This is the second of a two part series on the Quantum A-Series LTO drive. You can find part 1 here.
Once Quantum released the unbelievably fantastic Version 3 upgrade three months ago, any minor inconvenience we were having with the tape drive seemed to disappear. They really did a great job listening to client comments and fixed virtually every problem that needed to be addressed. The interface is more fluid (you used to not be able to adjust the size of the windows), and there is no longer a self-destruct button next to the eject button. There is now an automatic preventative measure in place to no longer lose the table of contents (a problem we had early in its use, it appeared worse than it actually was). We can fill the tapes up as full as we want (we used to need to add a cushion of space to prevent filling the tapes “too full”). I can now let my pals < and ? into the drive without concern. Oh, they can invite the rest of their friends as well, the blacklist is lifted! There is still only a 97 character limit for filenames, but only once in a blue moon do I export FCP movies titled…
“Saturday_Conference_With_Rebecca_and_Steve_Morricone_ Featuring_the_Brilliant_Antics _of_Reggie Montgomery_Which_Occurred_at_9AM_Eastern_Time _or_8AM_Central_Time_Which_Would _Make_More_ Sense Because_We_Live_in_Illinois.mov”
The actual process of putting (small named) files on the tape is an easy, 5 step process. It’s so simple that I was able to teach it to my cousin Eric in just a couple of minutes (FYI he sniffs a lot of glue, it’s hard to teach him things).
1. Organize everything you want to put on the tape into a folder, name it appropriately. We use a date coded folder based on the day of the backup.
2. Insert a tape with enough free space to hold your folder.
3. Open the drive’s server interface, and connect to the tape on the right side.
4. Locate your folder on the left hand side (which is the local side).
5. Drag it to the right side.
That’s it. It really is that easy. And that’s one of the best parts about this drive, it’s so incredibly easy. You can then watch the progress in the bottom part of the interface.
And it will let you know when it is done.
Taking things off of a tape is just as easy. Just drag the files from the right side to the left side!
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Hey Scott, I just backed up multiple terabytes on these LTOs, now I need to pull stuff off of them, but how do I know where anything is on these tapes???” Well, my amigo, that answer comes in the form of a sort of mashed together single word, CDFinder. This is a spectacular cataloguing tool that we used back for the IDE drives that still carries over to our tape use. We now have (at the time of this article posting) 46 archive tapes/drives. CDFinder helps us sift through all 46 places that a file could potentially be. The way to put a new tape into the catalog is unbelievably easy.
Just load the tape onto the desktop by going to Go > Connect to Server.
Then open CDFinder, and drag the tape to the left part of the CDFinder interface.
Hit “Create New”. And it will start to catalogue your tape.
This is sort of a buggy process, as the tape drive will claim to disconnect every few minutes or so, but it’s just an illusion, as it will eventually catalogue if you just let it do it’s thing. Then just rename the catalogued tape whatever it is you’d like to call it, as I’m sure you won’t want the sever number as the name of your tape (though, I do plan on naming my child “10.1.10.70 Roberts”. It works for a boy OR a girl!).
Then the process of finding things just requires that you hit “Find”.
Type in what you want to find.
And it will search ALL of your tapes, and find what you seek. This whole process it relatively intuitive, and as stated many times, abnormally simple.
Now I know no one likes to hear it, but the A-Series isn’t exactly cheap at $8000. But hear us out here! Before we had the tape drive, back in the IDE external drive days, we archived everyone’s projects as a common courtesy. Just for our own well being knowing that projects come back from the dead after a while, that’s just how it goes. But with the longevity of the LTO tapes, backing up our clients projects has now become (in addition to a way to easily access old projects for use in current projects) a way for our clients to have long term storage of their valuable work. So we now charge our clients for each project that they have archived. Pulling things off of the tapes is free to them, but the initial archiving now costs them a small fee. This is a win-win for us and the clients, as they will have their projects safe for several decades, and we will pay off the expense of the drive in the near future, and even start making money on it! It’s an investment!
I guess the underlying point of this was to let you know, if you happened to have doubts about LTO tape based archiving, you were right to perhaps have doubts in the past, but it all seems to be good now. The Quantum A-Series is a fantastic machine for archiving large amounts of media. I recommend the Quantum A-Series tape drive NOW, because it works good NOW. It is definitely faster to actually pull things off of it or put things on it compared to the IDE drives. It also importantly comes with the assurance that bad data blocks won’t get copied over, giving us very comfortable levels of security. I think what we expected it to do when we first got it, is finally happening ten fold in recent times. Bail on the hard drives, this is a good time to be tape based archiving. And you should make it an A-Series.
In a future article we will look at how we use the LTO drives in combination with tapeless production cameras. Having a good workflow is the key to everything.
For more detailed specs on LTO technology in general, check out Wikipedia.