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How we joined the IT crowd for data storage

June 2nd, 2015 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

At Paradigm Creative, data often means video and design files. Lots of them. Sometimes several terabytes per project. It’s the same in most creative agencies, so with all that data, we thought we’d share what we’ve learned about storage, to make sure your client’s work always stays secure.

When we started out, we used external hard drives and soon realised how terribly inconvenient drive failure can be. So we quickly moved to using desktop two bay RAID drives configured as RAID 1, which basically meant we had two drives making copies so if one drive failed, we weren’t scuppered.

(Don’t worry, there’s a glossary at the end to explain the more techy terms in this blog.)

While this prevented drive failures, we began to notice a few issues as we took on more work:

  • Storing hard drives on the shelf. These can degrade if not used from time to time.
  • Bottlenecks when uploading footage due to speed limitations on the drives.
  • Difficult to work simultaneously on multiple projects stored on the same drive.

It was clear we needed a networked solution, with quick access for the whole team, redundancy for data security, and something scaleable as we took on more work.

Not much to ask, right?

It’s worth noting at this point that we do creative comms, not IT, so understanding the relative merits of fibre channel networks, Ethernet and switches was a very steep (and useful) learning curve for us all.

The (technical) solution

After weighing up our options we chose a 16 bay RAID chassis (an Evo SNS solution if you’re up on this type of thing) which is basically a monster of a hard drive which runs on an extremely fast network, allowing everyone to work on it at the same time.

Then the work started piling in and we needed a decent back up system. We went for a Linear Tape-Open 6 drive as a single tape kept in the right conditions, is good for up to 30 years. We started making two copies of every tape – one for the office and one stored offsite. We also backed up the stack of external drives we’d got in storage, giving us a lovely set of labelled and catalogued tape that wouldn’t look out of place in an IKEA showroom.

With the pile of empty drives, we added the third and final tier of our backup solution – recycling the old drives into a new RAID chassis, and set up copy software to backup our active projects every night.

It took us a few attempts at various data storage solutions but this is the one that works for us and makes sure all client projects are backed up and secure, whatever happens.

Have you had a similar experience in your agency? Or are you looking for ideas for your own data storage solution? Let us know in the comments below.

Glossary of terms

RAID: Stands for ‘redundant array of independent disks’. Basically, it turns several individual hard drives into a single drive, making into a much more effective and secure way to back up.

RAID 1: Writes and reads the same data to pairs of drives. Also referred to as mirroring. The drives are equal partners—should either fail, you can continue working with the good one until you can replace the bad one. RAID 1 is the simplest, easiest method to create failover disk storage.

Redundancy: Is a system design in which a component is duplicated so if it fails there will be a backup.

Linear Tape-Open: Is a high-capacity tape storage technology that is open format, giving users access to compatible products from many suppliers.

LTO 6: This provides a maximum native storage capacity of 2.5 TB and a maximum compressed capacity of 6.25 TB.