Optical Jukeboxes: An Affordable Backup Plan For Your Business?

By: Christine Harrell

When evaluating storage options for large numbers of media files (images, videos or audio clips), optical drives and optical jukeboxes may be your best option. For example, a large medical facility needs a way to allow different doctors to access x-rays, CT scans, and MRI images. A business might keep security videos on file for a period of time to allow review in the event of a break-in.

Almost all computers come standard with an optical drive, either a CD or a DVD player. Recently additional optical technologies, UDO and Blu-Ray, have expanded the storage capabilities of this medium. A CD holds less than 1 GB of data so is not an effective choice for large-scale storage. Better options are the DVD (4 GB), UDO (30 GB), and Blu-Ray (50 GB).

If you have a large collection of optical disks being accessed by multiple users, a data management system is necessary to allow efficient access. For a very small collection or a small number of users, giving each user a copy of each disk in the collection might be feasible.

A user might even have multiple optical drives to allow access to the entire collection at once. For a larger collection or user base, you might have a central library where users can check out disks as needed, though you risk the possibility of disks being lost while being carried around by users.

An optical jukebox carries the optical storage concept a step further, storing a stack of disks that can be accessed automatically by any attached computer. Some jukeboxes can store hundreds of disks so can manage a giant archive. Most optical jukeboxes will write as well as read disks.

Optical drives have advantages over other storage media. Unlike tape storage, which store data linearly, an optical jukebox allows quick access to any file in the archive. Since the media is removable and comparatively inexpensive, an optical jukebox is a cost-effective alternative to a bank of large-capacity hard drives. Since media files tend to much larger than other data types, the low cost per megabyte is an important consideration.

There are also disadvantages to using an optical jukebox. A jukebox might store hundreds of disks, but it will have a limited number of players which will restrict the number of simultaneous users. This can create substantial slowdowns in high-traffic environments. Optical drives are slower than hard drives so it will take longer to access the information. Some jukeboxes have built-in hard drives to cache frequently accessed information to minimize the speed and access problems.

Disadvantages aside, the characteristics of an optical drive make it the most effective storage option for large quantities of video, audio, and image files.

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