Data Lifesaver

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Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.
Tim Berners-Lee

Without a doubt, we rely on data in virtually every facet of business and even in our personal lives. Music, pictures, video, financial data, e-mail — the list goes on. How this data is stored is largely determined by how critical the data is to the organization (or individual), and how long it takes to restore the data. Let's face it, in our society all data is critical, whether it contains corporate financial information or family pictures and videos.

There are numerous published statistics, but the bottom line is that it is inevitable you will experience a failure causing a partial or total loss of data. In a broadcast environment, this could also mean interruption, or possibly complete loss of programming content. The good news is that there are several effective methods to back up data and the cost to implement some of them are well within the budget of a small business or individual.


The storage-area network (SAN) is the best solution from a data recovery and high availability standpoint, but it is also the most expensive and complex to implement. It is defined as a high-speed network of storage elements. In simple terms, imagine you have a PC with its hard drive located somewhere else. While you could achieve this over a traditional Ethernet network, performance and reliability would certainly be compromised due to constraints imposed by common networking technologies. SANs are dedicated high-speed networks optimized to transfer data with high reliability and very low latency.

A minimum SAN is comprised of an array of storage devices interconnected to a server through two SAN switches.

The SAN data is transported over a network called the fabric. A basic SAN utilizes at least two fabrics, essentially two diverse network paths for redundancy. The real power of a SAN is that the fabric can consist of virtually any of the common transport methods utilized in traditional networking; however, the most common implementation utilizes optical-based fibre channel. It is also possible to locate the storage devices off-site using some form of Layer 2 protocol-based wide area network (WAN) transport technology such as ATM, Sonet, T1/T3, DSL, ADSL, etc. WANs utilizing frame relay would not be a good choice as it utilizes the Layer 1 protocol and, as such, is subject to delays and possible loss of data integrity.

Hardware devices called host bus adapters (HBA) are added to the servers. HBA provide the interface between the fabric and the server, as well as facilitating any digital (i.e. optical to digital) conversion processes. In addition, the storage devices utilize a storage processor (SP), which handles all the interfacing tasks between the storage device and the fabric. The SP also manages the configuration of the disk arrays within the storage device.

Due to the fast access, high reliability and high availability of a SAN, chances are you may already have a SAN-based disk arrays as part of your audio storage system.

If the SAN is connected with an optical fibre-channel backbone, the system will also benefit from the natural isolation from lightning and other electromagnetic induced disturbances found with copper cable systems.

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