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In Praise of Optical Storage

Storage vendors may be beating their marketing drums over disk and tape, but it may pay for users to look beyond these technologies to optical disk. Such was the case for the South Central Veterans' Administration Healthcare System in the aftermath of the hurricane Katrina devastation in New Orleans in late August 2005.

Like many organizations, the South Central VA relied heavily on disk and tape for its backups, although it was optical disk that came to its rescue after the storm.

Speaking during a presentation at Storage Networking World last week, Kenneth Allen, the systems imaging technology manager, explained how the organization struggled to access 9 Tbytes of patient image data on its VistA database after Katrina.

"If there had not been any optical media, there would have been a lot of VA patients now without their [medical] images," he said, explaining that the optical media helped him salvage key data from the organization's New Orleans hospital.

The VA's Medical Center is located in downtown New Orleans, where 6-foot floodwaters seeped into the building after the hurricane struck. "Most of our utilities were down, including the fuel tanks for the emergency generators -- we had nothing," said Allen.

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