, the fully conformed and mastered versions can be moved to the archive and removed from high-performance, higher-cost online storage. Moving these assets to the archive allows the facility to free up space on more precious production storage for new projects and associated assets.

The most sophisticated archive solutions today give facilities the flexibility to select the type of archive storage — digital tape, object storage, low-cost disk or cloud storage — best suited for their operations. Object storage is proving an increasingly popular alternative to digital tape for those facilities engaged in extensive monetization. The low latency of object storage makes it a natural choice for transcode-heavy monetization, while its scalability and durability give it distinct advantages over RAID storage. In addition, a growing number of workflow applications now operate on objects as well as files, which simplifies the workflow and will fuel its adoption.

Cloud-based archives that integrate sophisticated file systems and media management software systems are also becoming an increasingly popular choice. Cloud storage can either support a collaborative workflow involving distributed production teams, or simply serve as an off-site copy of an on-premise private cloud archive.

By taking advantage of HSM or media asset management (MAM) system integration, facilities can store archived content economically without compromising its availability to the production team. Ready access to content on production storage and on the facility's archive will ensure that, throughout the end-to-end workflow, these team members have reliable access to media assets their work requires.

Preserving content from acquisition through to archive can be a daunting prospect, but most archive and backup processes can easily be automated. With configurable rule sets or policies not only dictating how content is copied and moved but also performing those tasks, technical and creative teams can focus more of their time on delivering the content that drives their business.

This article is also available to read at BFV online as part of this issue's Archive feature here, page 17.

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