Choosing Archive Storage: Tape vs. Object Storage vs. Cloud

Choosing Archive Storage: Tape vs. Object Storage vs. Cloud

For the long-term storage of archival data, there are three main technologies in use today: magnetic tape, object storage disk systems, or public cloud as a service.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and choosing how to store your data depends on understanding how you will use your assets.  IMT Advanced Consulting Services can help you analyze your needs and develop your archive strategy.

Contrary to some rumors, tape is not dead.  According to the LTO Program, shipments of tape actually increased 13% in 2017 to 43 exabytes of uncompressed capacity.  Tape offers low cost for capacity alone and energy usage, but other costs associated with operating tape libraries add up quickly and should be considered when doing financial analysis.   It is significantly slower than disk technology, access is linear, and data must be recalled to a disk system to be usable.  For the long term, migrations of data between ever-evolving generations of tape technology are onerous.  If you have a large amount of data to archive, can wait from minutes to hours for retrieval, and don’t mind managing the technology, tape continues to be a viable choice.

Object storage, sometimes also called private cloud, is robust and cost effective disk storage for a media archive. Not appropriate for use with data sets that change, such as databases, object storage is specifically designed for unstructured data, such as video and photos.  It is increasingly being used as a replacement for tape because of its advantages in data accessibility and ease of use.   Object storage can be implemented in a geo-dispersed architecture, providing greater disaster recovery resilience.  For active archives, object storage offers durable, dense and potentially unlimited storage in a single namespace with free access to your assets.

Public cloud storage providers use object storage for their frequent access archival services, but some also use tape for their “cold” long term storage.  This is reflected in their costs and in the access times of their services.  Archiving to the cloud removes concerns with the back end technology, and frees your resources to focus on your business.  For an active archive, however, cloud costs can easily double or triple as the use case for an archive varies from occasional to frequent access.  Beyond just storing your assets, there are services in the cloud available for creating value from your assets.  From AI analysis for metadata tagging to transcoding and streaming, it is possible to build entire workflows in the cloud.    IMT Advanced Consulting services can work with you to create detailed cloud workflows and a financial model for cloud usage.

The Variables to Evaluate

In choosing between tape, object storage and public cloud, there are issues that must be understood in detail:

·      Projections for amount of data stored

·      Rates at which data will be added

·      Rate at which the data will be accessed

·      Retention policy for the assets

·      Time requirements for asset recall

·      Data protection requirements

·      Network infrastructure for connection to the archive

·      Security requirements

·      Cloud services to be utilized

·      Software used to manage the archive

·      Staff available to manage the archive

A large archive with slow access requirements may indicate that tape is a good choice.  Highly active archives are best be served with object storage.   An archive with limited retention policies whose assets will be involved in cloud workflows is a good candidate for cloud. 

Choosing for the long term

Some archives retain their assets for just a year, some for the foreseeable future.  Changing technology bases is hard to do.  Take the time to build a Total Cost of Ownership model and include the costs to deal with generations of technology.

Integrated Media Technologies, Inc. offers Advanced Consulting services that include archive planning.   We can work with you to develop formal requirements, create full total cost of ownership analysis of possible solutions, and guide you through the process of rationally planning your archive solution.  IMT can then provide full implementation of those plans, including media asset management and storage systems.  We also provide migration services from legacy videotape to digital assets ready to ingest into an archive.   If you are considering an archive project of any scale, from production units to global enterprise solutions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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