"Stick them on disk": Plucky UK firm wants humble hard drives to win data war against tape, optical disks and cloud storage — and it plans to do so by getting rid of RAID and slowing down spinning disks to a full stop

22TB hard drive from Toshiba
(Image credit: Toshiba)

Disk Archive Corporation has announced it can boast more than 350 customers in the broadcast and media industry as it continues on its near-20-year crusade to promote its unique approach to data storage.

The UK-based company, founded in 2008, believes its Alternative to Linear Tape-Open (ALTO) chassis appliance is far superior to conventional archival methods. This system relies on SATA disk drives, which spin for just 50 hours a year, which extends the usable life of the storage media by at least 15 years, according to Blocks and Files

Crucially, these systems lack redundant array of independent disks (RAID) technology, which controls the writing of dat across multiple drives in a system. By ditching RAID, there's little need to spin up disks as often, extending the lifespace of the storage media.

Slow and steady wins the race in the storage wars

Hard drives aren't as fashionable as they may have once been, with the best hard drives nowhere near as fast as the fastest SSDs in today's age. 

With conventional storage methods inevitably running into hurdles down the line, scientists are also working on the next generation of storage media. This includes Microsoft's Project Silica, as well as Cerabyte's ceramic-based storage system

These technologies are still some way off being commercially available, however, and the likes of Disk Archive Corporation is keen to continue to push its unusual ALTO appliance which promotes the use of spun-down disks. 

ATLO comes in a 60-disk drive 4RU chassis and embedded server, with customers able to fit together up to ten of these for a total of 15.8PB archive storage. But the system can also scale up to 200PB – and even higher if 26GB shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives are fitted into the device.

The firm is also targeting the film production, TV broadcast and court recording sectors specifically. This is because companies in these industries need to keep data on file for decades – and need quick access to this data when required.

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Keumars Afifi-Sabet
Channel Editor (Technology), Live Science

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is the Technology Editor for Live Science. He has written for a variety of publications including ITPro, The Week Digital and ComputerActive. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, having previously held the role of features editor with ITPro. In his previous role, he oversaw the commissioning and publishing of long form in areas including AI, cyber security, cloud computing and digital transformation.