Amazon today announced Glacier, “an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup”. The most attractive aspect is their low fee of $.01 per GB per month. If you don’t need instant access to your archive, this could be a great alternative to maintaining archives yourself. This led a few people to post on Twitter that this would be great for production companies. GigaOm ran a story that included a quote from Steve Shultis, CTO New York Public Radio:
An organization like ours thinks in centuries when it comes to content retention, and long-term preservation of our Master Archives is a critical part our mission here at NYPR. Storing these core assets on traditional media such as local disk and off-site tape exposes us to corruption and even outright-loss of data. We are excited to move our archives to Amazon Glacier, which will be a better long-term solution.
It’s a bit scary to think of a company that’s only existed for 16 years in terms of centuries, but I digress…
I decided to run some numbers. Like when Steve Jobs first announced the iTunes Music Store and said that songs for $.99 were “practically free”, I had a feeling that in the long run, we could be looking at some high costs.
I’ll use the example of the Art of Flight. We archived all the raw media and final edit to LTO-4 and LTO-5 tapes. Fairly standard in the production industry. The total archive is roughly 250TB. At $.01 per GB per month, storing 250TB would cost $2500 per month on Glacier. That’s a pretty high cost to store one movie for, what, forever? Creating a single set of LTO-4 tapes for 250TB comes out to roughly $9000 in LTO-4 tape stock at $25 per tape. That’s the same as using Amazon Glacier for less than 4 months.
Some may say that’s an extreme example, but as productions adopt higher quality digital cameras, the storage numbers will only go up. Let’s use a more modest example.
Each ProResHQ master of the Art of Flight is 120GB. So if we store that on Glacier, it will only be $1.20 a month per master. Whoa, that’s way more reasonable. In film terms, instead of storing all the negatives, workprints and cut lists, we’re just storing the final print. In this case, Glacier could make a lot of sense for storing final masters, and adding yet another layer of redundancy in your archive plan.
You can’t put a hard drive in a vault in the same way you could put a negative in a vault. So there’s going to be a huge demand for high capacity, low cost, vault-quality digital storage. The difference now is that it’s all ones and zeros. Instead of looking for a climate controlled vault for your negatives, producers will be looking for someone to handle all the ones and zeros for them in a more full-service manner. In that way, Glacier could be a great alternative to maintaining your own LTO archive system and vault. But if your production is of any decent size, it’s still not the complete answer. Just a part.