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ARSCLIST  December 2008

ARSCLIST December 2008

Subject:

Re: Cost of tape vs HD (was: crashed disk drive recovery)

From:

Dave Nolan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 22 Dec 2008 15:01:42 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (141 lines)

Marcos - 

I never intended to say that the costs of using a managed IT approach for 
long-term storage were lower than analog - only that the current cost 
of "better quality" hard drive media was roughly comparable to the cost of 
analog reel-to-reel media - especially when when adjusted for inflation.  

Remember - my comments came out of Richard's talking about a friend/client 
with a failed hard drive, and I was trying to make the case for spending 
the few extra $$ on professional-quality drives instead of being taken in 
by the cheapest thing on the shelf at OfficeMax.  Had we all done that in 
the past, our archives would all be on 39-cent Certron cassettes instead of 
reels ;-)

And while my basic reasoning was based on media costs alone, and did not 
take into account data migration costs, neither did (almost) anyone's 
original analog "strategy" factor in the costs of preservation or migration.

I do think that Palm's assertions in the "Digital Black Hole" article about 
admin costs are based on one particular sort of IT environment - one where 
there are indeed many many administrators for their storage systems.

Unfortunately, the reality that I have seen - even in seemingly "large", 
well-funded institutions (a couple of prominent New York public 
broadcasting institutions come to mind) - is that instead of a well-staffed 
multimedia archiving and IT environment, there is instead a "one-person-
shop" - or if you're lucky, a "two-person-shop" (one archivist and one 
sympathetic IT support person).  This is of course despite upper 
management's perception that every piece of multimedia that has ever been 
created by the institution should be instantly available to a plethora of 
users in a wide variety of delivery formats.

Management expectations notwithstanding, the lack of personnel and 
re$ource$ forces one to rethink the degree of in-depth management that can 
be reasonably applied by one or two people to the multimedia archive.  With 
a certain amount of effort, you can automate backups and other storage 
admin duties, but in real-life practice for any library or archive that I 
have worked with, the layers of IT admin support that Palm describes in the 
Digital Black Hole article are simply out of reach - and so some levels of 
perfection are just never achieved.  

And this isn't even taking into account the well-documented problem of lack 
of multimedia knowhow and sometimes outright hostility to media archiving 
and in many institutional IT departments, which only further complicates 
the job of the digital media archivist and often forces them to become 
their own IT administrators just to build and maintain a functioning system.

I am also noticing that if we go with Palm's estimate of just under 8 Euros 
per GB for "real" storage costs (including admin), that is not too far off 
from my storage costs for 2-channel 24/96 audio on an enterprise-class SAN 
system administered by one person.  Additionally, in the three-plus years I 
have been on my current project, we have seen the price of our backup 
drives plummet by over 50%.  The costs for the SAN hardware have not 
dropped quite so quickly (drives are cheaper, processors are not), but 
nonetheless we have invested in the next generation of hardware from our 
SAN manufacturer, which will allow us to house 24TB in expansion frames 
connected to a single SAN controller, as opposed to 2 TB per SAN in the 
previous generation of hardware - so our costs for primary storage are 
projected to fall, just not as quickly as with outboard backup drives.

As for the costs of preserving the original analog (or digital, for that 
matter) media, I am perpetually amazed at the amount of money spent on what 
I consider inappropriate storage.  Several places I have worked with have 
insisted on keeping their masters in a warehouse in the same city - close 
by, but with insufficient climate control, and often at exorbitant "city 
rent" costs.  For some reason, there is a psychological comfort for certain 
non-archival managerial types in thinking that "geographically close" 
somehow means "more easily accessible" - despite ample evidence that the 
time and cost of retrieving a tape from the local warehouse is no less 
expensive than having it FedEx-ed from truly secure, geographically remote, 
climate-controlled storage - with overall yearly costs 1/10th of what they 
are paying to store media locally.  

Anyway - enough from me...  Marcos makes some very valid points about 
presenting modern archival management as an ongoing "We've just finished 
painting the boat, time to paint the boat again..." managed IT situation 
requiring ongoing maintenance, instead of the "tapes-on-a-shelf-for-50-
years" model that so many people have stuck in their heads when approaching 
a new project.

dave nolan
92nd St. Y
nyc


On Sun, 21 Dec 2008 14:26:25 -0500, Marcos Sueiro Bal 
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Dave,
>
>One comment:
>
>> One also has to consider that the costs of blank media in the recent 
analog
>> past were at least as expensive as going with an Enterprise-class SAN
>> system.  20 or so years ago, I was paying $10-$15 per reel of 1/4" tape
>> holding either 30 or 60 minutes of audio.  If you adjust that for 
inflation
>> ($10.00 in 1985 now equals roughly $20.00 in 2008), one can make the
>> argument that the cost per recorded hour of 2-channel audio at 24/96 on a
>> SAN is still cheaper than recording the same audio 24 years ago to analog
>> 1/4" tape at 15ips (or even at 7.5ips for that matter).
>
>It is true that the cost of *recording* high-quality audio is lower,
>but for archival purposes I think these numbers are highly misleading:
>long-term storage costs of large quantities of digital data appear to
>incur much higher costs than analog. We are talking about five-year
>life-cycles for the hardware/software systems (and their associated
>expensive migrations), knowledge cost of IT (although in your
>institution it is mostly you, you spend a lot of time maintaining and
>researching the infrastructure), the seemingly much higher need for
>multiple copies, etc etc.
>
>Jonas Palm, in his wonderful "The Digital Black Hole", estimates that
>the cost for *five years* of storage in his fairly sophisticated
>institution system as 7.86/GB. Again, this does not account for
>expensive data migration every five years.
>http://www.tape-online.net/docs/Palm_Black_Hole.pdf
>
>Furthermore, for preservation of legacy media, the higher costs of
>analog physical storage cannot be dismissed, since accepted practice
>is to keep the original masters.
>
>I am far from advocating for a return to analog as archival storage,
>but for now at least (where is the 100-year hard drive?) we cannot
>make the argument that long-term digital storage of audio is less
>expensive than analog. I think we do a disservice to institutions and
>clients when we present it as such. We need to know what we are all
>getting into.
>
>Please chime in with comments, as I would love to be wrong.
>
>Cheers & happy holidays,
>
>Marcos
>
>-- 
>Marcos Sueiro Bal
>Audio Engineer
>718.902.7441

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