Quantum Amazing Facts Case-Study

Case Study: Amazing Facts

Begun in 1965 as a set of 15-minute radio segments combining science, history, and biblical teaching, Amazing Facts has grown into one of the largest religious broadcast ministries in the United States. Today the Sacramento, California–based organization airs weekly programming over more than 150 radio stations and a variety of over-the-air, cable, and satellite television platforms. It also produces its own original, special productions. In its more than 50 years of religious broadcasting, the Amazing Facts media team has continued to create and broadcast content through seismic changes in technology— and one of its constant challenges has been updating its infrastructure and workflows to keep up with, and take advantage of, changing technology. The television side of the house has seen the biggest changes.

STORAGE TO SUPPORT FILE-BASED MEDIA, A LONG-STANDING PROBLEM

“Ever since we moved to a file-based workflow, we have constantly wrestled with the problem of how to store, protect, and reuse the content we create,” explains Goce Shamakoski, Media Systems Engineer at Amazing Facts. The Mac-based production team installed an Xsan storage network and shared disk storage as an early solution to the problem. “Xsan let editors collaborate on projects—something that was extremely difficult in our earlier system—but over time we began to see its limitations,” says Shamakoski. The major issue was increasing data volumes. “When we record a service, we use five cameras to give us maximum flexibility and impact,” says Shamakoski, “and the result is that a typical hour-long program uses about half a terabyte of disk space.” The storage filled up quickly, additional disk resources were expensive to add, and—compounding the problem—some of the suppliers shifted their emphasis away from the media storage market and stopped supporting the solution. A particularly difficult issue was how to store older content that needed to be reaccessed for later use. “There was no integrated archiving function, so we wrote content off to LTO tape using a manual drive—and it was painful,” Shamakoski remembers. “We dedicated a part-time admin just to manage the archiving operation. It consumed 20 to 30 hours a week, and even then, it took us days to retrieve content to repurpose.”

SETTING PRIORITIES AND CONSIDERING OPTIONS

The IT team at Amazing Facts started looking for a new system, asking Advanced Systems Group (ASG) for help. ASG is an Emeryville, California integrator with specific expertise in media workflow. The team had several priorities for the new solution. Key factors were scalability and the ability to integrate archiving and data protection into the workflow. Flexibility over time was also critical since the team knew the system would need to change and grow in the future as new media formats and platforms were developed. “We also wanted to find a long-term partner,” explains Shamakoski, “one who was committed to this industry and could provide the support that we needed both at the installation phase and through future operations.” Compatibility with the existing Xsan platform would also be a major advantage to make the transition as nondisruptive as possible.

RESEARCH AND REFERENCES POINT TO STORNEXT

ASG recommended looking at a Quantum’s StorNext solution, but the team at Amazing Facts needed to be sure that it was the right choice for them. “We looked at every supplier of storage systems we could find, but didn’t find anybody else who could give us high-performance collaborative workflow and integrate archiving, too,” notes Shamakoski. “We also talked to lots of StorNext users. Some of them were Fortune 100–class customers and others were shops closer in size to us, with our 10 edit bays.” StorNext was the clear winner. “Everybody was enthusiastic about StorNext—and it was clear that Quantum was committed long-term to supporting this market with continued product development and experienced service teams.”

MAKING THE TRANSITION SMOOTH

The new solution included a StorNext M440 series metadata controller, 150TB of high-performance Quantum QXS RAID storage, and a StorNext AEL500 Archive library with LTO tape technology to provide 500TB of capacity. The Quantum and ASG support teams installed the new system. “We counted on StorNext’s compatibility with Xsan and hoped for an easy transition, but we were understandably a little nervous about it,” says Shamakoski. As it turned out, the switchover was perfectly smooth. “The upgrade team started working on Friday evening, and by Monday morning when the editors came into work, StorNext was up and running, and all the material from our Xsan was there and ready to work on in the same folders. The only thing they had to do differently was access the volume under a different name.” The new StorNext solution gives editors the same shared access to files that they had under Xsan using the existing Fibre Channel switch—but now, protecting and archiving content is a fully automated process carried out by StorNext Storage Manager, a policy-based data migration engine that manages data movement between storage tiers. “As soon as we ingest any content, the system automatically creates two copies on tape in the AEL Archive,” Shamakoski explains. One of them is vaulted off-site for disaster recovery protection while the other one stays in the library. “As our online disk fills up, we reclaim the disk space by removing the files that have not been recently accessed, but we leave the nearline copy on tape as an active archive.” Editors can see all the files they have access to through the standard Mac file system. When they open a file, it will either be available on disk or loaded back from tape to disk automatically.

AUTOMATING ARCHIVE SPEEDS UP PRODUCTION AND SLASHES ADMINISTRATIVE TIME

“The difference that the StorNext integrated archive has made to our work is huge,” says Shamakoski. “Bringing content back to be repurposed, a process that used to literally take us days, now happens in minutes or hours.” And administrative overhead has been reduced by a factor of 10. “Instead of dedicating someone to work 20 or 30 hours a week on archive management, with StorNext we now spend just two or three hours checking and confirming that everything is doing what it is supposed to. All that saved time means that we spend more time on other, more productive projects.” Reliability has been nearly 100%, and the service has been exemplary. “We haven’t had any issue that interrupted production since we installed the system nearly three years ago, and minor issues—when they did come up—were resolved quickly by either Quantum or ASG.” The team at Amazing Facts has started recommending StorNext to other organizations, too.

BETTER PROTECTION OVER TIME

For Amazing Facts, one of the most important StorNext features is the added protection that the archiving systems provide. “Having a copy created of everything as soon as we ingest it is a great improvement,” says Shamakoski, “and we really like the Storage Manager Vault feature. It flags tapes for off-site storage and keeps track of them.” The StorNext AEL Archive also includes an Extended Data Life Management (EDLM) feature that validates the integrity of data on tape by loading media into drives and checking for error rates. “We run a media integrity check before we off-site any tape, and if the archive starts to see any sign of deterioration, StorNext writes the files to new media. It really gives us high confidence.” The Amazing Facts team is starting to look at how it will expand the StorNext environment as part of a two-year project to move into a new, larger facility. “We know we will need more capacity and speed as our content grows, and we shift to 4K workflow—and StorNext will let us expand our existing system to support those needs,” says Shamakoski. The team is also looking at other options, including support for the cloud and using hybrid storage—adding a layer of solid-state disk (SSD) to a RAID array to support the high I/O operations of the special effects content creators. “We don’t know exactly what our future needs will be, but we like the fact that StorNext gives us so much flexibility,” says Shamakoski.

Sources: https://www.quantum.com/globalassets/customer-success/case-studies-pdf/stornext-solves-workflow-bottlenecks-for-amazing-facts-cs00413a.pdf

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AM Lithography Case Study

Leading Print and Packaging Supplier Relies on Quantum Libraries for Protection and Archiving AM Lithography has grown into a major national printing enterprise during an era that has seen a transformation in typography and press services. When the company was founded more than 35 years ago, Macs and Windows PCs were all still off in the future, and there are entire business segments— like third-party typesetting—that have essentially disappeared during its lifetime. But the company, headquartered in Chicopee, Massachusetts, has changed, adopted new technology, and become a trusted, full-service print, packaging, and mail service provider to some of the world’s premier brands. “The printing industry today looks nothing like it did in 1983 when we were founded,” explains Fred Gamber, AM Lithography’s Director of Pre-press Services, “but AM Lithography has maintained the same mission through all the changes: give clients a one-stop shop to get all their printing needs fulfilled with the highest quality, fair prices, and great service.”

USING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO EVOLVE THE BUSINESS

In the last two decades, a major part of the company’s success has been linked to how well it has adopted digital technology and used it to support its customer base. “We were early adopters of computerized type-setting, prepress, and mail service technology, and we have long recognized that IT services are a critical part of contemporary printing,” Gamber adds. “Today, what we get from customers are digital files with their original content, which we manage, process, and use to create finished material. Protecting that content, both for the short and the long term, is extremely important to us.” AM Lithography’s IT infrastructure uses mirrored 12 TB Red Hat Linux servers to handle the day-to-day operations. “Those servers have everything—including all the files that our customers send us. The data keeps growing every year, and we keep adding new technology and processes to protect it and keep it available.”

3-2-1 BACKUP STRATEGY PROTECTS AGAINST DATA LOSS

AM Lithography uses a 3-2-1 backup strategy for all of its data using backup software and Quantum tape libraries. “The IT team here has used Quantum libraries since long before I came to the company eleven years ago,” Gamber explains. “At first it was at the recommendation of our reseller—NAPC. They have helped us find the right technical solutions for years, they understand our business incredibly well, and helped us engineer and sustain a world-class workflow, backup and archive strategy.” The IT team uses daily incremental backups and weekly fulls, writing all the data to the Quantum library. “That gives us two copies,” Gamber explains, “the primary copy and another on tape. To provide the third copy, we periodically move tapes to an off-site location for longer term protection. That gives us both short term backup files for quick restores and long-term protection as part of disaster preparedness. Because the backups are on tape, they give us an important defense against cyberattacks like ransomware that can compromise files stored only on disk.”

LONG-TERM ARCHIVE STORED

In the same library but backup isn’t the only need. “We also use our Quantum library to provide a long-term archive for our work, and for that we use Archiware P5, software specifically designed to let us easily move files to tape for long term archive,” Gamber explains. “The interface is simple, anyone can retrieve files from tape quickly and easily, and it integrates easily with the Scalar library and its LTO drives and media. We can leave tapes in the library for quick access, and we can create duplicates to move off site for DR protection, as well.” Today the AM Lithography library is a Scalar i3 designed to provide mid-sized IT environments true, Enterprise-class data protection and archiving. The library can start as small as a single, 3U rack-mountable system, but it scales in 25-cartridge increments to accommodate data growth, eventually reaching a capacity of up to 12 Petabytes. The library uses Quantum capacity-on-demand, software-key based scaling to provide easy, and non-disruptive, economic growth. Best-in-class storage density and the industry’s most energy efficient power supplies minimize data center space and cooling requirements to keep costs low.

FAST BACKUP AND RECOVERY

“The Quantum library is incredibly fast,” Gamber explains. “Backups all get finished within our allowed windows— even our weekly full backups only take a few hours—and recovery of files is also fast, almost instantaneous. Reliability has also been exemplary. Once the system was up and running, it just works—we go months at a time without having to look at it or think about it.” Recovery speed was important recently when one of the servers was taken out of commission by a cyberattack. “I admit to being nervous when I first heard about the attack, but all of our preparation and planning paid off big time. We had all the data safely on tape and we rebuilt the system in only a few hours. Nothing was lost and we were back up and working the same day.”

TAKING A PARTNER APPROACH

“AM Lithography has also thought of its clients as partners,” Gamber said. “We want to help them solve their print and packaging problems over the long term— and we pride ourselves on having many, many customers that have used our services for decades.” The company looks for the same approach in when it picks its vendors. “We put a premium on finding people we

can work with successfully for years— Quantum fits that pattern. We have used Quantum libraries over and over again, upgrading to the next generation of drives, media and platforms as our needs change. When an issue does come up, and they are rare, the company takes whatever action is needed to resolve it quickly.”

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Monticello Associates Case Study

Quantum DXi and Scalar Provide Small Businesses with the Peace of Mind that Comes from Simplified, Tiered Data Protection

AGING INFRASTRUCTURE TOO SLOW AND UNRELIABLE FOR GROWING BACKUP NEEDS

Monticello Associates is an employee-owned asset management and investment consulting business that employs 39 people at its headquarters in Denver and another five at its Cleveland satellite office. The company has two data centers, one onsite at its headquarters and a second for business continuity and disaster recovery at a colocation facility near Denver. While it’s a small business, Monticello is growing quickly, with a long-term strategy that envisions the adoption of new technologies and services like desktop virtualization. When Trevor Fougere, Monticello’s IT Director and Computer Systems Analyst, joined the firm in 2007 as its lone, full-time IT professional, one of the first things he noticed was that the company had a very old and questionable backup system. “It was old and troublesome,” says Fougere. “We were dumping our main file shares, as well as our mail storage onto an old Dell PowerVault LTO-2 tape system. Tapes were recycled every two months. We kept the most recent months’ worth of tapes onsite and sent the others to offsite storage. But there was no way to tell if the tapes were useful, and we experienced many failures during backup and recovery operations. We would have to restart backup jobs after each failure and monitor until completion.” “Basically, we had old tape, old tape drives, and an older-generation server. It just wasn’t 100% reliable.” Having long worked in the financial services industry, Fougere knew this was a serious and immediate problem for Monticello. As a stopgap, he implemented a disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) system with a single LTO-2 tape drive. Monticello would have the ability to do limited restores from disk, but not much else. He also adopted a more rigorous backup process, with weekly backup tapes stored offsite with Iron Mountain for a year and annual tapes going offsite for seven years. But Monticello’s technology foundation was expanding. The company was growing both its file server and Exchange server structure, had added a virtualized environment using VMware, and had implemented an EqualLogic SAN at its main Denver offices that replicated to an identical SAN at its secondary facility for disaster recovery. Now the company needed to upgrade its data protection.

QUANTUM DELIVERS COMPREHENSIVE DATA PROTECTION

Fougere wanted to establish a solution that would provide 3-5 years of headroom for the company’s backup and recovery needs. He still believed D2D2T offered the most cost-effective approach, but he wanted a system that was faster for both backup and restore, more reliable and less costly than his current system, and one that reduced the cost of tape and minimized manual handling. He also needed it to incorporate support for Monticello’s legacy LTO-2 tape. “Given that we’re a highly reputable company that deals with many influential clients and money managers, I didn’t want to experiment,” Fougere notes. “Disk-to-disk-to-tape is a proven system for backup, and you can’t beat it for price.” In addition to better performance, Fougere wanted to be able to store a full month of data onsite (one full backup and four incremental backups) under a greatly expanded backup plan that included additional system-states and a development environment—as well as the possibility of virtualized desktops using Citrix’s VDI. At the outset, Fougere estimated the total backup size to be approximately 900GB before deduplication, with the potential for that to double once the new backup plan was fully in place. Monticello sought bids from hardware vendors and VARs, including H.A. Storage Systems, which specializes in data storage and data management solutions. Monticello considered three options:

  • A basic hardware upgrade of its current system, comprised of a Dell T420 server with local storage and a PowerVault (LT0-4) tape library.
  • An EMC DD620 deduplication appliance with DataDomain and Tandberg t40+ tape (LTO-5) connected to an unspecified server. Monticello would have had to find a third party to migrate its legacy tape to LTO-5.
  • A Dell R310 server, Quantum DXi4601 deduplication backup appliance, Quantum Scalar i40 (LTO-5) tape library, and a single LTO-3 tape drive for legacy data access (the solution proposed by H.A. Storage Systems).

In the end, according to Fougere, the choice was simple.

“From a capability/performance standpoint, the Quantum-based solution was tailor-made for our needs,” he says. “I really liked the idea of having an integrated solution, and I’m very familiar with Quantum.” DXi OFFERS ROOM TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS The 8TB capacity of the DXi solution leaves quite a bit of room for Monticello’s expanding data needs. So even as the company has added server-states and more Exchange data, with the appliance’s powerful data deduplication they haven’t come close to maxing out the system. “We keep upping our retention periods to try and get past the 20 percent level of storage used on the DXi, and we still can’t get there,” Fougere comments. And Monticello Associates is also benefiting from the impressive performance of the DXi solution. Full backups are set to run after close of business on Fridays and are usually done by early Saturday morning—just a fraction of the time they used to take. From Fougere’s perspective, the backup capacity and speed are matched by the reliability of the solution. “We haven’t had an ounce of trouble with it,” says Fougere. “With our old system, I’d wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares of failed backup jobs. But since we started using the comprehensive DXi and Scalar solution from Quantum, our backup failures are pretty much non-existent.” In addition, the Scalar tape component is a key part of the overall system. Monticello is now able to keep six months of weekly file server backups on hand. “It’s great to have those available for immediate restore if we need them,” he notes. Overall, the new solution has been a perfect fit for a small business-like Monticello Associates. “Compared with some of the other vendors and VARs we spoke to, working with Quantum and H.A. Storage Systems has been a pleasure,” says Fougere. “We’re really happy”.

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Four Reasons Why you Need a Modern File System for Media Workflows

In media and entertainment, it’s often difficult to meet even the basic requirements for data storage. You need to ingest content quickly, provide fast access to that content, facilitate collaboration, and cost-effectively preserve and protect content over the long term.

But as viewing habits are changing, and the creative process continues to evolve, meeting the escalating requirements for storage is becoming more difficult than ever before. You need greater performance and flexibility to handle 4K and higher-resolution content from a growing number of sources. You also need to balance this with capacity and cost.  And last but not least, somehow streamline management of an increasingly complex storage environment.

Within the technology ecosystem of a modern storage implementation, there are a number of crucial aspects at play influencing the dynamic interplay of performance, capacity, management and cost. Chief among these is the file system.  So, let’s take a quick look at four key areas where a modern file system can really make a difference to your overall workflow efficiency.

Performance

It wasn’t long ago that organizations could make do with storage performance that was “just good enough.” However, as the industry has moved to higher-resolution formats, much more performance is required for real-time editing, color grading, transcoding, and other tasks.

This is where the right file system substantially improve the performance of the underlying storage hardware – no matter if its composed of solid-state drives (SSDs), hard-disk drives, or any combination of the two.  For example, a file system that separates user data and metadata operations—and runs those operations in parallel—enables both tasks to complete faster while helping ensure data transfer is unimpeded. In addition, a file system that slices logical unit numbers (LUNs) and enables the creation of stripe groups can help better match high-performance workloads to high-performance storage.

Flexibility

To enhance the efficiency of workflows and facilitate collaboration among team members, storage solutions must enable simple, flexible access to content. By creating a single, global namespace, a modern file system can give team members direct access to files, images, and other content at high speed—no matter where users are located.

The right file system will also support several types of storage systems and connectivity options. This means that the file system should natively support shared storage area network (SAN) environments with Fibre Channel connections as well as scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) environments over Ethernet. Such flexibility for different storage types and connectivity provides organizations the capability to architect the most ideal infrastructure for their specific use case.  And as most organizations will need to expand and grow as their business becomes more successful, they have the option to migrate to a different topology as future needs dictate. 

Optimization of Storage Resources

How can you effectively balance performance, capacity, and cost for your storage environment? One tried and true method is to architect a multi-tier environment that seamlessly integrates multiple types of storage; from Tier 0 flash-based storage through object-based systems, data tape archives, and cloud archives.  This kind of structure allows for the hottest data to be placed on the fastest storage pools, while cold or less frequently accessed data can be placed on capacity optimized storage pools. 

Another crucial functionality is that the data movement must be automated so it flows seamlessly across those storage tiers.  Ultimately this translates into the ability to keep current, time-sensitive projects on high-performance arrays while moving older, less-frequently accessed content to cost-effective media and large-capacity archives.

Streamlined Management

Very few media organizations have large, dedicated administrative teams to handle storage. As storage environments grow in size and complexity, organizations need ways to simplify management so their IT teams can more easily meet the requirements of their users. The right file system will streamline administration by offering an array of capabilities—from remote management options to analytics tools. This means an entire multi-tier environment can be managed with a small staff or even a single person.

Move forward with StorNext

So as you can see, there are a handful of exceptionally good reasons why investing in a storage infrastructure powered by an industry leading file system could really make a large impact on your business. To learn more how StorNext can deliver the performance, flexibility, balance, and streamlined management I just described, download the new eBook, “Modern File System Functionality That Can Supercharge Your Media Workflows. “

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Motion Design Studio Moves to StorNext for Next-Stage Growth

When Swordfish started to be limited by its legacy storage infrastructure, the company turned to Quantum’s StorNext Pro Foundation with the help of integrator, Advanced Systems Group. The result was performance fast enough even for 4K resolution files, support for all Swordfish’s existing applications, and a configuration that made the switch easy and affordable.

Swordfish is a graphics studio in San Francisco that specializes in motion design, both for marketing and user experience. The company’s customer list includes some of the largest and most innovative tech companies on the globe, including Sony, Google, Dolby, and Salesforce. com, as well as advertising clients that represent a wide range of traditional consumer products. The company started out small but grew rapidly as it added more and more clients and expanded the kinds of services it could provide. In the process, Swordfish’s success put a huge strain on its legacy infrastructure and storage resources.

 “I started Swordfish about 2-1/2 years ago with limited resources,” explains founder and Executive Creative Director, Matt Silverman. “We had an [Apple] Mac Mini and some directattached storage. After a while, we found ourselves working on really big 4K projects, with lots of RED source footage, and a bigger team. Everybody was trying to hit those files at the same time over GigE, and we realized that we needed a much more robust solution. “As a motion design studio, our needs are very different than a traditional post house. Although we do projects of different sizes, some of them involve a lot of big, heavy 3D renders of 4K resolution content—and some of the new ones are stereoscopic 4K so everything doubles in size. On projects like that, the processors really bottleneck, and it might take us up to three hours to render a frame. So we needed really powerful performance, but we also needed a system sized for our business. And whatever we came up with also had to work with all the different applications that we were running— that includes Premiere, DaVinci, Maya, Cinema 4D, Houdini, [and] RV for playback.”

StorNext Pro Foundation was designed to make it easy for a company the size of
Swordfish…to combine the highest performance, the widest range of applications,
and to be both simple to install and cost effective

Dave Van Hoy – President, Advanced Systems Group

ADVANCED SYSTEMS GROUP HELPS PLAN STRATEGIC CHANGE

For help in planning the next steps, Swordfish turned to Advanced Systems Group LLC (ASG), an integrator based out of Emeryville, CA that specializes in selecting, installing, and supporting production, post-production, and shared storage systems for the broadcast, film, creative, and corporate video markets. “I had worked with ASG before, at another company, and I had complete confidence in them,” Silverman explains. “What they had designed and installed then was a very large Quantum StorNext system using a Fibre Channel SAN. I loved the performance we had, but I didn’t think there was any way that we could scale that kind of environment down to be practical for [a] 20-person company like Swordfish and still give us the power we needed. And I really didn’t know what it would take to meet our needs and give us the ability to handle the next generation of even higherresolution content that we can see coming.” Swordfish was happy to take ASG’s recommendations. “I’ve got so much on my plate as a business owner and creative director that the last thing that I want to worry about is the technical details of this Fibre Channel versus that Fibre Channel,” says Silverman. “Having a valueadded reseller like ASG, who I trust with my life, is great. Whatever they say to use is what I’m going to use because I know that they’re going to be providing me with the best solution.”

STORNEXT PRO FOUNDATION PROVIDES THE ANSWER

The system that ASG recommended was the StorNext Pro Foundation solution. It combines StorNext 5 software, redundant metadata controllers, and high-performance SAN storage in a pre-configured solution. The system installed at Swordfish includes 96TB of high-performance SAN storage.

“StorNext Pro Foundation was designed to make it easy for a company the size of Swordfish…to combine the highest performance, the widest range of applications, and to be both simple to install and costeffective,” says Dave Van Hoy, President, Advanced Systems Group. “Based on our experience with other innovative startups that are pushing the technology envelope, we knew it could meet all of the company’s needs and give them performance and scalability to meet their needs in the future.”

 The StorNext high-speed Fibre Channel connectivity solved all of the performance problems that Swordfish had been seeing, and it gave the company bandwidth to offer services to its customers that had not been possible with the legacy system. “With the old system, we didn’t have the speed to bring customers in and let them be part of a client-supervised session,” Silverman adds. “But with StorNext, now we do. We can take huge files—32-bit EXR files where each frame is maybe 16 to 20 megabytes a frame—just drop them right into RV and hit play. It works perfectly in real time with no dropped frames. That means that we can offer lots more post-production services than we could before, and that means we can successfully compete with the big LA post houses.”

ROBUST AND RELIABLE

In addition to performance and scalability, Swordfish was looking for a solution that would provide trouble-free reliability and be “bullet-proof.” “My business relies on data. The bits that are on those drives is all I got. If I lose those bits, I will be out of business,” Silverman explains. “The StorNext Pro Foundation has proved to be every bit as reliable as the ASG team told us it would. The thing just works, and that’s the beauty of it. You just let the thing run in the background. You never have to turn it on. You never have to turn it off. It just goes, and it creates this amazing network for you to attach to. “If you’re looking for a backbone for your company, there’s no better solution. The Quantum StorNext Pro Foundation is the heart and soul of Swordfish and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Source: https://www.quantum.com/globalassets/customer-success/case-studies-pdf/motion-design-studio-moves-to-stornext-for-next-stage-growth-cs00328a.pdf