How Cintrex AV uses LTO Tape for Video Backup
Cintrex AV regularly archives video files to both LTO-6 and LTO-5 tapes. We use Ultrium tapes for both archiving and delivering files to our customers and for internal company storage. As part of our services Cintrex provides 90 days of backup storage on all of our completed customer media conversion projects. This means that we need to be able to keep large amounts of video data on-hand, especially in the 90 days following the holiday season. To to this, we utilize LTO tapes as a supplement to several network connected Drobo storage systems. We’ll often back up multi-terabyte jobs directly to LTO tape, saving our spinning disk storage for jobs that we may need to access more actively. We use Hewlett-Packard LTO tape drives, and format the tapes with either HP’s StoreOpen (LTFS) or Tolis Group’s BRU Professional Edition software. We use StoreOpen from both Windows and Mac workstations, while BRU PE is currently Mac specific.
Different versions of LTO Ultrium tape have different native and compressed capacities. Because we typically store only video content on LTO tape, the hardware compression provided by the tape drive has little to no effect. This means we can store about 2.5TB of video on an LTO-6 tape, or about 1.5TB on an LTO-5 tape.
When archiving content onto LTO tapes for customers that primarily use Mac OS, we prefer to use Tolis Group’s BRU PE software for tape formatting and archiving. BRU PE offers more robust verification and restoration, and is much faster and more capable of handling jobs that are ‘large’ both in terms of total bytes stored, as well as total number of files. Jobs requiring us to store hundreds of thousands of files on each tape can be completed much more quickly with BRU PE than with a LTFS formatted tape, and the integrity of every file written can be verified automatically. When we return a completed archiving job to the customer, we include a data DVD or USB Flash-drive along with the LTO tapes. This extra storage media contains a catalog of what’s been archived on the LTO tapes, as well as a copy of BRU PE restoration software if appropriate. We also now provide cloud storage for these two items, enabling our customers to access their tape catalogs whenever/wherever they might need. If restoration of files contained on the tapes becomes necessary, the customer will simply need access to a compatible computer and LTO tape drive. Because LTO is an open standard, any compatible (same generation) LTO drive can be used. This gives our customers the flexibility to restore files in-house, or with any vendor they choose.
If our customer uses a primarily Windows environment, we archive their files using HP’s StoreOpen. When mounted on either a Mac or Windows computer, the LTFS formatted LTO tape appears identical to any other attached hard drive. This enables us to use any Windows or Mac software to copy files onto the LTO tape, or reverse the process when restoring a file. If restoration is needed in the future, HP’s StoreOpen application can be freely downloaded, again giving our customers the flexibility to restore files in-house, or with any vendor they choose.
For our internal Cintrex LTO archiving, we employ a networked HP LTO-5 tape drive. This allows us to write to tapes from any workstation on the network, and store completed jobs for future editing work or long-term storage. We prefer LTFS formatted tapes for internal backup because LTFS is fast and easy to use when archiving smaller numbers of large files - the drag and drop functionality suits our internal workflow well. Restoring a video project from LTFS formatted tape is also simple to do from any station on the network. The life expectancy of the R/W LTO-5 tapes used by Cintrex is estimated to be 200 complete tape rewrites. We began using LTO-5 tapes for internal backup in January 2012, and have not yet experienced a tape failure as of the beginning of January 2015.