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Storage cloud reduces costs for advertising firm's content delivery

The Aura Group moved rich media files off a dedicated storage network to Zetta storage cloud to cut costs, add flexibility and provide a backup alternative.

The Aura Group online advertising firm ditched its on-premise storage in favor of a storage cloud to keep high-capacity media files available for its customers to access. Douglas Shaw, chief technology officer (CTO) at Aura Group, said he cut his storage costs in half by moving to the Zetta Storage Service cloud and said its backup capabilities give him more "peace of mind" than relying on tape.

The Aura Group puts out electronic press kits for movie studios containing clips and other information about the movies in multiple formats. Instead of sending the kits to outlets that might run clips, it streams the video clips through content delivery networks (CDNs). While that's cheaper than sending out kits with video, it requires a great deal of storage – from 500 GB to 1 TB per movie.

Shaw said his Fullerton, Calif.-based company was running out of storage on its internal SAN, so it turned first to hosted storage from Rackspace and then replaced that with the Zetta Storage Service cloud approximately a year ago. He said cost was a big reason for the switch, although performance and flexibility also figured into the decision.

"It didn't make cost-effective sense to expand our SAN in comparison to moving to the cloud where you only pay for the storage that you use," he said. "Zetta is acting as cold storage. Based on requests from the customer, we can set them up through different content delivery networks to deliver files to thousands of people and reduce costs. We marry different technologies to get the results we want."

Zetta charges $921.60 per month per volume for the first 2 TB of storage, and 45 cents per month for each additional GB. It doesn't charge extra for bandwidth. Shaw said he currently has about 1.5 TB on the Zetta cloud, but has had as much as 2.5 TB online. The amount varies from project to project. The Aura Group uses ZettaMirror to back up its business files, reducing its dependency on tape.

"The amount of money I was paying on my dedicated storage was exponentially growing," Shaw said. "With dedicated storage you always try to plan for 'Hey I'm going to use 30 TB potentially, I may only use 10 TB right now but I want room for growth,' but [then] you have space you're paying for but not utilizing. With the cloud, I pay only for the storage I'm using and basically the storage is unlimited, I can expand it any time. With dedicated storage, I have to plan ahead and make sure I have overhead available to me to make sure I don't run out of storage.

Shaw said he looked at other storage cloud alternatives, including Rackspace's Cloud Files, before settling on Zetta. He said Zetta's performance during testing was one reason for the switch – Aura Group could upload data at 40 Mbps over a 100 Mbps Fiber connection with Zetta while other alternatives maxxed out at 15 Mbps. He also liked Zetta's support and said it makes it easy to update and purge files stored on its cloud. That comes in handy when dealing with another Aura Group product – banner ads that run on websites such as Yahoo and Facebook.

ZettaMirror installs an agent on any server to be backed up. Customers configure the backups through the Zetta website, setting up the directories they want backed up and when they want to synchronize data from the servers to the online storage. Shaw said Aura Group sets its backups to start at night after everybody leaves the office.

"Traditionally we've always used tape backup, yet juggling tapes and all that is always a pain in the butt," he said. "It's a necessary evil, but it's a pain in the butt. Zetta's mirror service lets us synchronize our local storage up to cloud storage, basically doing nightly backups. I'm still using tape, but this gives us peace of mind as well as access to data from anywhere in the world. It's not just limited to my internal network."

Shaw said he did a great deal of testing before he committed his data to the storage cloud, though. "I was really nervous about releasing control of my data," he said. "I always want control over everything. We did a lot of tests to make sure our data would be secure and we wouldn't be losing data. That was always in the back of my mind when we were first looking at it. Where's that comfort factor with the company I was dealing with?"

He said he his files that go to the cloud are encrypted and require a key to access. "We put our business data up there on separate volumes," he said. "That gives me peace of mind. Our building is an old hayloft, and sometimes power isn't stable."


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