Solved LTO (magnetic tape data storage) or HDD for Archiving?

March 13, 2016 at 17:05:53
Specs: Windows 7, x980
I'm considering switching from internal hard drives to LTOs for archiving my video footage and project files. I go through about 10-15TB of data a year.

Currently, when I'm done with my projects I backup the data on two separate physical hard drive (WD Green Drives). Once a pair of drives is filled up it never gets written too again, only read from on occasion but not too often at all. From a cost analysis perspective it would take me a while to make LTOs worthwhile since LTO-7 tapes are only 75% the cost of an equivalent hard drive (I would still backup in pairs). I figure it would take about, give or take, 7.5 years to make the LTO drive worth it (and by then LTO-7 will be outdated)

I guess my question is whether, considering the amount I use the drives, it's worth it to invest in a $2.5K LTO drive or whether the WD drives should last me 15+ years considering how little I access them.


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March 13, 2016 at 19:28:16
✔ Best Answer
15 years+ from now all you are talking about will be legacy technology and connecting to a then modern system could require a series of adapters.
No guarantee the data will be 100% accessible after 15 years+.

About hard drives longevity, an interesting article:


As the 2 articles mention; refresh the media on a regular basis.

message edited by sluc

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March 13, 2016 at 19:37:09
It's a gamble that almost any HDD would last 15+ years (though I have a few that are over 20 years old) and it's likely something beyond LTO-7 will be available then (see below). How does the payback of Blue-Ray burners/media compare to LTO-7---granted, a much smaller capacity per disk vs. the tapes, but still a far lower initial cost on the burner {~$50}. But at 15TB of data, it would still consume >600 discs (probably not the best solution)...

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

message edited by T-R-A

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March 13, 2016 at 23:29:23
You don't have to pick LTO-7 you know. LTO-3's are still in common use, and they came out in 2005. If it were me, I'd probably look at LTO-6 drives instead. That'd offset the cost in the SAS controller you'd need to buy, but forgot to factor in to your calculations.

From the sound of it, you've already did the price to GB comparison, and you've decided your volume isn't high enough to offset the initial cost. So it comes down to if the 15-30 year data lifetime is worth the added cost, and that's something you need to answer yourself. Personally, I wouldn't expect any data on an unplugged HDD to survive 10 years, but feel free to get back to me at that time, and we can go over your failure rate.

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March 14, 2016 at 15:05:32
All really good answers and very helpful. Right now I am leaning towards spending the money on an LTO-7 but buying LTO-6 tapes since LTO-7 tapes are still very expensive. I'll likely hang on to the LTO-7 for a few generations (which appears to be roughly 3 years each generation), refresh all the media and repeat.

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March 15, 2016 at 04:36:18
Hi Elie,

I have doubts on relying on any magnetic media over such lengthy periods.

Cost should not be a factor. If your projects are that important and were lost, how great would be the impact on you?

I would consider 1 or 2 (maybe additional ones) copies being held on DVD's. Obviously depending on file sizes, but a few on each, rather than cramming full.

Good Luck - Keep us posted.

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March 15, 2016 at 08:23:16
Mike, writable optical media is one of the worst choices for archiving data, with an expected lifetime of under 5 years. The photoreactive dye just breaks down over time.

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