PVC Podcast eps 17 LTO, what is it and why should you use it?
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Dean Winkler

Hi Gents,

While LTO is certainly a robust medium it is NOT inherently a long-term archive medium. That’s because — as you point out — an LTO drive can only read two generations of LTO tape cartridges back. I.e., an LTO-8 drive can read LTO-8, LTO-7 and LTO-6 tapes but not anything earlier. As the format is updated every (chose your number: 18 months?) in a relatively short amount of time your tapes are no longer readable. So unless you are willing to continually migrate up to new generations there is zero guarantee that the tapes will be usable. And the idea that one simply keeps the old tape drives around to read old tapes is also not a viable long term solution — good luck mounting a current generation LTO tape drive on a computer bus in 30 or 40 years.

I don’t mean to criticize your podcast, but it’s really important to be crystal clear about the limitations of LTO as an archival medium.



Scott Simmons

I think we were pretty clear about that but as an LTO skeptic I’m happy to hear that in more detail. I think that has always been the problem and IMHO it’s a bit of a scam by the LTO industry. But I would ask you to answer then… what IS a long-term archive option in your opinion?

Dean Winkler

Excellent question Scott — I’m afraid there is no easy answer. Stored properly film is a fantastic archival medium but obviously not practical for most applications. Next best is to have a formal process to constantly monitor and migrate digital data but that’s only practical for very large organizations. For the rest of us the best solution seems to be following the “always have three copies” rule. E.g., one copy on a drive, one copy on an LTO tape and one copy — in native file format — in the cloud. Hopefully that will carry us until something better comes along. The most important thing is not to get complacent by thinking, “I’ve got a copy on LTO tape so I’m all set.”

P.S. – One can make a good argument for applying the “always have three copies” rule on set and then all the way through post.

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