Data Management 101

Digital Asset Management Best Practices

Zen Media Studios works with every customer to ensure adequate, reliable, and safe storage of their business data.   Following best practices and carefully analyzing your digital asset management strategy for risk will help to maximize the safety of your data.

Our storage solutions provide fully automated data protection for safely storing digital content.  In a normal state your data is inherently protected against single drive failure, making our solutions ideal for use as “primary” storage.  Although this provides redundancy, it is only part of a reliable digital asset management strategy. There are additional risk factors beyond a single drive failure that all clients should aware of.  Additional risk factors include, but are not limited to, accidental file deletion, multiple simultaneous drive failures, file system corruption, viruses, theft, power surges, fire, floods, software and hardware malfunction, etc.

Keeping data truly safe involves the dedication of time, effort and money.  Zen Media’s storage solutions significantly reduce all three of these by offering unprecedented simplicity and self-management. While every customer’s needs are different, and there is no one size fits all strategy, the pay off for maintaining data integrity and uptime is easily quantifiable.  What kind of impact would your business suffer if your data were suddenly lost or inaccessible?

Digital asset management strategies will vary with your needs.  For instance, a mid-sized business with 500 employees will have vastly different requirement from a home office with two employees.  The strategies outlined in this document should be considered a starting point for Zen Media Studios clients.  (There a number of very detailed publications on the topic of digital asset management that are widely available for further reference.)

Best practices for digital asset management include a minimum of FOUR critical elements:

  1. No single point of failure
    a) Your data should exist in a minimum of two separate geographic locations
    b) You’re only as safe as your latest backup
    c) Failures can occur both in hardware and software
  2. Regularly check to ensure all software and firmware is up to date and functioning properly
  3. Regularly check to ensure all hardware is functioning properly
  4. Regularly check the integrity of your backup

Of course you need the right hardware and software too.  Think of our solutions as the cornerstone of your bridge to digital asset management peace of mind, although perhaps not the entire bridge.  Building a bridge takes time and the right tool set.  Very few bridges are identical, as unique situations call for unique solutions.  The following sections in this document are aimed at helping you construct that bridge.

Elements of Digital Asset Management

1. No Single Point of Failure

a) Your data should exist in a minimum of two separate geographic locations

Here are some of the ways you can integrate storage products into your digital asset management strategy to help protect against a single point of failure:
Diagrams are for illustrative purposes only.

backup

The host computer is used for primary storage and regularly backed up to an additional storage medium onsite.  Periodic offsite storage is also managed either automatically through software or manually by carrying disk packs or other storage offsite.

primary

In this example, a storage device is used for primary storage (files are accessed directly off of the device rather than the host’s internal hard drive(s)).  This device is regularly backed up to another local device and additional storage medium onsite.  Periodic offsite storage is also managed either automatically through software or manually by carrying disk packs or other storage offsite.

Note: Please keep in mind the philosophy of digital asset management and remember there’s no one size fits all solution.  For instance, if you’re operating on a limited budget, simply burning your most critical data to DVDs and keeping one copy of those DVDs onsite and one copy offsite is better than nothing.

b) Your only as safe as your latest backup

What good is backup hardware if the files on it are out of date?  The best way to ensure they are up to date is to make the process as simple and painless as possible.  Zen Media’s storage solutions work with most software backup applications, data tools and offsite storage solutions on the market so please use whatever you are used to and trust to help complete building your bridge to a safer digital asset management strategy.  Zen Media Studios uses a variety of backup software depending on our clients needs, this makes our solutions easy to use and can satisfy a critical component of best practices enabling you to ensure your data exists in more than a single location.

c) “Failures” can occur both in hardware and software

Data loss can result from failures at the hardware level (i.e. physical disk or unit failure) and at the software level (i.e. a file system corruption).  Routinely verifying and error-checking all data and file systems is a critical part of best practices for all systems.  Please note the tools and utilities you use will vary by operating system, but every major operating system comes pre-loaded with at least basic disk checking tools.

This is another reason why its important to keep at least two distinct (and preferably geographically separate) copies of your data.  For example, if for some reason your operating system crashes in the midst of an operation, it could cause file system corruption resulting in data loss even though your hard disks are physically healthy.  Many customers unfortunately underestimate this particular type of data risk.

Some customers even routinely backup their data with multiple backup application suites.  Why do this?  This would prove well worth the time and effort in a case when your backup encountered an error or bug (which is unfortunately not as unusual as it sounds).

2. Regularly check to ensure all software and firmware is up to date and functioning properly

Every storage product comes with firmware built into the unit.  It is critical to keep this updated.  Please also be sure to keep your computer’s BIOS/EFS, operating system and other software up to date as well.  Pay particular attention to any Service Packs (SP) (or “Dot Updates” on OS X such as 10.5.x) for your operating system.

Finally, please note that occasionally even hard drives need to have their firmware updated in order to function properly.  For instance, early model 1.5TB Seagate drives released in 2009 required a firmware update released by their manufacturer.  After purchasing new drives and periodically thereafter please check your hard drive manufacturer’s website for any possible firmware updates.

3. Regularly check to ensure all hardware is functioning properly

When it comes to keeping storage hardware healthy, just follow some basic rules:

  1. Always protect your hardware from power surges by connecting it and the host computer to a surge protector and if possible an uninterruptable power supply (UPS).
  2. Make sure your hardware is in a well-ventilated area and the back of unit is not against a wall (to allow for proper airflow from the fan).  Also periodically check and clean off any large accumulations of easily accessible dust with a dry rag (do not use any cleaning solutions or water) or compressed air can.
  3. Be attentive for any changes to the types of noises the hard drives are making.  Loud clicking noises are often a good sign that’s its time to invest in a spare drive.
  4. Ensure all cabling is firmly attached.  Do not use a hub for any USB or FireWire connections.
  5. When you want to disconnect or turn off your storage array, please properly shutdown the unit.

*If you have physically moved your storage device(s), ensure all drives are properly seated before re-connecting the data/power cables.

Safe and Effective Data Storage

Following the guidelines above will ensure that you practice safe storage of your digital assets.  Zen Media Studios adhears to the above as the core of our product offerings for every client.  We realize that everyone has a budget, but we urge you to examine the importance of your data and build a system to suit your needs.  Data loss can be catastrophic – please keep that in mind as we work with you on a data storage solution for your business.