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CTERA Data Services Platform: Storage Innovation for Media Agencies

Few things have flexed the creative muscles of IT teams supporting media agencies as much as file storage platforms.

For more than twenty years, I’ve had the pleasure of tailoring technologies to tackle the challenges of:

  • Collaboration (how can creative and client service teams work together in a centralized folder structure?)
  • Data Protection (how can I ensure that I have versioning of data that is deleted or overwritten to minimize the downtime of staff to perform a recovery?)
  • Releases (how can we easily and securely share content with customers at the various stages of design and production?)
  • Performance (time is money, how do we ensure that time is never spent waiting on the technology to deliver content)
  • Portability and Flexibility (how can we accommodate multiple locations, a distributed workforce, Mac & Windows cross-platforms, and variable working styles or workflow requirements?)
  • Cost (how can we remain in control of the costs associated with growing storage needs?)

I nostalgically reminisce about the radically expensive Silicon Graphics servers I started out supporting, to the beautifully built but feature-limited Xserve/Xraid combinations, then eventually into the realm of Windows Server VMs backed by EqualLogic iSCSI (such a cool kit this was) providing performant AFP services via GroupLogic (Now Acronis) Extreme Z-IP (Now Access Connect).

Every component, every platform, carefully selected and paired with complementary technologies to best deliver on the precepts I laid out above.

It was an evolving symphony of tech, and it was our job to hit every note and keep the concerto harmonious to the benefit of our people, and subsequently, our customers with whom we’d been charged with the responsible stewardship of their most valuable digital assets.

Few innovations to our media use case were as satisfying as the implementation of the CTERA Enterprise File Services Platform, which really, was our first major step away from purely on-premises storage technologies.

I must admit, there were some initial psychological barriers to building trust in cloud architecture to protect our data with the control we felt we had when every block was written to hardware that we could reach out and touch.  An exhaustive proof-of-concept, complete with DR simulations was key to assuaging these fears.  Let’s just say watching Terabytes of your data return to production in mere seconds/minutes from a simulated ransomware attack or mass deletion event as opposed to the days or weeks it would take for point-in-time tape backup restorations was a serious confidence builder…

Why CTERA’s File Storage Solution is a Perfect Fit for Media Agencies

Let me break down the ways CTERA, with its Edge-to-Cloud Files Services for Media and Advertising, delivered on each of my criteria:


Presenting data via SMB from a file server is easy, all platforms do it, and it’s been a staple of office collaboration for 30+ years and perhaps isn’t going away anytime soon.  Thankfully, CTERA’s implementation of Samba on their virtual Edge Filer product performed well on the Mac, eliminating the need we had on Windows file servers to add an additional file presentation layer like Extreme Z-IP.

Beyond SMB, CTERA also allowed the presentation of the global file system data over an agent or Drive Connect app (that also provides local caching to the Mac), and through an attractive (and brandable) WebUI.  We had options, not only to cater to the preference and use-case of the individual but also to build onto the resiliency of the platform that if one method was unavailable, access to your content could always be provided by another.

But wait, what is this caching technology? 

For the first time in our history, we had a server that would intelligently/dynamically cache only the data the organization was accessing on a local drive, despite presenting the entire file system to any connected user.

Trying to make difficult and laborious retention decisions could be replaced by infinite (but responsible) data growth, keeping seldom-accessed blocks stored on affordable (but surprisingly fast) S3 object storage was a big win.  With vendors like Wasabi, Backblaze, and Cloudflare R2 offering fast but egress-free object storage, this starts to really build out a compelling case for post-on-premises infrastructure.

Data Protection:

Remember that DR simulation I mentioned?  Well, data protection and time-to-restore features in CTERA are game-changing.

With a comprehensive and customizable set of data retention policies, not only could admins instantly restore content, but this power could be put into the hands of the self-reliant user if necessary, allowing for even faster resolution to individual recovery requests.  Our massive LTO6 tape library was instantly looking like a relic from a time when our thorough efforts into data resiliency were paired with the uncomfortable truth that substantial restores in a live DR scenario would require more patience than we could afford.


Agencies had long used FTP/SFTP/FTPS to exchange files.  Over time, this was improved by easier-to-use but feature-rich web interfaces (Thanks Maxum!)  Creative (but expensive) platforms like MassTransit became more ubiquitous, as well as clever tech like Citrix ShareFile, but eventually those gave way to more cloud-focused platforms like Box, Dropbox, and even Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

The problem?  It was yet another solution to administer, maintain, and duplicate the effort of copying data in and out of.

CTERA’s file storage solution:  don’t leave the platform you are already working in. Public links with or without multi-factor authentication can be quickly generated in the WebUI, or even in the Drive Connect App to share with customers or outside parties, eliminating the need to transfer data in or out of the transit platform.  Read/Write links can be sent to any party to send data to you that is instantly available on the global file system – brilliant!


Whatever hesitations I initially held at the prospect of storing blocks in the cloud rapidly evaporated when I saw the 850Mbps+ (in my region and Fibre WAN) transfer rates of evicted blocks making their way back into my virtual filer to hydrate stubbed data due to the CTERA Direct file transfer protocol.  Edge to Cloud’s value proposition took no time to establish itself in my organization.  I could present hot data in a multitude of formats, locally cached on my virtual filer (complemented by the awesome Mac-assist application to see eviction status and selectively cache content), I could use the Drive Connect app for Windows or Mac to selectively cache global file system content right to the local computer, or for power media users, I could use the ultra-portable HC100 Filer device to provide me with my own 2TB caching appliance in a remote office or power user’s home.  Options, people!

Portability and Flexibility:

I’ve touched on this point in every category. From the virtual or hardware filer to the applications like CTERA Agent or CTERA Drive Connect, Portal WebUI, to portable devices like the HC100, and even to the mobile CTERA App, there is a virtual bounty of access methods to a CTERA Global file system, allowing the IT department to creatively deploy the best one to each use-case.  Regardless of the access solution, the powerful synchronization of the platform ensures that content added by one user is almost instantaneously seen by everyone else in the organization, facilitating real-time collaboration across teams and business units.


I have unapologetically pursued the best-of-breed technologies for any given role at my organizations.  While the prospect of single-vendor solutions can be attractive given their proposed simplicity, you relinquish a certain level of control for that convenience, and thus, your costs can become fixed at a time when the competition is ever-increasing and price-per-GB rates are looking more attractive each year.  Why not pick your own hypervisor that makes the most sense to your organization?  Why not select the object storage service that works within your budget and performance expectations?  With CTERA, we did just that, and it’s put us in more of a position of power with vendors we are not locked in with.

Are you looking to transition your agency away from traditional storage technologies and put some serious power into the hands of your creative and client service teams? Consider CTERA.


Attend our webinar to learn more!

How To Load The Bases Of Your Media Storage Strategy
May 10 2023, 11:00 AM ET




About the Author

LinkedIn ButtonKyle is the former VP of Technology for the integrated branding agency, Glenn Davis Group, and a 25-year veteran of supporting technologies in media and creative environments.  He joined CTERA as a Service Delivery Engineer in 2022 in pursuit of new challenges and experiences and is now responsible for the installation and post-sales support of CTERA Enterprise File Services.  Kyle is passionate about both technology and people, and in empowering the most beneficial intersections between them.



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