Reader Mail: Archive to LTO

Posted on by Larry

Sal Guarisco, head of the Guarisco Group LLC, has been following our on-going discussion on using LTO tape as an archive system for media. He sent in the following report, which I want to share with you.

To All Larry Jordan Fans:

After I started reading Larry’s book Final Cut Pro X: Making The Transition, he enlightened me on page 8 with the knowledge that hard drives can lose data sitting on a shelf and recommended using an LTO (Linear Tape Open) tape system as a long-time backup and storage solution.

After two weeks of online research into the the best set up that would fit my budget and getting nowhere, I gave Larry a call to see what he recommended. To my surprise, Larry admitted that he had purchased an HP LTO drive but had not gotten it to work with his Mac Pro.

After a few false starts on my own, this is what I have learned: LTO-5 (1.5 TB uncompressed & up to 3TB compressed) is the best way to go. HP and Quantum manufacture almost identical drives; but I went with the HP StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS Half-height external standalone drive. I was able to find it online new for $1625.00.

NOTE: My only caution is that HP’s Level 1 tech support for LTO drives is just two people on the West Coast who aren’t very knowledgeable about their product or even their company’s limited Mac support for their tape drives.

ATTO Technology and LSI manufacture the host controller cards that are Mac compatible and recognize tape drives. I went with the ATTO ExpressSAS H680 for $313.00 online. Atto’s tech support is 1st class and they are very knowledgeable on the compatibility of their product and tape drives on a Mac. If you want to run an SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) RAID enclosure as well as a tape drive, I suggest the Atto ExpressSAS R680 RAID controller for as low as $650.00 online.

I chose Retrospect Desktop 9 for my backup software along with their Annual Support and Maintenance for $249.00. This covers one desktop server and four clients. Their tech support as well as their software is also 1st class. I’ve found that if your tape drive is not on at start up and you turn it on later, the software will not recognize it, but a quick restart resolves it.

I’m very pleased with this storage setup and its performance on my early 2008 Mac Pro dual quad core 2.8 GHz, 18 GB RAM. Expect around 3GB/ minute transfer and verify rates and 5GB/minute restore rates. If you add the three extra tape cartridges and head cleaner I got for $180.00, the total cost of my setup is $2367.00. If you do some shopping online, you can find pretty much the same deals. Good luck!

Larry, thanks for the opportunity to help. Your FCP X training course along with your book is great! Once I get a better handle on the software, I’ll dive into the three business tutorials I bought. Keep up the good work!

Larry replies: Thanks, Sal, for writing this up. The issue of archiving is critical to media professionals and I’m expecting several new announcements during and after NAB.

The only downside to your approach is that it requires a MacPro for the ATTO connector card. I’m hoping we will soon start seeing Thunderbolt adapters which would allow this technology to be used on laptops and iMacs.

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6 Responses to Reader Mail: Archive to LTO

  1. Espen Fyksen says:

    You can get a setup that works on Thunderbolt using Promise SANLink and a FibreChannel desktop LTO-drive from Tandberg. Have not tried it myself, but I guy from Archiware showed it on a conference here in Norway, and he said it works fine.


  2. stu aull says:

    Thanks Larry and Sal!!
    Hoping NAB 12 will present even more options but VERY happy to hear of this affordable option for small video biz!!
    Stu Aull

  3. If you care just a little about the workflow and data, go with Archiware’s PresStore software. It’s hands down, the best for backup, archiving, syncing and remote client backup.


    Jakob Peterhänsel
    IT Consultant

  4. Casey Sattler says:

    The problem with archiving is that it is a long term solution — longer than the average lifespan of the equipment to archive. We used an Quantum LTO 3 and while it lasted it was ok – super slow but it did what it was supposed to do; now when version 6 comes out – I’m told that 6 won’t read 3; so what to do? right now I’m keeping an old G4 tower with old software on it to access old equipment. The only other thing we can do is MIGRATE TO THE NEWER STUFF; at what point do you decide that your old stuff is disposable; and in that case what’s the point? Video tape is a solid choice, but only for finished HD spots — what about all that TASTEY 4K RED footage. Here in lies the crux of the problem — backward compatibility with full data archive and easy restore.
    I want the ease of video tape; the security of LTO and the speed of a hard drive – along with an affordable management/database software to archive/restore and track.

    Whose got that? I’d buy it today.

  5. Dear Larry and fans,

    thank you for bringing up this critical topic. There is one common misconception here:

    Backup and Archive are two very different things.

    A Backup is a process that is cyclic and overwrites itself after the specified retention time is reached. It is always a copy of data STILL USED in production. (think “spare tire in trunk”)

    An Archive is a long-term storage process that is forever growing and is a data migration process of data NO LONGER NEEDED in daily production. (think “winter tires in garage”)

    This data is moved to the Archive and deleted after archiving. Since it can be years before something gets retrieved from the Archive metadata is necessary to describe the files. There is technical metadata like resolution and camera type and descriptive metadata that a human being has to enter do tell what is happening in the clip, names of actors etc.
    As might be obvious by now a Backup software for this reason is a bad choice for an Archive.

    If you do the calculation over time an Archive actually pays off because it saves investment in hi-speed production storage/RAIDs, lets you work for a long time with constant storage capacity and thus keeps file numbers and possible mistakes/mishaps low.

    If you want to learn more about all the details of Archive, Backup and Data Management there is a free ebook on the topic that I wrote with some specialized integrators.
    Conflict of interest declared:
    We are vendors of the Archiware P5 software suite for Cloning, Backup and Archive.

  6. Kevin Sio says:

    I am out of the business now but am a big fan of LTO based systems. Once you make it a habit – do a quick back up at the end of the editing day and archive finished projects – your level of confidence will increase.

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