archiving, digital vs. film

Started Oct 3, 2003 | Discussions thread
toughluck Veteran Member • Posts: 3,122
For film disbelievers, I believe

The streamer, or a 'streaming unit', using 8 mm film cartridges, can store up to some 40 TB (Terabytes, or much rather 40 TiB - tebibytes), and it is vastly preferred over any digital disc backup storage.

1. it's faster - 100 GB stores in less than 10 minutes (if the transfer between the harddrive and the streamer is fast enough)

2. storing cannot be wrong - anything is stored as a stream, the file allocation table is written first, then data, and data can be accessed without 'closing' a session, so even if there is a power down, data is still 'burned'.

3. it has variable speed storing - the streamer has a large prebuffer, and is ready to slow down the cartridge, as well as stopping it completely once the buffer runs empty.

4. deriving from points 2 and 3 - it can backup for any amount of time - if there is a appending dump file that you are backing up, the streamer can store the data concurrently with a hard drive (stopping the write once there is no longer data in the buffer), and finish the backup after elapsed time (like one month's time), and you can replace the cartridge with a new one, and backup to a new cartridge - like the header of a new file, and dump data from a new month.

5. the cartridge is much smaller than an optical disc, and the footprint is much smaller as well (magnetic as opposed to optical)

6. it's digital, the cartridge is magnetically sealed, and comes in a magnetic shield, so there is no possibility of wiping data. The cartridge also has a VERY simple mechanic system that cannot break, and the tape is environmentally protected (to heat extremes, for example).

Examples of use: service centres of GSM operators. All messaging systems' messages, and operator billings are backed up on a cartridge in monthly intervals. It is much preferred over any compact disc.

As for consumer units? Well, tough... The cheapest ones start from around $1,000. And yes - there have been VERY many advancements over the course of the last 10 years, and the new units are very advanced.

The lowest speed streamers have transfer speed of 10-20 MB/s. Yes - it is much faster than CDs.

There are speed monsters, achieving speeds from 150 MB/s up, but those cost a lot (never really that interested in that technology to check exact prices).

The major downside, aside from the price, is the definite need of a SCSI interface (for internal streamers), or a Firewire (external ones). You probably have Firewire if you're shooting digital, but there are speed compromises with Firewire, and the price of such a unit is higher than an internal one + a SCSI interface card. It is a downside, because you usually don't have a motherboard native to SCSI (P4 ones starting from $300 up), and a PCI SCSI interface extension card is a lot slower than native support. And you probably don't have a SCSI hard drive in your PC, so that means lower transfer rates as well.

The other downside is the media cost. A 10 GB storage unit costs around $40-$50, which is much less than an HDD that size, but still a lot.

Of course, the price of streamer units should start dropping, and companies should begin to introduce low-end streamer units equipped with E-IDE/ATAPI interface in a few months, once the market for such devices grows above the critical point - the market being enthusiast photographers.

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