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Broadcast Content Archiving: Cloud vs. Hard Drive vs. Tape

on June 16, 2014

Broadcast content archiving didn't used to be a big concern. Decades ago, broadcasters would burn entire shelves full of TV shows and movies in order to make room for new ones. As a result, a huge amount of content has been lost to us forever, including a number of classic and important moments in broadcast history.

Nowadays, precautions exist to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. Broadcast content is carefully archived and preserved, so that it can live on and hopefully be enjoyed by future generations. But as technology evolves, the question becomes, what's the best method of broadcast content archiving? How can you store content in the most efficient way, while preserving its quality as much as possible? There are currently three basic options for archiving broadcast content.

Tape Archiving

Tape is now almost entirely obsolete in the broadcast world. No one records on it anymore, and most manufacturers don't even produce it. However, a lot of content that was broadcast before the advent of digital technology is still archived on tape.

Tape is impractical for archiving for a number of reasons. Tapes don't have a very high storage capacity, and, therefore, take up a lot of space, particularly when there's a large amount of content being archived. Additionally, the picture and sound quality is so-so at best, and it degrades over time, making it even worse. Each tape must be individually protected against dust accumulation, and even then, degradation may still occur. After a couple of decades, the tapes may be practically unwatchable, and all that effort spent trying to preserve the content on them will have been for nothing. Any broadcast content that's being stored on tape should be converted to a digital format immediately, before the quality degrades even further, or it is lost forever.

Hard Drive Archiving

Archiving broadcast content on hard drive is a much better option. An external hard drive the size of a videotape can store thousands of hours of content, as opposed to a tape's two hours, saving huge amounts of shelf space. Digital content is also much higher quality, and doesn't degrade over time.

However, hard drive storage is not without its problems. Hard drives may be more space efficient, but they still take up room, and over time that can pile up. Also, any physical copy is still susceptible to damage, and therefore loss. Some accident, such as a fire, could destroy an entire storage room full of hard drives, wiping out a myriad of archived content forever.

Cloud Storage Archiving

Cloud storage is the most efficient and reliable method of broadcast content archiving. Content is not only digital, guaranteeing quality, but also virtual. That means storage can be literally unlimited, without taking up any shelf space. And since there's no physical copy of the data, there's nothing to be damaged, lost, or degraded. Servers are still susceptible to crashing and subsequent data loss, but there are basic precautions that can be taken to back up that data and recover it fully, again without taking up extra shelf space.

Broadcast content archiving is essential, both for historical and entertainment purposes. The loss of that content would be a tragedy for future generations. Therefore, it's essential to make sure it's archived in the best, safest, and most efficient way. Future generations will thank you.