The computer industry is evolving constantly and the demand for video is accelerating.

We have noticed that most footage is now being shot by our customers at a standard 4K resolution and we're being asked a lot of questions about 4K workflows. This 4K resolution standard is driving a demand for larger and faster storage as the file sizes are significantly larger and fast disk-based storage is being filled quicker. And it doesn't stop there. We're now hearing the term 8K being thrown around the office!

The good news is that hard drives are increasing in size and getting cheaper. The problem is where to put all the footage and project files once the production is finished and storage space is needed for the next production. You don't want to keep these completed projects and media on comparatively expensive on-line storage.

Storage Options

Qualstar Q48 Compact LTO Tape Library
Qualstar Q48 Compact LTO Tape Library

There are a few options to storing this data including External HDD and USB drives, Cloud Storage solutions and even second tier storage (slower, less expensive, networked disk storage). The issue with hard drives is that they are prone to failure resulting in unrecoverable data. Uploading all your media to the cloud may not be feasible either because of slow internet upload speeds. There can also be legal issues as some companies consider uploading footage to a cloud service as a sharing or copyright violation.

At Digistor we highly recommend the use of LTO tapes, drives and libraries for this particular need.

LTO Tape Technology

LTO is an old technology, but it's still one heavy utilised by our clients as it provides an inexpensive long-term storage solution.

Now I know what you're thinking ... LTO tapes are slow, a very manual process and it's a pain to retrieve files. But just as computer technology and video formats are evolving, so are LTO solutions.

Tapes are a more reliable option for storing data for a long time and are less prone to fail or become corrupted. They can be easily transported without having to be too careful. I'm not suggesting that the tapes can be thrown around, but they can usually survive a fall if accidentally dropped where you might not have much luck when dropping a Hard Drive. An LTO drive would be more likely to fail before the tape does.

December of 2015 saw the release of the 7th generation LTO (7), which can now hold a massive 6TB of uncompressed data and up to 15TB of compressed data on a single tape. To put it in perspective, LTO 7 can essentially hold about 60 of the original LTO generation (LTO 1) tapes. That would save a lot of room on the shelf.

LTO 6 was released 3 years earlier in December 2012. In the foreseeable future we will see the release of LTO 8, 9 and 10 which will not only see an increase in capacity but also an increase in speed (data transfer).

mLogoc mTape
mLogic mTape LTO 7 Thunderbolt Tape Drive

With the increase in size of data and capacity you may think that this will now take longer to write to tape. In some cases, you're right - there are certain constraint factors like Network speeds if backing up over a 1GB network, data accessibility and software constraints. The newer generation of LTO 7 drives can write this data at about double the speed of LTO 6 at 300Mb/s. So LTO 7 is essentially taking a similar time to backup/archive twice as much data as LTO 6.

There are some great Thunderbolt LTO 6 and 7 tape drive options on the market now too. Check out the mLogic mTape LTO-7 Thunderbolt 2 Backup Drive, for example. Intelligent archive management sotware solutions now make automatic policy-based backup and archive simple with drive and software solutions scalable from single drives to robot-based archive rooms.

If I upgrade to LTO 7, can I still read and write to my old tapes?

Like the previous generations, LTO7 drives are backwards compatible and will read your LTO 7, 6 and 5 tapes, but can only write to LTO 7 and 6 tapes. If you have any tapes that are older (LTO 3 or 4) make sure you have a working older generation drive to be able to retrieve the data.

You can check LTO tape pricing here.

  Year LTO 1 Tape LTO 2 Tape LTO 3 Tape LTO 4 Tape LTO 5 Tape LTO 6 Tape LTO 7 Tape
LTO 1 Drive 2000 R/W            
LTO 2 Drive 2003 R/W R/W          
LTO 3 Drive 2005 R R/W R/W        
LTO 4 Drive 2007   R R/W R/W      
LTO 5 Drive 2010     R R/W R/W    
LTO 6 Drive 2012       R R/W R/W  
LTO 7 Drive 2015         R R/W R/W

R = Read
R/W = Read & Write

LTO 7 will not solve all your issues, but can alleviate your backup/archiving needs for your ever increasing file sizes until the next generation comes along. So, with the right hardware and software, backing up or archiving your projects and footage can be made simpler and less arduous.

Digistor offers a wide range of solutions to cater for storage, backup and archive needs. If you're interested in finding out more and discussing your options, contact us and one of our technical or sales team would be happy to speak with you.