Reader Mail: Configuring an LTO-5 Drive for the Mac

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.

As always, I’m interested in your comments.


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