One of the more difficult challenges we face is that of archiving our creative materials. We’re currently taking a fresh look at this process, reviewing both the process in terms of who is doing what, but also taking a fresh look at the storage media we’re using.
Our current process involves burning all of our closed jobs to DVDs. In our main office alone, we routinely archive up to 20 DVDs (approximately 100 GB) of material every month, and we have 6 other offices all facing the same issue. Burning the DVDs is actually only part of the process, although it may be the most man-hour and time intensive part.
The first step involves making a final determination about when a job is complete, and this is a step which has to be done by the Creative Department. They are ultimately the owners of this data, and once a job has been tagged as final, it is moved to a read-only network location where it remains until it gets burned to DVD. How long it remains on the network depends on our current remaining disk space, but we can usually maintain 2-3 months on our network. This is very helpful, because most requests for archived jobs occur in this time span. Having he materials readily available on the network saves us from having to retrieve from an offline DVD.
Once we need to reclaim disk space, we then begin the process of burning this material to DVDs. First, we have to break the data up into DVD-size chunks. Then, we burn it onto DVD, verifying against the original. Finally, we duplicate the DVD, catalog the DVD using DiskTracker, and send the duplicate DVD to one of our other locations for permanent offsite storage. The DiskTracker catalog is shared on our network for all users to search. This part of the process requires both time and manpower, up to 2 days per month. It’s also contentious in terms of who actually does it – in some of our offices we utilize IT personnel while in others it’s done by Creative or Studio.
Over the years we’ve constantly looked for ways to streamline and improve the process, including jukebox-based systems, but we’ve usually rejected most systems because of the expense of adding them to all of our locations.
At the moment we’re actually contemplating replacing our DVDs with hard drive based storage. We could store at least 6 months of archive materials on a 500 GB hard drive. The amount of time we could save using a hard drive based system would save us a tremendous amount of time, but it also raises a lot of issues – including costs, reliability, susceptibility to viruses, and the potential for losing more data in a single shot. Personally, it seems like most of those issues can be resolved, and we’re going to test a hard drive based solution over the coming months.
We’ll see how it goes, but it will be very interesting to see how we’re archiving and what we’re using 5-10 years from now.