How Backup and Archive are Different for Professional Media Workflows

By | February 28th, 2019

a man working on a video editor

This is one in a series of posts on professional media management leading up to NAB 2019 in Las Vegas, April 8 to 11.
–Editor

If you make copies of your images or video files for safekeeping, are you backing them up or archiving them? It’s been discussed many times before, but the short answer is that it depends on the function of the copy. For media workflows, a crisp understanding is required in order to implement the right tools. In today’s post, we’ll explore the nuances between backup and archiving in media workflows and provide a real world application from UCSC Silicon Valley.

We explored the broader topic of backing up versus archiving in our What’s the Diff: Backup vs Archive post. It’s a backup if you copy data to keep it available in case of loss, while it’s an archive if you make a copy for regulatory compliance, or to move older, less-used data off to cheaper storage. Simple, right? Not if you’re talking about image, video and other media files.

Backup vs. Archive for Professional Media Productions

Traditional definitions don’t fully capture how backup and archive typically operate in professional media workflows compared to business operations. Video and images aren’t typical business data in a number of ways, and that profoundly impacts how they’re protected and preserved throughout their lifecycle. With media backup there are key differences in which files get backed up and how they get backed up. With media archive there are key differences in when files get archived and why they’re archived.

Large Media Files Sizes Slow Down Backup

The most obvious nuance is that media files are BIG. While most business documents are under 30 MB in size, a single second of video could be larger than 30 MB at higher resolutions and frame rates. Backing up such large file sizes can take longer than the traditional backup windows of overnight for incremental backups and a weekend for full backup. And you can’t expect deduplication to shorten backup times or reduce backup sizes, either. Video and images don’t dedupe well.

Meanwhile, the editing process generates a flurry of intermediate or temporary files in the active content creation workspace that don’t need to be backed up because they can be easily regenerated from source files.

The best backup solutions for media allow you to specify exactly which directories and file types you want backed up, so that you’re taking time for and paying for only what you need.

Archiving to Save Space on Production Storage

Another difference is that archiving to reduce production storage costs is much more common in professional media workflows than with business documents, which are more likely to be archived for compliance. High-resolution video editing in particular requires expensive, high-performance storage to deliver multiple streams of content to multiple users simultaneously without dropping frames. With the large file sizes that come with high-resolution content, this expensive resource fills up quickly with content not needed for current productions. Archiving completed projects and infrequently-used assets can keep production storage capacities under control.

Media asset managers (MAMs) can simplify the archive and retrieval process. Assets can be archived directly through the MAM’s visual interface, and after archiving, their thumbnail or proxies remain visible to users. Archived content remains fully searchable by its metadata and can also be retrieved directly through the MAM interface. For more information on MAMs, read What’s the Diff: DAM vs MAM.

Strategically archiving select media files to less expensive storage allows facilities to stay within budget, and when done properly, keeps all of your content readily accessible for new projects and repurposing.

Permanently Secure Source Files and Raw Footage on Ingest

A less obvious way that media is different is that video files are fixed content that don’t actually change during the editing process. Instead, editing suites compile changes to be made to the original and apply the changes only when making the final cut and format for delivery. Since these source files are not going to change, and are often irreplaceable, many facilities save a copy to secondary storage as soon as they’re ingested to the workflow. This copy serves as a backup to the file on local storage during the editing process. Later, when the local copy is no longer actively being used, it can be safely deleted knowing it’s secured in the archive. I mean backup. Wait, which is it?

Whether you call it archive or backup, make a copy of source files in a storage location that lives forever and is accessible for repurposing throughout your workflow.

To see how all this works in the real world, here’s how UCSC Silicon Valley designed a new solution that integrates backup, archive, and asset management with B2 cloud storage so that their media is protected, preserved and organized at every step of their workflow.

Still from UC Scout AP Psychology video
Still from UC Scout AP Psychology course video

How UCSC Silicon Valley Secured Their Workflow’s Data

UCSC Silicon Valley built a greenfield video production workflow to support UC Scout, the University of California’s online learning program that gives high school students access to the advanced courses they need to be eligible and competitive for college. Three teams of editors, producers, graphic designers and animation artists — a total of 22 creative professionals — needed to share files and collaborate effectively, and digital asset manager Sara Brylowski was tasked with building and managing their workflow.

Sara and her team had specific requirements. For backup, they needed to protect active files on their media server with an automated backup solution that allowed accidentally deleted files to be easily restored. Then, to manage storage capacity more effectively on their media server, they wanted to archive completed videos and other assets that they didn’t expect to need immediately. To organize content, they needed an asset manager with seamless archive capabilities, including fast self-service archive retrieval.

They wanted the reliability and simplicity of the cloud to store both their backup and archive data. “We had no interest in using LTO tape for backup or archive. Tape would ultimately require more work and the media would degrade. We wanted something more hands off and reliable,” Sara explained. The cloud choice was narrowed to Backblaze B2 or Amazon S3. Both were proven cloud solutions that were fully integrated with the hardware and software tools in their workflow. Backblaze was chosen because its $5 per terabyte per month pricing was a fraction of the cost of Amazon S3.

Removing Workflow Inefficiencies with Smarter Backup and Archive

The team had previously used the university’s standard cloud backup service to protect active files on the media server as they worked on new videos. But because that cloud backup was designed for traditional file servers, it backed up everything, even the iterative files generated by video production tools like Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Maya 3D and Cinema 3D that didn’t need to be backed up. For this reason, Sara pushed to not use the university’s backup provider. It was expensive in large part because it was saving all of this noise in perpetuity.

“With our new workflow we can manage our content within its life cycle and at same time have reliable backup storage for the items we know we’re going to want in the future. That’s allowed us to concentrate on creating videos, not managing storage.”—Sara Brylowski, UCSC Silicon Valley

After creating thousands of videos for 65 online courses, their media server was quickly filling to its 128 TB capacity. They needed to archive data from completed projects to make room for new ones, sooner rather than later. Deploying a MAM solution would simplify archiving, while also helping them organize their diverse and growing library of assets — video shot in studio, B-roll, licensed images, and audio from multiple sources.

To find out exactly how Sara and her team addressed these challenges and more, read the full case study on UC Scout at UCSC Silicon Valley and learn how their new workflow enables them to concentrate on creating videos, not managing storage.

Backblaze will be exhibiting at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas on April 8-11, 2019.NABShow logoSchedule a meeting with our cloud storage experts to learn how B2 Cloud Storage can streamline your workflow today!
Janet Lafleur

Janet Lafleur

Janet moved over from software development to the dark side of product marketing and hasn’t looked back. Now focused on storage solutions for media & entertainment, she’s continually fascinated by the innovative ways that content creators manage their ever-growing, valuable content, and loves to share their stories.
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