Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Asset Aging

Data storage is not limitless. If you’ve read the previous article, you’ll know that expanding any storage has a ripple effect that requires increased redundancy, time to make backups, and increased off-site storage.

Ideally, you’ll want to archive old, rarely used assets to tape or disc, and delete them off your server. You could make copies of every asset, and keep them with every project, then archive old projects, but depending on the asset, this practice could wildly bloat your space consumption.

Identifying old assets by creation or modification date is easy, but how do you know which ones you frequently use? How do you sift through terabytes of data trying to find the treasures?

The short answer is databases.

At a previous job, we tracked all our digital assets through our document management system. When a user checked out a document they manually entered all the image IDs into the document management system. Our automation team scripted Adobe’s inDesign to place the image on the page and made a record in the database as to the document it was in and when it was used. When it came time to purge the server, another script would query the database, and based on the results would move old files to a special server partition that would be backed up to tape.

Even more important than asset archiving, is managing asset license expiration.

Example : You purchased several images from a stock photo library, but you’re only allowed to use them for a year. Violating the terms could cost the company big fines, or even a law suit.

Who manages the licenses? How do you prevent users from re-using old images?

The answer is the same, databases, but with the added complexity of making sure that old images are not restored from tape after the rights have expired. This boils down to making sure the IT department is well aware of the digital rights management issue, and to check with the license manager before restoring any assets from archive.

This aspect of asset management is something that is rarely discussed within the department, and can easily be forgotten after enough turn over within the group. How do you make sure everyone stays abreast of these issues? Stay tuned next time for, “The Value of the Department Wiki.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Business Continuity : Data Redundancy

How long can you be away from your data? If your company has copies of data synced across multiple platforms, then it’s minutes rather than hours to get you back to your data.

RAID Redundancy

Every server now has RAID storage. Simply put, a RAID is a collection of disk drives that makes them appear and act as one disk. RAIDs come in many different varieties. For your file server, you’ll want RAID level 5 or 6. With that type of RAID, if one of the disks fail in the RAID the RAID can continue without interruption. To learn more about RAIDs you can read about it here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_RAID_levels The ad agency invested in a 10 terabyte 16 bay RAID. The agency could easily see two drives dying at the same time, so they invested in a RAID that had two hot swappable drives. It would take three drives failing simultaneously to bring this RAID down.

Server Redundancy

What happens if the server goes down? What if the server going down destroyed the RAID? It could easily take a day to bring the server back up, even with the RAID in place, and the agency didn’t feel they had that time, so they bought a second server with the same RAID configuration as the first. Now it would require six drives to fail over two machines to take the system down. Every night the two servers were synced together, and no ad was more than twenty-four hours out of date.

Historical Redundancy

The agency needed to keep a history of all documents and images, and even though 10 terabytes seems like a lot, it did fill up. (Stay tuned for the article on asset aging.) The agency also needed off-site storage of their data, so they purchased a twenty-four bay, backup tape carousel. The entire server could be backed up on eight tapes over the weekend, with the other sixteen there for future backups and performing nightly incremental backups to data that had been changed during the week. All backups would be run against the backup server, after the sync with the main server was complete. This freed up the main server to serve files to the users as the tape backup continued long into the next day.Each week the full backup tapes were shipped off to an off-site data storage facility, to ensure access to the data if the building was to become unusable.

Location Redundancy

What if you facility is unavailable long term? The agency was able to work out a deal to use another office space, in another city within driving distance, and even secured a standing reservation with a hotel across the street to ensure that the employees would have a place to stay during the week rather than commuting. They purchased another server for that location, and the two locations were synced over a dedicated T1 line nightly.

Users as Redundancy

At the agency we had a proprietary, home grown document management system. Its great strength was that it, checked out the document, copied the documents locally for use, checked it back in to the server, and saved a version on the users machine. This reduced network and server traffic because the user wasn’t constantly saving back to the server, and it also created a history of the file that was not on the sever. If a file was ever deleted off of the server, it was easily retrieved from the history file of the last user.

In the End

Most businesses can’t afford a remote facility, but the other precautions we took is a minimum for any serious organization running their own file server. Many might scoff at purchasing a second server, but buying/repairing a server, installing it, and restoring files from tape might cost you a week of productivity. Before ruling out any redundancy situation, you should also calculate how much lost productivity will cost you.Ironically the one scenario we almost needed, but never planned for was, "We can’t get to our local files, and we’re too far away from the remote facility to get to the ads in time," and it could have been solved by a few laptops and an Internet connection.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kinect™ vs. Move

Say what you want about the Nintendo Wii, it paved the way for motion controlled gaming, and I couldn’t be happier. For those who don’t know, motion controlled gaming is playing a game, not with button presses, but with movements that mimic the actions seen on screen.

Recently Sony’s PlayStation® and Microsoft®’s Xbox® got into the mix. Which one is right for you? If only it was that easy. Let’s break it down.

Xbox® Kinect™

The Good : Minimal contollers. The Kinect™ controller plugs into the USB interface of your Xbox®. It’s the only thing you’ll need to control Kinect™ games. No extra controllers to purchase, no batteries to buy, one item and you’re ready to go. The crazy thing about the Kinect™ is that it recognizes your whole body with almost no calibration. Feet, hands, and head are all recognized just by standing in front of the camera.

The Bad : Xbox® Kinect™ has a definite lag, and doesn’t interpret every move correctly. I found myself kicking repeatedly in Kinect™ Sports Soccer before it registered my movements. Kinect™ also recommends a 6’-10’ distance from your television. If you live in a major metropolis your limited floor space might bump you out from using the Kinect™. Kinect™ is also limited to “waving” style games, no shooters, guitar hero, or delicate movements here.

Why you should get this : If you want to get some exercise and bust a sweat NOBODY does it better than Xbox® Kinect™.

PlayStation® Move

The Good : True one to one movement. The buzz term “one to one,” refers to the exact replication of movement from what you do, to what appears on screen. The PlayStation® Move is everything the Wii promised.

The Bad : If you want two people playing at once, the maximum for simultaneous play, you’ll have to buy two move controllers ($50/each) and the PlayStation® Eye ($35), and possibly additional Navigation Controllers if you’re looking for more “hardcore” gaming options. The additional dollars, plus the management of keeping them all charged can cost you a lot of time and money. Plus the move only registers your hands, so soccer and dodgeball are right out. Be very careful in choosing a game for this platform. Many developers are not as solid as writing for the Move, so each title should be scrutinized before purchasing.

Why you should get this : Gaming should be about real life skills, not about button combos and power ups. If that’s your mantra, then this is the system for you.

In the end
I’ve been playing the PlayStation® for fun and Xbox® for exercise, but bottom line I recommend them both. If you’re like me you’re a video game addict from the 70s and need to snatch up all that these two platforms have to offer.