Linear Tape-Open pros and cons

High-capacity storage for backing-up digital content

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Linear Tape-Open (LTO) magnetic tape data storage has been widely adopted within the entertainment industry for many years, relied upon as a dependable, competitive storage choice. Yet as with all backup storage options, LTO has its upsides and its downsides.

About LTO

LTO technology was developed jointly in 1998 by Certance (now Quantum), Hewlett Packard and IBM, with the intention of creating an open format to deliver multiple product and media sources to the market. LTO has features like data compression, track layout and error correction to maximize capacity and performance while maintaining data integrity. 

Primary benefits of LTO storage

Broadly accepted industry standard

On the market for almost 20 years and with millions of tapes in use, LTO has beaten rival tape technologies and offers a compelling alternative to disk, refuting disk proponent predictions of the imminent “death of tape.” LTO remains an industry standard for archival media, and major studios continue to depend on it to create backup archives of their content. 

Massive storage capacity

LTO cartridges can hold huge amounts of data, offering high-capacity storage that expands with every new iteration and resulting in the need for fewer tapes to store the same amount of data. The itieration of LTO-8 accommodates up to 30 terabytes compressed per cartridge (12 terabytes native), magnifying the capacity of previous generations. 

Straightforward LTO design ensures reliability

A tape is a straightforward medium with simple parts, making it ideal for long-term storage. By contrast, drives are complex devices with numerous moving parts that must be connected to an energy source at all times. 

Unlike disk, tape is only in use when transferring data. Hard drives become less reliable when not used regularly and are not designed to sit on a shelf. Disks, unlike tapes, are at risk of falling victim to computer vulnerabilities like hacking, viruses, malware or being erased. Tape represents a stable safeguard against these weaknesses.

Tape costs are low relative to disk

LTO is recognized as having the lowest cost per gigabyte among storage media.

Tape uses less energy and offers cheaper storage capacity, resulting in cost saving efficiencies. The result is that tape is the least expensive enterprise storage option, even when the cost of off-site storage is included.  

LTO offers access comparable to disk systems

When used with the Linear Tape File System (LTFS)—a direct access system that allows files stored on magnetic tape to be accessed in a similar fashion to those on disk—LTO can offer access capability comparable to disk. LTFS lets users search a tape as readily as a hard disk, improving access time.

Off-site storage advantages

An onsite disk system demands lots of space and energy. Sending seldom-used data to long-term offsite tape storage can be a less costly alternative to expensive real estate. In addition, it delivers a disaster recovery option for high-value content. These are two major advantages of off-site LTO storage.

Primary concerns of LTO storage

Despite the many advantages of LTO storage, the medium also comes with some disadvantages. The “cons” don’t need to be show-stoppers, but they do require planning and consideration.

Technology upgrades and obsolescence

As new LTO iterations are introduced, regular updating is essential to leverage enhanced storage capacity and new features. While enhancements are beneficial, these continual upgrades are contributing to confusion and the risk of obsolescence. 

Stringent requirements for storage

Tape archives need to be kept scrupulously clean to avoid dirt and dust that can hamper performance. Ideally this involves professional, archival storage facilities that meet all the necessary environmental criteria.

Handling and administration

Tape cartridges require administrative tasks such as labeling, logging, testing and transportation. Also, it takes time to retrieve and transport files from an offsite tape vault. While disk storage comes with its own concerns, tapes require planning and accommodation for proper, secure handling and timely access when needed. 

The completely perfect medium for long-term archiving and back-up of film and other media assets has yet to be developed. All the current options have benefits and disadvantages. In the meantime, you can depend on LAC Group’s content and archive services to be at the forefront of developments in media storage, adding and updating equipment and services to offer the best and most current solutions for entertainment industry needs.

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