End to Stashing Tapes in Closets

Safe storage of video is among current digital archiving options
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Safe storage of video is among current digital archiving options

Back in the Analog Days, video producers often stashed aired program and raw footage videotapes in closets. Theoretically, these tapes were “archived.” However, a true archive system includes a method for searching for old tapes, and being able to find them easily. In many video closets, the only way to find anything was to pull everything out, and then scan the tape box spines until you found what you wanted, assuming the spines had been properly labelled.

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Evertz SuperNAS

The advent of file-based digital video has changed archiving for the better. With programs and raw footage dubbed to editing hard drives, finding specific shows after the fact should be easy.

Unfortunately, this is not naturally the case. The reason: When hard drives used for archiving load up with old footage, some video producers remove the drives and—you guessed it—stick them in a closet.

When it comes to digital video storage, smart video producers know it is time to come out of the closet. A host of file-based, digital-video storage solutions are on the market today from companies such as Akitio, Evertz, Harmonic/Omneon and Sonnet Technologies. These solutions not only make archived video simple to store and find, but also enable the repurposing of old video for new platforms, i.e. the web and mobile.


Broadly speaking, there are five digital video storage options available today.

The simplest and cheapest is direct attached storage (DAS). This is a fancy name for one or more hard drives connected to a specific computer; often in their own external case(s).

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Akitio’s Taurus Mini Super-S

A DAS saves money at purchase time, but does not allow data sharing, has the lowest performance rate of all storage options, and is hard to expand (scale). Next up is storage area network storage (SANS).

This is a dedicated storage network made up of numerous hard drives and other digital storage devices. Like the DAS, the SAN does not offer data sharing over a network. It has more capacity, but is also difficult to expand to a larger size. By ascending the ladder a step, users will find the network attached storage (NAS) system. As the name suggests, NAS is a system that is connected to the network as a separate entity (like most file servers).

That allows for easy access by all network users. The NAS is usually simple to deploy and manage. Again, increasing storage capacity is not easy, and similar to the DAS and SANS, the NAS is not designed for substantial upgrades.

Next is the SAN with “SAN file system” (SAN with SANFS). The SAN with SANFS is a SAN with its own centralized file management system. This software “brain” speeds up file location and retrieval, making the SAN with SANFS a high performance system with network access. But again, being that this is a physically defined SAN, expansion can be limited.

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Harmonic’s Omneon MediaGrid

Finally, at the top of the heap is the NAS with “clustered file system” (clustered NAS). This is a distributed file system that runs on a number of NAS servers. This makes expansion easy; users just connect another NAS server.

Clustered NAS is fast and can be networked. Its only drawback is slightly lower performance compared to a SAN with SANFS, due to the clustered NAS’ reliance on NAS protocols like NFS and CIFS.


There are a wealth of digital video storage solutions currently on the market, and “the ideal solution depends on how and where the storage device is used,” says Jason Chen, Akitio’s vice president of product development. “If a lot of storage capacity is needed, then a multi-bay enclosure is required,” he said. “If the device is used only with one system, a single interface will do the job.” However, if it has to be compatible with many workstations, two or more interfaces are necessary, and it is generally recommended that a multi-bay enclosure with “redundant array of inexpensive discs” (RAID) and a mixed interface be used, he said.

Such a device is Akitio’s professional storage solution, the Taurus Mini Super-S, which the company introduced during 2011. The Taurus Mini Super-S is a 2.5-inch dual bay SATA enclosure, while compact in size it is complete with a built-in LCD display and two FW800 ports for daisy chaining.

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Sonnet Technologies�� Fusion F3

The Taurus Mini Super-S is equipped with a versatile interface, featuring eSATA, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 High Speed. To maximize performance and data throughput, “RAID 0-Striping” is a resourceful solution for daily backups and other data transfers, Akitio says. In addition, the “RAID 1-Mirroring” function will automatically create a copy of all data in the event a drive may fail, the company says.

Evertz sells a fault-resilient “SuperNAS” that can support up to 32GBps of read/write bandwidth and up to 4PB of capacity. “The Evertz SuperNAS is a clustered architecture that permits bandwidth and capacity to be incrementally and non-disruptively scaled as required,” says John Pittas, Evertz’s senior director of product development. “Each SuperNAS ‘node’ features multiple 10Gbps IP ports, that when combined with Evertz’ enhanced DNS load management software, provides guaranteed and prioritized high-performance access to the file system(s),” he said.

“Harmonic prefers a hybrid of SAN and clustered NAS to deliver the best of both worlds without the downsides of each,” says Geoff Stedman, GM/VP of Harmonic’s Storage Group. “Our storage solution, Omneon MediaGrid, delivers SAN-like performance with the simplicity and scalability of clustered NAS.”

Sonnet Technologies offers a tiered approach with solutions for mobile storage (F2, F3 and Qio systems), direct attached storage (the DX800RAID), and shared storage systems for SANs and workgroups (the Vfibre and RX1600fibre). “We believe our customers can obtain value from each storage level, so we provide migration paths that ensure they can leverage their existing investments,” says Greg LaPorte, Sonnet’s vice president of sales and marketing. “For example, if users start with one of our mobile Firewire devices, they can easily migrate the unit to desktop/edit suite use via eSATA,” he said. If a user’s system grows from a single editor into a workgroup, Sonnet’s DX800RAID system can be seamlessly added into a Vfibre SAN without any additional cost, thereby turning direct attached storage into shared storage, he added.


Clearly budget is always a consideration in making any government procurement, but when it comes to video storage systems, users should look beyond short-term price to meeting long-term needs. A case in point: The growing demand for multipurposing government video onto the web and for mobile means that a SAN with SFS or clustered NAS might be the best long-term solution. Remember, users want to be able to access archival videos as quickly as possible, and to reuse existing footage in new projects as much as possible.

Therefore, users should also consider file redundancy, to ensure that footage does not disappear when a piece of computer hardware eventually dies (as they all do).

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To avoid that fate, “Omneon MediaGrid uses three separate efficient redundancy techniques for dealing with component failures,” Stedman says.

Those techniques include RAID software for handling drive failures; Dual Active-Active controllers to handle controller failures in the storage array; and replication software to replicate data to another storage array to handle data center failures. Other vendors have their own redundancy solutions. Be sure to ask what they are.

As for “future proofing,” which is ensuring that a storage system acquired today will still be viable in say 2017, Akitio’s “products are designed according to the official standards and specifications of USB, FireWire and eSATA,” Chen says. That “assures both backwards and forwards compatibility, but within limits,” he said adding that limiting compatibility provides Akitio with “the option to further tweak the firmware if required.”

“Evertz SuperNAS has also been designed to be future proof by providing scalable, multi-tiered storage,” Pittas says. “Just as new storage tiers can be added on-line to an existing SuperNAS without affecting operation of the existing system, new storage devices can be similarly added to the SuperNAS without affecting the operation or jeopardizing the fault-resiliency of the existing storage.”


File-based digital video archiving is an absolute must for government video producers, no matter how large or small their department. In the current browser-based world, supervisors and the public expect to get whatever video they want, whenever they want to see it. So start shopping, and prepare to empty out that old videotape closet because it is better suited for mops and coats, anyway.