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Volume 32, Issue 1

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Paxson Communications Corp. operates more than 60 television stations across the nation. The company’s lifeblood is advertising revenue from commercials that must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla. That adds up to more than 70,000 advertising spots each week, with a sales force of more than 600 people who sell airtime. Paxson has chosen to rely on tape technology to protect its business critical operations, with super tape playing an essential data protection and backup role in protecting advertising sales data.

Business continuity and disaster recovery are important for the advertising department, especially when considering Florida’s track record for fierce hurricanes and tropical storms.

“Tape storage is very critical, because it’s the only cost effective way we can move and protect a lot of data,” says Scott Saunders, director of systems technology for Paxson. “As severe weather approaches, we accelerate the normal delivery of information offsite to the backup site.”

To keep track of all 70,000 ad spots each week, Paxson maintains a giant database matrix of what will be broadcast on every second of airtime over the 60 Paxson television stations.

“There are millions of things going on in the advertising traffic system as it searches for sold or unsold spots,” said Saunders.
Hundreds of sales people access the system at any one time and the system is constantly looking for available advertising spots, tracking which sales people are selling them, and maximizing revenues. The system also generates all the billing, ties that information into the accounting system, and links into a data warehouse for reporting. Because of its tested reliability, performance, cost-effectiveness and removeability, Paxson backs up the 175 GB database on super tape.

Super tape drives at the Paxson headquarters perform daily backups of more than 500 gigabytes. These files are critical, because sales people need information at their fingertips: schedules, rates, availability, ratings data, etc… . In short, this data must be available or the sales people are at a disadvantage and Paxson’s revenue stream could be affected.

Availability Is Critical

To guarantee virtually 100 percent availability of sales support tools, the servers are backed up daily. Every Friday, the Thursday backup tape is sent to the disaster recovery site at the network operations center (NOC) in Clearwater/Tampa. But these tapes are not simply for off-site archiving. The IT staff at the NOC verifies the integrity of the data on the tape and then restores it to servers in the DR site. They are part of Paxson’s “warm” backup site, which has equipment similar to that in West Palm Beach. If any of the critical servers were destroyed in a disaster at West Palm Beach, the system could fail-over to the backup site in a matter of hours. Sales people in the field would continue to get their work done virtually uninterrupted.

“The need to perform daily backups isn’t enough. We need to know the data is available for restore quickly and reliably,” says Saunders. “Tape gives us that reliability and confidence, so that even when Mother Nature strikes, it’s business as usual.”


Steve Berens is the senior director of product marketing and strategy for Quantum Storage Devices Business Unit.