Back to school: Bringing enterprise data archiving principles to higher education

Data archiving needs are on the rise among universities.

Data archiving solutions have been widely accepted in the corporate world, giving enterprise leaders the peace of mind of knowing that even in the event of a catastrophic data loss incident, their most important historical records will be retained. But why stop at the enterprise level? There's no reason that other industries cannot similarly benefit from the use of archiving tools. In fact, some sectors have an arguably greater need for these resources as the amount of data they generate is off the charts. Specifically, universities and other institutions of higher education produce a great deal of information that needs to be stored for the long haul. Given the amount of in-depth research that is conducted at these schools, historical records need to be archived and made available whenever needed.

It would be difficult to overstate how much data is coursing through university networks and systems. Everything from enrollment records to research material must be cataloged, stored and kept in a state that permits access at a later date. Consider, for instance, the widespread switch from paper-based documents to digital ones. Many student records, grade reports and even reference materials are now stored on a server or hard drive somewhere instead of in a filing cabinet or on a library shelf.

Like every other sector, higher education is making the most of big data advancements, leaning on analytics tools to improve every facet of university operations. Under these circumstances, no piece of information can be deemed inconsequential and instead must be archived in the event that it could provide some meaningful insight.

All of these factors have come together to make data archiving a pressing need for institutions of higher education. For instance, the Indiana University Scholarly Data Archive can hold as much as 42 petabytes of data for the school's research purposes alone. The platform provides a two-fold service for the organization: storing important information for later use and backing up research records in the event that it needs to be recovered following a data loss incident.

Choosing the right platform
University officials must be mindful of their data archiving needs and find solutions that meet their specific demands. Legacy tape-based platforms may not be able to measure up to today's storage standards. For instance, tapes will become demagnetized as the years roll on, increasing the likelihood that some important kernel of information will be lost forever. Writing on his StorageMojo blog, data storage expert Robin Harris mentioned another compelling reason to forgo tape as a potential archiving tool, explaining that in order to maintain the integrity of the format's materials, tape users would need to deploy strict climate control processes. In addition to being expensive and arduous to implement, such technology may not be supported by an institution's data center.

Universities require a far more reliable, durable and simple solution to their data archiving needs. Again, higher education administrators should look to other sectors for inspiration addressing this issue. Many tech-savvy companies including Amazon and Facebook have tested archiving tools that are built upon optical discs in recent months. These organizations made waves earlier this year when they divulged details about Blu-ray-based cold storage systems for their data center operations. Consumers who associate Blu-ray with movies and video games may be surprised that these discs could shoulder the data archiving workload of tech-giant like Facebook, but those familiar with the media know better.

Blu-ray meets data archiving needs
Blu-ray offers a range of benefits that other forms of storage media simply cannot touch. Perhaps Blu-ray's greatest asset is its scalability. The technology's costs are decreasing just as its storage capacity continues to rise, making it a sensible solution from a pure financial perspective. But that low cost makes it a breeze for adopters to quickly scale up their archiving operations without needing to break the bank investing in new hardware. Additional discs can be added to an enterprise archiving tool at a moment's notice. This way, university leaders won't run the risk of being caught off guard by a sudden surge in data.

Those same material and environmental factors that make tape such a gamble for archiving are of no concern to Blu-ray users. These discs are remarkably durable, capable of remaining functional for decades in less-than-ideal storage conditions. Whereas tape will break down unless treated appropriately, Blu-ray discs will offer reliable data retrieval even in poor environments. In addition, because these discs are so affordable, organizations can create as many backups as they like.

When looking at possible data archiving solutions, institutions of higher education should prioritize scalability, durability and reliability. The last thing one of these organizations needs is to lose critical data backups because it chose to use a faulty platform. Optical media, and Blu-ray in particular, provides the full range of benefits that businesses look for in a high-quality archiving tool. Universities should consider taking advantage of these resources for their own needs as well.

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How to play back Blu-ray video on a Mac OS

The right combination of hardware and software will allow Mac users to play back video from Blu-ray discs.

For many individuals, Blu-ray presents the ideal format for backing up their cherished video, music, photos and other invaluable files. Mac users, however, may still be missing out on some basic features that could increase their enjoyment of Blu-ray media. Most notably, consumers who utilize the format for data archiving purposes, may not have the software in place to enable video playback. Why not capitalize on the presence of a Blu-ray burner and play high-definition videos with crystal-clear transfers?

Because the current Mac operating systems do not natively support Blu-ray playback, users will have to get a little creative in order to achieve this feature. Luckily, they have a few options available to them to effectively turn their archiving Blu-ray drive into a video player, including:

Handbrake/MakeMKV
The Mac Observer co-founder Dave Hamilton highlighted one workaround involving the open source video transcoder, Handbrake. When used in conjunction with a VLC player, the free-to-use program enables Mac users to read optical discs, copy their content and convert the data into a viewable format. However, even the combination of VLC and Handbrake isn't enough to achieve video playback with Blu-ray discs. Mac users will need to add another program to the mix: MakeMKV. According to Hamilton, this program enables consumers to copy Blu-ray content from the disc and convert it into a usable file.

There are some points to consider when going this route. First, deploying Handbrake, VLC and Make MKV in this manner is not a simple plug-and-play process. Individuals will have to manually change some code in the Terminal to add the command lines needed to make the three programs work harmoniously. Second, Make MKV is not free-to-use software. To get the full version, Mac users will need to buy the app.

Macgo
Another method that consumers may find easier to carry out is to simply install the Macgo program. The software was specifically designed to allow for Blu-ray video playback on a Mac OS. Like Make MKV, Macgo is not a free-to-use application. Given the convenience offered by Macgo, however, it provides far greater benefits. The program supports playback both directly off of the disc itself or from an ISO file. This flexibility gives Mac users more options when managing their high-definition video files.

The only requirement for utilizing Macgo is having a Blu-ray drive in place to read the discs. A high-quality external Blu-ray burner from DIGISTOR presents the final piece of the puzzle, enabling Mac users to watch HD videos on their computers. In addition, DIGISTOR customers can take advantage of the REWIND archiving software that comes packaged with many of the company's external drives. With this program, individuals can safely and reliably archive their important files for later use. This means that in the event of a hard drive failure, these consumers will have access to backups of all of their data on durable Blu-ray discs.

When comparing the various options for enabling Blu-ray playback on a Mac OS, the benefits of a Macgo/DIGISTOR Blu-ray burner combination are too plentiful to ignore. Other methods present a number of hoops for users to jump through, resulting in far too many headaches for what should be a relatively simple process. Pair DIGISTOR's unparalleled external Blu-ray burners with Macgo software to begin watching high-definition videos on your Mac computer today.

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Data archiving solutions must handle data variety

Data archiving solutions must be able to handle big data's volume and variety of information.

Data is becoming the modern day currency of many organizations, as more businesses look to leverage collected information to improve their operations and market standing. However, processing and analyzing big data is becoming significantly more complicated. Metrics are being generated from a variety of different sources, making it difficult to run the same procedures on each statistic. As the characteristics of data continue to expand, it will be integral for companies to ensure that their storage options are able to archive this information for future use.

Businesses struggle with data variety
Traditionally, big data processes have been reserved for organizations with enough resources to support this trend. As more businesses start to leverage analytics tools, however, they can better facilitate data collection. While these efforts have been known to overwhelm firms with the volume of information, this aspect may not be the only issue data scientists are running into. According to a survey by computational database management system designer Paradigm4, 71 percent of respondents found that the variety of data was the reason why big data was so difficult to analyze, eWEEK reported. In addition, almost half of participants claimed that putting data into relational database tables was challenging, and 39 percent stated that the expansion of big data processes made their jobs more stressful.

Big data is growing, making it significantly harder to perform the same analytics processes businesses have been running for years. In fact, more than one-third of data scientists noted that their data is too massive to send to their analytics tools, taking up too much time to acquire necessary resources.

Choose the best archival solution
When it comes to big data, organizations will need to have optimal storage solutions for their information to ensure that it can be leveraged at a moment's notice. The New York Times noted that decision-makers will have to pay particular attention to the storage type and compatibility of the solution. If the chosen archive service does not work well with mission-critical systems, for example, it will make it significantly harder to transfer important metrics to the storage device.

DIGISTOR's enterprise data archiving solutions can easily handle these requirements by providing drives that withstand regular wear-and-tear while being built with the best components. DIGISTOR's drives work seamlessly with numerous systems and can be easily formatted by the user. This ensures that the drives are reliable for business needs and that they will be able to be leveraged for years to come.

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What do Comcast data caps mean for larger file needs?

Comcast officials recently confirmed their interest in instituting data caps across the company's entire network.

The telecom industry has been abuzz for months now regarding a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Industry insiders and observers have raised concerns that the resulting company would have control over too much carrier infrastructure in the U.S., leaving consumers with little choice but to accept whatever service packages are offered. Most notably, telecom and tech writers alike have cautioned against the possibility that these two companies would look to impose data caps on their Internet connections, affecting the quality of their offerings.

Gizmodo Managing Editor Brian Barrett explained in February that Comcast currently places 300GB limits on network transmissions, which could present problems for users as their consumption needs increase. Although conceding that that figure seems large now, Barrett cautioned users against the belief that only a small minority of intensive consumers will be affected by such caps down the road.

"[A]s streaming services become more and more prevelant (sic) – and more robust – that's going to change," he wrote. "What happens three years from now when you're streaming 4K Netflix on your ultra high-def television? … That's where broadband data caps are truly insidious; you may be able to escape your monthly cable bill, but you're still stuck paying Comcast for access to the internet that powers your Hulu Plus, Aereo, Netflix smorgasboard (sic)."

Comcast pilots widespread data capping
Barrett's prediction appears to be a step closer to fruition as Comcast officials have openly discussed aggressively pursuing more data caps recently. Decision-makers with the telecom spoke to shareholders attending the Comcast Corporation at MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit, raising the issue of charging customers by usage instead of a flat rate. Comcast executive vice president David Cohen explained that the company has already rolled out a series of pilot programs testing the effectiveness of such an approach. Cohen went on to forecast that Comcast will likely institute data caps across its entire coverage area within five years.

Although Cohen stressed that a usage-based pricing plan would present a more balanced and fair method of paying for services, more customers could fall into the heavy consumer category as streaming services become more advanced and require more bandwidth. High-definition video is now the standard level of quality, and Netflix users will increasingly expect clear and crisp transfers. Even if streaming service providers are able to improve their product and meet that demand, customers will still need to contend with their Internet provider. Simply watching a single movie in high definition could consume a great deal of bandwidth and push the viewer closer to his or her data ceiling.

It's unlikely that Cohen's comments are simple musings holding little weight. As PCWorld contributor Ian Paul noted, the company has a long history of pursuing restrictive methods. He explained that in earlier trials, Comcast did not provide users with an option to increase their bandwidth ceiling at all, but were instead issued warnings and the threat of having their accounts suspended.

Addressing high data needs
Streaming services have been viewed by industry observers as the final nail in the coffin for physical media. This new wrinkle presented by Comcast's apparent insistence on introducing data caps across its entire network should cast doubt in the minds of consumers. Even now, Netflix, Hulu and similar Internet-based providers are unable to offer consistent video quality, with feeds often fluctuating between HD and standard definition. The inclusion of data caps will only further complicate matters and reduce the likelihood that these companies will be able to deliver clear transfers.

Physical media – and Blu-ray, in particular – are not beholden to such network concerns. Files stored on a Blu-ray disc will never be subject to issues such as bandwidth throttling or traffic bottlenecks. Media viewed or otherwise accessed through a Blu-ray disc will always provide the same quality and experience every time out. Until telecoms and streaming service providers find a way to address high-volume network traffic without hitting the consumer's pocketbook, optical media will continue to stand as the best method of delivering high-definition video. Consumer appetites for HD content continue to rise, and these recent events suggest that Internet-based organizations are not up to the task to meet those needs. Blu-ray stands as the ideal platform for record, storing and viewing high-definition video.

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Indie filmmakers get professional-level video with Blackmagic hardware

Indie filmmakers can use Blackmagic cameras to obtain better video quality.

The lack of studio backing has always been both the independent film community’s greatest weakness and asset. An indie director doesn’t feel pressure from producers to alter his or her project to better target certain demographics. These individuals have complete control over their films. The only thing that really stands in their way to creating their movies on their own terms is financing. Without the backing of big-time producers and companies, even the most talented and creative video professionals may have trouble capturing their vision on film. That dichotomy can be frustrating to deal with and may ultimately make working outside of the traditional major studio system seem like an uphill battle.

Making a successful independent film has never been more difficult than in today’s climate. Moviefone columnist Gary Susman explained in a 2013 article that the film industry has veered away from smaller, character-based pieces in favor of bigger spectacles. Another major concern is that major studios have bought up distributors that previously helped independent filmmakers get their movies in front of an audience. Now that those outlets have been incorporated into the Hollywood studio environment, indie directors have lost a number of allies.

“Independent film is in a chaotic state of flux because the business model that made the indie renaissance of the past quarter century possible has collapsed into a shambles,” Susman wrote.

Susman also noted that it has become more difficult for these filmmakers to secure financing through traditional channels such as venture capitalists. If independent filmmakers are unable to get proper funding, they will likely have to settle for subpar recording equipment. Using inferior cameras and editing equipment will further prevent these individuals from creating movies that are able to effectively capture an audience. That’s why it’s so important that indie directors have access to high-quality hardware without needing to break the bank.

Blackmagic Design presents a ray of hope
In recent years, Blackmagic Design has helped bolster independent film productions with its line of high-performance cameras. With this equipment, crews can shoot raw uncompressed video that can stand toe-to-toe with major studio films. The emergence of the affordable Blackmagic Design brand has enabled numerous professionals working outside of the Hollywood system to pursue their passion projects.

Industry veteran Emmanuel Sapolsky was one such individual who felt squeezed out by the astronomic up-front costs needed to get movies off the ground. With several film credits under his belt, Sapolsky has worked with a number of both high- and low-end cameras. Often, this equipment presented a “pick your poison” situation in which crews could either suffer subpar transfers or stretch their budgets thin on a better machine.

“These cameras were either cheap with a poor image quality that didn’t look cinematic, or too expensive and hard to master,” Sapolsky said. “I remember when shooting with a digital film camera that emerged at the time for its ability to shoot RAW, we had to rent a special tripod because it was too heavy and an O’Connor Head to sustain the camera. It was noisy and drained the batteries faster than we could shoot and the workflow was complicated.”

Since working with fellow international film veteran Xin Wang to form Drunken Dragon Productions, Sapolsky and the organization’s crew members have looked to keep their costs down while still generating high-quality video. With the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Drunken Dragon Productions has been able to achieve studio-level transfers without shelling out for expensive equipment or dealing with the shoddy compression techniques of inferior products.

Blackmagic cameras offer the total package of affordability, versatility and performance. Sapolsky’s crew has been able to customize his equipment to shoot with various approaches to framing as well as in numerous disparate locations. The ability to capture raw, uncompressed video has been a significant asset, as it has enabled the filmmakers to create films that look comparable to larger productions. The image clarity offered by Blackmagic cameras effectively levels the playing field and gives indie directors a fighting chance.

“The gap between big productions and indie filmmaking is narrowing thanks to guys like [Blackmagic Design CEO] Grant Petty,” said Sapolsky. “We feel he really cares about bringing solutions to the mass so new talents could emerge without emptying our bank accounts.”

Get reliable performance with high-quality SSD drives
When paired with the best acquisition media on the market, Blackmagic cameras can help independent filmmakers eliminate one of their biggest headaches: lost footage. Dropped frames and faulty transfers can grind small productions down to a halt, sending the crew racing to find a way to reshoot video they thought they had in the can. In many instances, these unenviable circumstances are the result of an ill-suited storage device. Many digital cameras including the Blackmagic Cinema Camera require a solid state drive to transfer video into usable files. If the SSD in question is not of a high caliber and designed specifically for video recording applications, its performance will likely suffer.

Most of these problems can be traced back to an SSD’s form factor. Off-the-shelf products are typically created for use in laptops, netbooks and PCs, meaning their specifications rarely match up with industry standards. A slimmer SSD, such as those commonly used in computers, will rattle around when placed inside a Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Given too much movement, that device may become damaged and put the integrity of any captured video at risk.

Meanwhile, an SSD drive that has been designed specifically for video recording purposes will alleviate these concerns. A product like DIGISTOR’s Video Professional Series SSD offers the precise form factor, format and design specifications to enable effective video capture when needed. With these SSD drives, independent filmmakers can avoid the kinds of acquisition media-related pitfalls that have derailed many productions in the past.

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SSD drives offer better performance, durability for healthcare equipment

DIGISTOR SSDs have the durability needed to power sensitive and complex medical equipment.

The healthcare industry faces a number of ever-increasing challenges, most notably relating to budgets and expenses. While costs are rising on all fronts across the sector, one area that industry members may want to focus on is equipment. Medical machinery is becoming more complex, resulting in a higher price tag and more funding needed to invest in the latest and best treatment tools. According to a study conducted by Lucintel, global spending on medical equipment will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 4.1 percent through 2017. At the time, the global medical equipment industry is predicted to be worth $93.6 billion.

The amount of capital dedicated to investing in new medical equipment should give healthcare officials pause, particularly regarding what happens to these machines once they have been installed. If this hardware is not properly configured or set up with the best components available, it may suffer from performance issues or be prone to outages. Not only will this translate into a poor use of hospital resources, but it could also impede medical staff's ability to provide quality treatment to patients.

Given the high stakes involved in the operation of medical equipment, hospitals need to be certain that they have the underlying components to properly support these machines. Data storage devices, in particular, present concerns if the right tools are not selected. Traditional disk-based devices rely on internal moving parts that can be easily disrupted and damaged. This will prevent sensitive equipment from functioning properly and could dramatically affect the quality of treatment offered by a hospital.

From a performance perspective, high-quality SSDs far outclass other options, as their flash memory allows data to be written or read as quickly as possible. This ensures that for extremely sensitive machines, they will continue to run accurately without harmful disruptions. Hospital networks are becoming increasingly complex, requiring every component to be finely tuned and function effectively. A number of critical devices rely on their storage solutions to continue performing without incident. This machinery may include patient monitoring systems and image testing equipment. Without an excellent SSD in place to seamlessly handle data read/write processes, this complex hardware may encounter performance errors that could impair their functionality and impede staff efforts to provide excellent care.

Durability required in critical environments
As KnownHost explained, organizations can benefit immensely by switching to a solid state drive for all of their data storage needs regarding high-performance and sensitive machinery. Because SSDs do not operate on movable parts, they are not vulnerable to the same durability issues as disk-based alternatives. SSD drives run on NAND flash memory, which is far more reliable for extended use. Even the most advanced HDD will be susceptible to the wear and tear of physical operations. The read/write heads that disk-based storage tools utilize will break down over time, either due to a gradual diminishing of their internal components or from sudden trauma.

The best SSDs on the market have robust features designed to enhance their durability and increase their lifespan. DIGISTOR's industrial-grade SSD drives contain processors with higher-level BCH ECC algorithms that reduce the potential for data to be incorrectly written to the cell memory. This error correction code functionality ensures that critical data is kept intact and prevents bits of information to be lost or corrupted during the read/write process. Healthcare officials should take note of such robust features when choosing an SSD drive as not all products on the market will have them. A poorly constructed SSD will ultimately provide little upside over a traditional solution.

DIGISTOR's industrial line of SSD drives also offer monitoring capabilities that enable personnel to check the status of their crucial components and identify potentially disruptive issues before they become more significant problems. With the S.M.A.R.T. monitoring system that comes packaged with every DIGISTOR Industrial SSD, key performance indicators can be viewed at anytime, allowing workers to identify and fix such issues early on. This foresight will prevent a number of costly operational disruptions from occurring with an organization's healthcare equipment.

When choosing a storage device for sensitive and complex hardware that is tasked with critical responsibilities, it's essential that healthcare authorities do their homework and look beyond off-the-shelf options. Those products may not contain the array of features needed to ensure long-term durability. DIGISTOR Industrial SSDs have the unparalleled robustness and performance needed to excel in a healthcare environment.

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Cold storage essential for data disaster prevention efforts

Cold storage could expedite recovery processes.

Although no business wants to think about it, disaster can strike at any time, crippling important systems, creating significant chaos and causing essential data to potentially be lost in the process. For this reason, organizations have increasingly been looking to protect their data with the best solutions possible. Whether the threat comes from malware or severe weather conditions, sensitive files must have a backup available at all times to ensure that employees are able to get systems running again. However, if the company hasn't observed data archiving best practices, they will be considerably set back in these efforts and will expend additional expenses to fully recover.

With the number of devices entering the workplace, organizations are generating more data than ever before and it's becoming more difficult to keep track of it all. However, because of the rise of big data, storage devices are constantly improving and becoming more accessible, according to ITWeb. Decision-makers are no longer just considering the capacity of their solutions, but are now factoring in how to efficiently handle the data they are collecting. This element will be critical to ensuring that they obtain a solution that meets their needs without compromising their important files. In addition, many solutions will have automated backup capabilities which enable users to have the most recent information available at all times. This will create less chaos in an emergency and will make the data readily available for use.

"Furthermore, placing this data automatically on the right performance level results in organizations having a storage system that offers optimal performance without them having to manually manage the data sets daily," ITWeb stated.

Leveraging cold storage for backup and recovery
It's important to note that storage solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and there are numerous standards that must be adhered to. For these reasons, cold storage makes the most sense for many businesses. With four different levels of storage, organizations can choose the one that makes the most sense for their requirements, according to InfoStor. Polar collection, for example, takes hold of data that may never be used, while chilly collection often needs up to 10 percent of its data back throughout a one-year period. Icy collection involves data that will not be used very often and cold collection has a return rate of 2 to 5 percent of its data over a year. This amount of specificity, along with several other options, shows that businesses can easily find the type of cold storage they need without too much customization required.

Another reason that cold storage is becoming so popular is the amount of control that management has over its own data. Much like other physical storage options, cold storage can be accessed quickly but does not have the same threats as online platforms, making it less likely to be breached by malware or other third-party attacks. Numerous organizations, including Facebook, are taking advantage of this approach to recover information and ensure that it remains secure.

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