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Howard Marks
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Storing Archival Data - Part Deux

Now that you've decided to build a real archive you need to figure out where, both physically and technically, you're going to keep it. Archives are data Roach Motels -- data goes in but doesn't check out for a long time. Which means it will outlast the 5-7 year useful life of most disk systems. Archive systems need to insure data integrity beyond vendor's end of life declarations.

Now that you've decided to build a real archive you need to figure out where, both physically and technically, you're going to keep it. In the old days, archival storage meant hard copy.  From the dawn of the computing age til at least the late eighties, storing digital data electronically was both too expensive and too risky. After all, it was way too easy to screw up a 9-track tape as you threaded it onto a drive.
Now hard copy doesn't just mean green bar printouts. By the mid '70s, computer output to microform (COM) systems were in wide use holding archival copies of financial statements and other important reports. As user-created data like word processing documents and emails had to be stored, tape and magneto-optical disks came to the fore. Today most organizations have moved to systems based on spinning magnetic disks -- but is that the right choice? To answer that question, let's start by looking at how archival data is different from active data and laying out the attributes that make a good storage system for archival data.

Howard Marks is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage ... View Full Bio
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