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posted by Spectra Logic Corporation on Sept. 7, 2017 (5 years, 1 month ago)

Disaster Recovery for Media & Entertainment with Spectra BlackPearl

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It’s not about if. It’s about when. Without a solid disaster recovery plan in place, media and entertainment assets are prone to unforeseen disasters and can easily be lost forever.

With media and entertainment businesses depending on content for revenue, lost assets could spell trouble for them. Worst case, organizations that lose their digital assets can go out of business.

While many environments have well-established storage infrastructures in place, they often lack a well-planned disaster recovery (DR) strategy. Rarely discussed in media and entertainment is the importance of disaster recovery. Spectra Logic believes the topic deserves to be brought to the forefront. Keeping additional copies of content in a remote location can be a saving grace in instances where the primary copy is destroyed. In the past, creating and keeping duplicate copies in geographically separated locations may have been cost prohibitive, but solutions now exist that make disaster recovery economically feasible. In order to safeguard content for future repurposing and monetization, it is essential to protect it from a variety of threats – including acts of nature, viruses, hacking, ransomware, software corruption, insider threats and accidental deletion.

In this whitepaper, you will learn about disaster recovery and why it is so important to bring the conversation about it to the forefront. Finally, you’ll discover how the groundbreaking Spectra Logic BlackPearl® Converged Storage System was designed from the beginning to address this gap in media and entertainment. It provides a highly cost-effective disaster recovery solution that protects both digital assets and application databases facilitating quick recovery in the event of a disaster.

Incidents, Accidents & Disasters

Drives fail, rains pour, employees ‘retaliate’, malicious viruses spread, tornadoes spin, hackers hack. No matter how you slice it, there are threats to content at every turn. Let’s journey through a few catastrophic losses.

Over the past century, several catastrophic film vault fires have occurred and instances like these further exemplify the significant need to protect these high value treasures. After several of these fires, it was discovered that nitrocellulose film stock chemical composition caused it to easily degrade and combust over time. The race began to preserve and protect films stored on the volatile medium. Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation estimates that more than 90 percent of American films made before 1929 have been lost. 

One of many lost original films

In 1937, nitrate films stored in a 20th Century Fox storage facility spontaneously caught fire and destroyed over 40,000 reels of film. Fifty-seven truckloads of film debris were ultimately removed from the
site. The Fox Vault Fire is now understood to be a significant loss of American film heritage.

Again, an electrical fire ignited the nitrate film stored in MGM’s silent film vault. During the 1967 disaster hundreds of original silent films were burned – including silent films and original cartoon shorts including Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery. Other pre-1924 films produced by MGM predecessors included Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures.

Fast forward to current times; a new slew of threats has cropped up over the years with the digitization of content. Seemingly, all of Hollywood is under cyberattack.

Ransomware is a growing threat to digital assets

Sony Pictures experienced a modern-day disaster when a hacker breached the organization’s sensitive data in November 2014. The cyberattack targeted yet-to-be-released films, including “The Interview,” and confidential personal data, including salary and social security numbers of Sony employees. Over 100 terabytes of data were stolen. The identified hacker group “Guardians of Peace” also known as “LulzSec” posted the stolen films, salary information and other data online for the public to see. Using a wiper malware variant (Destover), they were able to wipe out numerous servers in Sony’s network infrastructure. The IDC estimates the cyberattack will ultimately cost Sony up to $250 million[1].

In April 2017 a slew of unreleased Netflix shows called, “Orange Is the New Black” were held captive with ransomware, a malicious software that encrypts its victims’ data preventing them from accessing it until ransom has been paid. In this instance, the content was breached at Larson Studios in Los Angeles, even after paying the perpetrator, ‘thedarkoverlord’, the proprietary shows were released to the masses, resulting in a significant economic loss to Netflix.

July 2017 saw the HBO Network maliciously attacked by hackers with 1.5 terabytes of data stolen, including unreleased episodes of the television show, “Game of Thrones,” as well as other popular shows.

On the side of human error, anything is possible. Pixar staff nearly deleted the Toy Story 2 sequel when an employee accidentally entered a delete command that erased 90% of the film. Talk about a multi-million-dollar mishap. After finding out their backups had failed and they couldn’t recover their assets, it was a saving grace that an employee had been taking home an entire copy of the film with her on a weekly basis. Had they not been able to recover the files, it would have taken 30 staff members and entire year to recreate the erased work. In the end, Toy Story 2 pulled in nearly $500 million at the box office.

Content isn’t immune to human error either. Every once in a while a tape falls off the back of a truck, destroying it and the precious content that lived on it. Fingers get sticky and the delete key is accidentally pressed. Sometimes, the delete key is hit purposefully. All of these threats combine to reveal how vulnerable content is to damage, disaster and destruction. 

The Value of Content

Content is the lifeblood of your organization. It is up to you to help preserve it. Archives exist to not only repurpose and monetize digital assets, but also to preserve it for generations to come. If content needed to produce a program, film, or, perhaps a news segment, is destroyed and no disaster recovery copy exists – it can be crippling cost-wise to re-film and recreate. 

Imagine a world where no old films exist. Content captures the essence of culture and truly provides a sign of the times. From presidential inaugurations, to space missions, to that infamous ‘Hail Mary’ pass during a game, content is history and helps propagate our society’s genome.

An organism’s genome (the complete set of genes present in the organism) stores all the information that the organism needs to create and maintain its organs and living functions. Likewise, the genome for a civilization, or society’s genome, is the set of preserved data that defines that civilization and serves as the basis of its organization and functions. It provides us with a view into years past – a virtual time capsule. It tells us where we were, where we are and where we are going as a society. Once content is lost, in many cases it is unrecoverable.

Long stressing the importance of ‘genetic diversity’ in data storage, Spectra Logic emphasizes why users shouldn’t trust one media type with all of their data. These ideas have been developed further in a book, “Society’s Genome: Genetic Diversity’s Role in Digital Preservation,” that looks at protecting all the information in society with an evolutionary approach to preserving it.

Society's Genome Available for Download on Amazon.com

Nathan Thompson, the book’s author and the chief executive officer of Spectra Logic, details how humanity’s progress and survival relies heavily on computing power and the data sets created through art, science, and commerce. Destruction or loss of that data would set civilization back substantially. The book examines the many threats to information preservation, and in specific cases, to media and entertainment businesses. It details the technology available for protecting this information and how to leverage them to safeguard the most precious of archives -- society’s genome.

With most media and entertainment entities only keeping one copy of content, they are placing future revenue streams at risk.  This begs the question: If so many threats exist to content, and content is inherently valuable – why do so many media and entertainment organizations put DR on the back burner?   

Regardless of the threat, content creators and owners must diligently protect their assets and, as such, develop a sound recovery plan. As Bill Gates once said, “Content is king”.

What is Disaster Recovery? 

As exemplified earlier, disasters happen. Every. Single. Day. A disaster recovery plan is essential in recovering content in the event of data loss. By definition, it includes a set of policies and procedures that are repeatable and provide constant and reliable creation of additional copies of data (preferably in a geographically separated location), along with clearly defined processes and toolsets to restore data in the event of human or naturally induced disaster. For this discussion, disaster recovery means the protection of assets necessary to keep your media and entertainment business up and running in the event of a disaster or disruption.

A well planned disaster recovery plan incorporates a recovery point objective (RPO), recovery time objective (RTO) and several important features, including geographic separation of replicated data copies and genetic diversity in media. RTO is easily defined as continuity planning – a business must calculate the target period of time in which data must be restored after a disaster occurs – and can be defined in minutes, hours, days, etc. On the other hand, RPO is defined by the age of the files that is acceptable to be restored from in order to maintain normal operations and is also defined in minutes, hours, days, etc. Maintaining geographic separation ensures that, if a disaster takes place at one facility, a second copy, kept remotely, is stored out of harm’s reach and available when needed. Genetic diversity of data storage is also an important factor when it comes to protecting content. Say, for instance, a virus is spread throughout an organization and targets one media type – data copies stored on another media would remain unscathed. Should disaster strike, the DR copy(ies) of data should be easily accessible, so as to mitigate the extent of impact to the business.

Protecting Assets with a Disaster Recovery Strategy

It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Traditional storage models that include media and entertainment middleware (sometimes known as Hierarchical Storage Managers or HSM) make creating and implementing a disaster recovery plan difficult and expensive. In some cases, scripts must be written for an HSM to create multiple and remote copies of content. Further licenses are required to create and manage multiple copies of assets – and that doesn’t come free. These roadblocks have made it difficult for many media and entertainment businesses to justify implementing a disaster recovery plan.

Image of Burned Nitrate Film Reels

Enter the modern storage model: Spectra Logic’s BlackPearl® Converged Storage System. In comparison to traditional HSM storage models, BlackPearl solves the problem of costly and complex approaches to disaster recovery, wholly eliminating the traditional pricey licensing model. It accomplishes this by combining multiple standard interfaces (CIFS/NFS with object storage) and several storage targets into a simple and affordable solution that can support many diverse workflows.

BlackPearl’s Advanced Bucket Management (ABM) policy engine is the driver within BlackPearl that enables it to excel at disaster recovery. With ABM, the BlackPearl solution has the ability to write content to various storage media, including nearline disk, archive disk, LTO tape and IBM’s TS tape technology, as well as to the public cloud (Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure). BlackPearl ABM also extends capability to create multiple copies of assets. For example, one copy can be made to keep on-premise, while another is written to tape and externalized for offsite storage at another site. The externalized copy can be kept at another location, or in a vault, at Iron Mountain. This creates geographic separation, sometimes referred to as an “air-gap” between the copies of data. ABM also allows for the replication of content to one or more remote BlackPearls, enabling an externalized copy for vaulting, or for storing the public cloud as a fail-safe.

Keep in mind that the defacto storage medium for DR has always been tried and true tape technology; BlackPearl makes storing copies of precious content to tape (LTO, or IBM® TS tape technology) easy and affordable. Using tape mitigates the risk of data being infected by disk-specific viruses, unintended deletion, code upgrades, etc. Tape is cost effective, and boasts a healthy shelf life, is easily encrypted, and provides an extremely low bit-rot error rate ensuring the integrity of content over many years. It also facilitates economical transport and storage of media offsite to a separate geographical location from the primary copy.  At the time this was written, a second copy on modern LTO-7 6TB tape would cost a user about $90.00 or $.015 per gigabyte.

Furthermore, content should be kept on two separate pieces of tape media—which are preferably geographically separate.  In Spectra’s experience, the odds of tape failure average about 1 tape in 10,000 owned per year.  If a tape has a 1 in 10,000 chance of being lost or destroyed, two copies (again if separated) raises the odds to 1 in 100 million within a year. Three copies on tape increases odds of loss or destruction to an astronomical 1 in 1 trillion chances over the course of a year. All-in-all BlackPearl helps end users perpetually maintain their content.

BlackPearl Methods of Protection

With BlackPearl, users can choose their preferred method of duplicating/replicating content copies for DR. ABM policies can be set to replicate to a remote BlackPearl, send a DR copy to the public cloud, and eject a copy of tape for vaulting.




BlackPearl Disaster Recovery Offsite/Offline Example 1: Content from the asset management application is stored to a local BlackPearl, then two copies are written to a local Spectra Tape Library, one kept onsite, the other is ejected for offsite/offline DR storage at a remote location.


BlackPearl Disaster Recovery Replication Example 2: Content from the user’s asset management application are stored to Site 1 BlackPearl, which replicates to Site 2 BlackPearl, in a remote location.



BlackPearl Disaster Recovery Offsite/Offline Example 3: Advanced Bucket Management policies are set to store content from the user’s asset management application to Site 1 BlackPearl, which replicates to Site 2 BlackPearl (remote location). Site 2 BlackPearl stores content to a Spectra Tape Library, with a copy ejected for storage offsite (i.e. Iron Mountain).


BlackPearl Disaster Recovery Public Cloud Example 4: Content is stored from the asset management system to the BlackPearl and a DR copy is then created and sent to the public cloud.


What About the Database?

Beyond protecting the actual archived assets, it is equally important to protect your MAM or PAM database or index.  Without the MAM or PAM archive database intact, it is nearly impossible to search and find any assets in your archives.

It is just as critical to protect your database along with your assets when considering a DR plan.  Spectra Eon Protect, a software application available to BlackPearl users, automatically backs up not only the Asset Management application database, but also backs up the BlackPearl database. These backups can all be placed in designated buckets (logical containers) on BlackPearl. It is important that multiple copies of the Asset Management Application and BlackPearl databases are created, and that one copy is housed in a geographically separated location from the other copy. As such, each bucket can be configured with disaster recovery policies in mind.

Storing regularly scheduled snapshots of the databases as well as the metadata that your software relies on in an LTFS volume enables it to be restored by simply dragging and dropping it back into place if disaster were to strike. This speeds up recovering the system (hence, meeting both recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives) to online status and reduces the amount of downtime experienced after all hell breaks loose.

For example: policies can be set to create snapshot copies of the databases on BlackPearl local storage as well as on multiple tape copies that are ejected and kept in a remote location, or copied to the public cloud after a designated time period.  Additional copies can even be replicated to remote BlackPearl sites. In cases where a BlackPearl is destroyed, a replacement BlackPearl can be used to recover the most recent database backup – by using offsite backups.

With no extra licensing costs or additional hardware needs, Eon Protect provides a truly sustainable disaster recovery option for M&E environments. With BlackPearl, the ability to make multiple copies is accomplished at no additional license costs. Tape users can typically make a duplicate copy for only the cost of another partial set of tape media. 

The Cost of Offsite Media Storage

Storing copies of data offsite in a vaulted location such as Iron Mountain is a routine practice in many DR plans. Iron Mountain specifically has become the go-to for offsite data storage protection and has been in business since 1951. The organization offers both onsite collection and drop-off services of tape media via secure transportation, streamlining any businesses with an offsite data/content strategy. Stored in environmentally controlled environments, media is ensured longevity (up to 30 years or more). Customers can select the cadence of data pickups onsite at their location, as well as the number of containers that they need to house their data. For example, Iron Mountain will provide weekly collections/drop-offs onsite at a facility with a maximum of 8 containers (each holding 10 tapes = 80 tapes) for about $185.00/month. Iron Mountain charges $12.00/tape/year, or $1.00/tape/month – which equates to $0.00017/GB/month – a mere fraction (up to 1000% less expensive compared to storing that same data in the public cloud over a five-year period). Additionally, customers are charged on a per-tape basis, versus the per-GB cost model employed by public clouds. In instances where a DR copy of content must be retrieved, customers can access their data in as little as three hours, and a critical drop off can be scheduled for $170, where an Iron Mountain truck can drop off tapes.


To ensure the protection of content in the event of a large-scale attack, hardware malfunction, human mistake or natural disaster, IT managers today must undertake a disaster recovery plan to protect their life blood – their vital content. To do otherwise is to risk the loss of productivity, revenue, reputation and, possibly, the business entity itself. As such, Spectra BlackPearl and Eon Browser combine to provide a cost-effective solution that meets the needs of a truly sound DR plan.

















Through key partnerships, Spectra Logic delivers industry-leading BlackPearl-based storage solutions. To learn more about Spectra’s ever-growing library of BlackPearl Certified Partners and integrations visit the BlackPearl Client Partner page.



About Spectra Logic

Spectra Logic develops data storage solutions that solve the problem of short- and long- term digital preservation for business and technology professionals dealing with exponential data growth.

Dedicated solely to storage innovation for nearly 40 years, Spectra Logic’s uncompromising product and customer focus is proven by the adoption of its solutions by industry leaders in multiple vertical markets globally.

 Spectra enables affordable, multi-decade data storage and access by creating new methods of managing information in all forms of storage—including archive, backup, cold storage, private and public cloud. To learn more, visit www.SpectraLogic.com.



[1] Thompson, N., Cone, B., & Kranz, J. (2016). Society's Genome. Boulder, CO: Spectra Logic Corporation.


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