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Spectra Logic Backup and Archive Blog


Tape Stronger Than Ever at 2014 NAB Show

Another great NAB Show is in the books. The show was one of the best for Spectra Logic with a lot of enthusiasm around our nTier Verde, tape systems, and new products.

The energy and appetite for low cost archive storage was at an all time high driven by 4K, and 8K content, greater frame rates, and the continuous explosion of new media. Storage tiering was talked about heavily as people had to focus on cost effective ways to manage their growth. As a result, it was clear that tape is stronger than ever!

Spectra Logic Booth at NAB Trade Show

One theme that was prevalent was market consolidation. Whether it's Belden buying Grass Valley, who had already acquired Miranda who had already gobbled up Omnibus, or Harris Broadcast splitting off to become Imagine Communications, or Masstech acquiring PlayBox to expand their portfolio and deepen their stronghold on workflow automation and Playout in the commercial TV space. The consolidation trend seems to be picking up steam and not subsiding so we expect the mergers and acquisitions to continue.

Surprisingly, one thing that was talked about less this year than the past couple years was the use of cloud. While Amazon had a big presence at the show, folks visiting the Spectra Logic booth didn't talk much about cloud as an option, at least not as a replacement for their in-house archives. For better or worse, more adoption or less, the cloud craze seems to be dying down a little. Its place in the market appears to be settling in with more understanding of its benefits and pitfalls.

Overall, it was a great show for Spectra Logic and we look forward to seeing what surprises the next year brings!

Professional Services Blog: Saving precious memories through long term archiving

As the proud new owner of a pair of 7-week old male Boxer puppies (or "Boxer Daddy" as a friend of mine amusingly called me), I have begun to understand the importance of safeguarding those precious early moments captured digitally for posterity. Watching them play daily, grow up and mature are the memories I most definitely want to keep. This is in many ways no different than Spectra's customers in business, healthcare, scientific research or broadcast & media, where transactions, patient records, research data, TV & film content, or indeed entire national archives need to be kept safely for the very long term.

In my travels during the last five years with Spectra, I've been lucky enough to visit some amazing customer sites, each of which have pressing needs to preserve and archive long-term data. From cutting edge research facilities looking for illusive particles, to TV, Sports and News companies, and sites archiving a whole country's TV, history & culture, often the data they wish to preserve is precious, irreplaceable or simply would cost too much to reproduce. In academic research, which is often enabled by grants, the funding bodies now require that expensive research data be retained indefinitely.

This is where tape is very important.

Each of these customers has chosen Spectra to safeguard and protect their most precious asset—long-term data or content.

Just like me with my puppies, that's a lot of responsibility—and one that we at Spectra take very seriously. Our tape solutions offer DIV (Digital Integrity Verification), ¬†Media Lifecycle Management (MLM), Drive Lifecycle Management (DLM) and together with Spectra Certified Media we do everything we can to protect customers long-term archive data and content.

At any time we can simply run a report and immediately know the full health of our archive giving much needed piece of mind to the archivists. Our nTier Verde disk solution similarly offers triple parity, higher quality disks and a file system designed to prevent even the slightest bit-rot. Used together with archiving software, Spectra has the solutions to help these customers preserve data for the long-term.

Many of us store our precious life-time memories and photos in the cloud, and here again behind the scenes a lot of the largest cloud providers are using tape. Tape offers the lowest cost/GB for long-term reliable storage and fast recovery should disaster strike.

For me, knowing that I've helped preserve scientific and memorable content is a bonus, and getting to see where the research is done, be it particle colliders and anti-matter generators in Switzerland, live and whacky news feeds in TV news stations, bio-genomic research centres sequencing the human genome, movie special effects guys creating stunning effects for the next big summer block-buster, all of them have been exciting places from which I have great memories that I too wish to preserve.

On that note, back to photoing my boys Tobie and Reggie as they rapidly grow up.  Here's a picture or two.

boxer puppies boxer puppies


Note: In a future article, we'll cover some of the extraordinary lengths Spectra goes to whilst installing new archiving solutions.

Channel Recognition Highlights Spectra Logic's Storage Leadership and Innovation

From a channel perspective, 2014 is off to a good start for Spectra Logic with our recent industry recognition from CRN Magazine. For the 5th consecutive year, Spectra Logic's SpectraEDGE program has been awarded a 5-Star rating in the CRN 2014 Partner Program Guide. This program rating recognizes "an elite subset of companies that offer solution providers the best partnering elements in their channel programs."

In addition, Betsy Doughty, the company's senior director of marketing, was named one of CRN's 2014 Channel Chiefs last month. This is the fourth year in a row that Betsy has been named to this prestigious list of the most powerful leaders in the IT channel. It recognizes executives "directly responsible for driving channel sales and growth within their organization, while evangelizing the importance of the channel throughout the entire IT Industry."

These recent announcements underscore our efforts to deliver the most innovative storage solutions via our channel partners.

In 2013, we continued our global expansion into new territories that are seeing significant growth for the company and the regions of Asia Pacific and Japan are a strong focus for us in 2014. We've also made an investment in targeting resellers in specific vertical markets, such as media and entertainment and HPC.

A large part of our success has stemmed from an effort to re-invigorate tape storage for large enterprises. Last fall, Spectra Logic unveiled its vision for a low-cost, massively scalable 'deep storage' tier that can store data virtually forever.

According to Spectra Logic CEO Nathan Thompson, "There is a transformation occurring in how organizations amass, use and store long term data that necessitates a new tier of storage—deep storage—that delivers extreme low cost, power efficiency, high density and massive scalability."

Spectra Logic introduced a new long-term data management and migration technology and product that allow low-cost and scalable data archiving to tape and the cloud without concerns about format changes over time. DS3, the new interface, takes advantage of the RESTful interface to manage the data transfer process to new media formats, and BlackPearl, which supports the new DS3 interface, allows data to be stored and managed as if it were on a NAS system for only 9 cents per GB in a 6.4-petabyte system.

We also introduced nTier Verde, the fourth generation of the nTier disk line, to address data growth, regulatory and backup challenges. Verde provides affordable file storage with simple installation, an intuitive user interface for effortless management, and architecture that assures the highest level of data integrity.

With these new products and recent awards, we remain committed to providing our channel partners with the most innovative data storage and archiving solutions and ensuring they have what they need to succeed and profitably grow their businesses.

Tape Archive Solutions Stand the Test of Time for Long Term Data Retention

There's been an interesting debate in the industry the past few weeks on the merits of Blu-ray discs versus tape-based storage solutions for long term data retention and archiving. This debate stemmed from Facebook's prototype display of a Blu-ray optical disc library at its recent Open Compute Project Summit. Facebook's Blu-ray prototype is designed to store "cold storage" data, such as duplicates of its users' photos and videos that Facebook keeps for backup purposes, and which it assumes will rarely if ever be accessed.

With the inherent advantages of tape media, Facebook's deployment of Blu-ray discs for commercial grade archiving is an interesting choice and sparked some notable industry commentary—as highlighted in a number of articles, including Forbes and as well as a couple of blogs by our interim CMO, Bruce Kornfeld, Can Consumer Technologies Meet the Demands of Commercial Data Storage Applications and The Facebook Prototype: Economics of Blu-ray Disc versus Tape Storage.
The article cites a good number of industry analysts who overwhelmingly view tape storage as superior to Blu-ray for long term storage.

Given this, I wanted to touch on why this is the case and what today's tape solutions deliver in terms of data security, integrity, media health monitoring, as well as economic advantages that give tape storage the edge over Blu-ray, hard disk drives and other media when it comes to long term data retention.

Tape storage technologies have evolved substantially the past five to ten years. At Spectra, we've worked tirelessly to lead innovation and challenge expectations of the data protection market with intelligent, integrated, and simple to use backup and archive technologies. Our suite of T-Series tape libraries range from high capacity Enterprise class libraries, such as the T-Finity and T950, to smaller SME-focused libraries, such as the T380 and the T50e. We offer high capacity TS1140 and open standard LTO media options, have the capability to offer block, file and object storage on our tape systems; and can sell long term storage for under $0.10/GB LIST pricing.

Spectra's archive and backup data storage tape products support all aspects of secondary storage, are compatible with every major tape and disk format, and provide a plethora of advanced features that ensure the data is protected, its integrity is maintained and that it will be available virtually forever. Some of these features include:

  • Integrated Data Encryption – provides the security of AES-256 bit encryption to secure data against accidental or malicious breaches without added cost or complexity of an external key manager.
  • Data Integrity Verification (DIV) – ensures the integrity of data as it's written as well as at any time in the future by verifying the data has not suffered silent cor ruption while inactive.  For archive purposes, periodically checking data integrity provides users the ability to mitigate potential data error issues before they become significant read problems or result in data loss.
  • Media Lifecycle Management (MLM) – constant health status checks and reports on the media inventory which is often the largest cost component of a solution. Combined with drive lifecycle management (DLM) that provides similar health status checks and reports on drives, MLM allows users to mitigate both media and drive issues before they become job stopping read / write problems or result in data loss.
  • Investment Protection inherent in the LTO Roadmap – lengthy history and future public roadmap gives users the ability to reliably plan technology refreshes and to depend upon long-term support and availability of drive and media technology deployed in their environments.

In addition, tape drive technologies have advanced greatly in the past few years as well. When it comes to data retrieval times, I think most people would be pleasantly surprised to know that a tape drive can access cold storage/archived data in about a minute on average.

At Spectra, we're building archiving solutions that will stand the test of time and allow companies to store their data virtually forever. Not only does tape storage have a proven track record of going the distance in serving commercial data storage environments, its long term viability and roadmap are strong and well defined. In the vast majority of use cases, for successful long term archiving, we'd certainly put our money on tape!

The Facebook Prototype: Economics of Blu-ray Disc versus Tape Storage

Facebook unveiled a prototype display of a Blu-ray optical disc library at the recent Open Compute Project Summit. The Blu-ray prototype contains approximately 10,000 optical discs and a Petabyte of data in a rack-sized cabinet. The system caught our interest at Spectra Logic, and in my last blog I examined the ability of consumer-driven Blu-ray disc technology to handle commercial data storage applications. In this post, we've taken a look at the specs and approximate costs of a Blu-ray system versus an LTO tape library solution and I think the results are noteworthy.

Format Media:

Blu-ray 100 GB disc

LTO 2,500 GB tape Library Solution

Tape Advantage

Cost per GB




Storage Capacity per Rack

1,000 TB

2,375 TB


Media Cost per Rack



88% less cost

Transfer Rate per Drive



~6x faster

Facebook talked about the need to store an Exabyte of data, so in the table below, we've compared the number of racks (floor space) required and the total media cost for an Exabyte-sized Blu-ray disc solution and an Exabyte-sized LTO tape library:

Format Media:

Blu-ray 100 GB disk

LTO 2,500 GB tape Library Solution

Tape Advantage

Number of Racks per EB



Less than half the floor space

Total Media Cost

$411 Million

$20 Million

95% less cost

Note: This analysis is based on the following assumptions:

  • The cost of the sheet metal, power, fans and robotics required was assumed to be about equal between tape and Blu-ray
  • The cost of the media is based on internet research to find approximate lowest online pricing
  • The cost of the drives is not included because pricing is so variable depending on the source and in the big picture, the drive cost is dwarfed by the cost of the media.

While this analysis isn't exact, even with the assumptions noted above it is very clear that tape is an advantaged media for storing data for long periods of time. Even if you assume Facebook builds its own racks and negotiates pricing for 100GB media that is closer to the cost of 50GB media—the point remains the same—tape delivers significant advantages in cost, performance and floor space. As far as power consumption goes, tape and Blu-ray are about the same because data is stored on media that doesn't require constant power.

And, as I noted in my previous blog post, Blu-ray is a consumer-grade technology and not designed for serious data intensive environments. It is much more likely to incur errors, jammed drives and failed drives than a tape storage system.

Maybe I'm missing some key facts around what caused Facebook to take this approach with their prototype—it might be an interesting discussion to have. Clearly, Facebook has some very smart engineers, but I can't help but wonder why they overlooked tape?

Can Consumer Technologies Meet the Demands of Commercial Data Storage Applications

Over the years we have seen a variety of consumer technologies be deployed for commercial data storage applications. This approach was illustrated most recently at the Open Compute Project Summit with Facebook's prototype display of a Blu-ray optical disc library, which contains approximately 10,000 optical discs in a rack-sized cabinet. This is an interesting approach and one that I'll take a look at from a couple of angles in my next few blogs.

Using current 50TB per disc technologies, a system like this would hold 500TB or half a Petabyte. If Facebook used 100GB write-once discs, the solution could deliver a Petabyte of uncompressed storage per rack, with minimal power consumption. Excluding the cost of the robot and drives, the raw media costs of using 100GB Blu-ray discs works out to be about $0.41 per gigabyte and about $0.046 per gigabyte using 50GB discs. The cost of the Blu-ray disc system using either the 100GB or the 50GB disc is multiples higher than that of an LTO tape storage system, which costs a mere $0.02 per gigabyte.

Equally important, while a Blu-ray disc solution may meet the needs of storing Facebook consumer pictures and video, the real question is—will an approach that relies on consumer technology hold up to the long term demands of high-duty cycle data storage applications?

Over the last 20 years the commercial data storage industry has attempted to commercialize multiple consumer technologies including CD ROM, CD Writeable, DVD writeable, 4mm Digital Audio Tape, 8mm video tape, and VHS video tape—with mixed results. Consumer technologies offer high-volume and typically low cost storage media. The 'low cost' strengths of these technologies have also led to their downfall as they lack the device robustness and data reliability required by commercial data storage applications. In addition, consumer grade drives and media just don't last very long. Blu-ray disc drive load mechanisms are probably good to a few thousand load/unload cycles. This compares with an LTO tape drive that is rated to 250,000 load/unload cycles. As you can see—the difference in durability is substantial!

Facebook touted the space and energy efficiency of its Blu-ray prototype system as compared with standard commercial-grade disk storage, which is often expensive and, unless it can be powered down in "MAID" applications, consumes much more power. While true, this comparison overlooks tape storage solutions, which deliver the most reliable, scalable and cost-effective long term storage in the market.

At Spectra Logic, we've consistently invested in storage technology innovation that ensures we provide our customers with the lowest cost and most reliable storage for long term data retention. Our Enterprise T-Finity and T950 and mid-range T-Series tape libraries deliver features such as integrated data encryption, data integrity verification, media health monitoring, and extremely low power consumption, and are proven to meet the requirements of the most demanding data storage applications.

Tape storage has a proven track record of going the distance in serving commercial data storage environments. And, as I touched on here, tape offers the lowest price points available on the market for storing data for the long-haul.

Stay tuned! I'll provide a comprehensive cost comparison of tape storage versus Blu-ray disc in my next blog.

The New Year is already off to a great start here at Spectra Logic with three recent wins.

Spectra's nTier Verde disk system was selected as a finalist in the data backup hardware category for the 2013 Storage magazine/ Products of the Year award. And last week Spectra Logic was named the 2014 Storage Visions Awards' Visionary Company in Media and Entertainment Storage for the introduction of our Deep Simple Storage Service (DS3), the industry's first native RESTful interface to robotic tape storage systems. Our BlackPearl™ Deep Storage Appliance, which was introduced in October, was also recognized as a finalist in the professional media and entertainment class storage.

The nTier Verde provides simply affordable file storage. Extremely reliable and easy to use, it requires no previous storage experience to deploy and manage and it is half the cost of traditional file storage. We are seeing excellent demand for this product, which integrates seamlessly in environments with Spectra's tape libraries.

DS3 and BlackPearl are part of our new vision here at Spectra—the vision for a low-cost, massively scalable deep storage tier that can store data virtually forever. The 2014 Storage Visions Awards' reaffirms the work we're doing to bring our vision to life with the introduction of the DS3 interface and BlackPearl.

Tom Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Associates

Spectra's BlackPearl Deep Storage Appliance with its DS3 object-based interface is a significant addition to the cloud market that has the potential to change the way organizations of all sizes retain data indefinitely," said Tom Coughlin, founder, Coughlin Associates. "BlackPearl was recognized at this year's Storage Vision conference as an innovative storage solution for cloud-based archiving. Its smooth integration into existing cloud environments and its ability to perform partial data object restores are significant advances for Media and Entertainment organizations."

We're very proud of the Spectra Logic team and the work they've done and continue to do to bring this vision to life— not just for Spectra but for our customers throughout the world. The evolution of storage is just beginning, after all it's just January…

Let's be channel buddies

I'm often asked 'what makes a good channel partnership?' Like most successful relationships it's about good communication and shared goals. Both partners need a clear focus and understanding of what each other wants to achieve and then it's a case of working on it. Or is it?

Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows it's not that simple and I'd refer to another long standing business mantra and add that before signing any contract, preparation is key. I've found that apart from checking all the financials are also up to scratch, it's worth taking a bit of time to understand your prospective partner's business model and how that fits with what you are looking for in the short, medium and long term. Here are some of the key aspects to investigate:

Is the potential partner brand or technology focused?

In general terms, a brand-focused partner will work with big brand names and expect to be treated as part of the company or an extension of the marketing division. A brand focus will mean that the partner will normally want to operate as an extension to the vendor's sales teams. Such resellers tend to be large in size and expect a lot of commitment and resources from the vendor. This might include a combination of best discounts, volume rebate schemes for target fulfilment, marketing funds, executive level attention, close support, funded heads, account and deal introduction by direct sales, free training and even sales leads. The focus for these partners will be to take market share from other vendors or bundling to sell a product alongside other well-known complementary products to create an overall solution. In general, this type of business model is more suited to vendors with mass marketing goals for an established product.

At the other extreme of the business model spectrum, there are smaller technology-segmented resellers that specialise in certain technology areas such as storage or virtualisation or that focus on customers in specific vertical industry sectors for example, in Spectra Logic's case, the academic research community. Developing a close relationship with customers as trusted advisors, these VARs can bring real value to the table by monitoring the market, trying out new technologies and solutions and making recommendations. These partners have a looser, more flexible vendor set than brand-focused resellers and therefore less vendor loyalty. The big sell of course for these VARs is best-of-breed and innovation. Increasing revenue for these partners is about bringing more products to their close customer set and bringing new customers into the fold through acquisition. This model tends to suit new products with a more niche appeal and it's very important to align the right partner, with the right resource for the right product at the right time of the product journey to get the best results.

There are of course many shades of grey in between the brand and technology focused reseller but these two extremes serve as a useful tool to identify the best channel partners to meet marketing goals.

What marketing resource does each party bring to the table?

As I've already mentioned, different kinds of channel partners will want and offer differing levels of marketing support. When looking at which resellers you want to work with it's important to understand what level of marketing commitment they will provide and conversely the channel partner will need to know how much support the vendor will give. In more detail, aspects such as training, marketing funds for promotions and events, as well as executive support at events and for campaigns, all need to be discussed upfront to check that there is a full alignment of vendor and reseller expectations and commitment.

Who owns the sales leads and relationship?

Some channel partners prefer ownership of lead generation and the sales relationship and the vendors that they work with are happy to share or relinquish ownership of sales relationships. More often than not there is a combination of direct sales and channel sales so that the vendor can maximise on all prospects as is the case for Spectra Logic. However the relationship works, this particular element of the agreement needs to be clearly outlined at the offset to avoid conflict further down the line.

Who provides the technical support and when?

Support levels expected by both parties before, during implementation and after implementation are also a critical success factor of any vendor-reseller partnership because at the end of the day, if a customer is not supported properly the likelihood of a repeat sale diminishes. At Spectra Logic we work closely with our channel partners so that customers are supported properly and this often leads to repeat business which also of course helps to cement our relationship with our partners.

Going for a test drive and third party endorsement

Sometimes only by working with a channel partner will you truly know if the relationship is going to be successful. Often vendors will choose partners based on personal experience of that partner or endorsement from a complementary vendor. After all—who would marry a stranger?

This blog provides an overview of some of the elements to consider when choosing a channel/vendor partnership. In reality, it's much more complicated but by breaking it down in this way, we can see some of the areas where attention to the details is very important. Having a good relationship with our colleagues in the channel makes for good business but as with all relationships you need to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth and state your boundaries upfront as much as possible so that expectations are clear. And don't forget on-going communications is key, that's both talking and listening! As George Bernard Shaw said: "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

2014 Resolutions and Goals

It's that time of year again when we take down the tree and the lights and start thinking about the New Year. Thoughts turn to what we want for 2014 and how we can make it better than the year before. Typically the focus is on the personal—get in better shape, finish the project car, find the perfect girl…oops, sorry, you don't need my list of 2014 resolutions. While resolutions are great, goals might be better as they give us targets to aim for and definitive desired outcomes. Since I'm a storage technology kind of guy, let's take a look at some data center focused resolutions and goals for 2014.

  1. Substance over style. I am not a trendy person, to which anyone who looks in my closet can attest. That said, it is easy to get caught up in the latest trends or conventional wisdom when it comes to technology. You would think that back office technology would be immune from issues other than solving problems, but that isn't always. Most technology does some things well, and some things poorly. There is no 'one thing' that is the perfect solution for all use cases. As you make your next move, pick gear, software and partners that will first and foremost help solve the problem, don't worry about what someone else will think of your choice. On more occasions than you think, an "old" technology, such as tape or virtualization, can create a competitive advantage.

  2. Pay attention to all costs. It is amazing just how many companies pay attention only to initial acquisition costs for technology. Vendors like to talk about total cost of ownership (TCO) and how their widget will save money, but more often than not the purchase comes down to the initial PO. I'm looking at insulation for my garage, as it gets pretty cold sometimes in Colorado, and there is a tremendous difference in cost between different types of insulation. I'm going to end up spending more on better insulation because it will save me money in the long run. Of course, I expect to live at my place for a long time. If I had a three-year outlook, my decision might be different. We need to think the same way when selecting data center solutions. If you have 100 physical servers and can virtualize them down to 10, there is a good chance you will save a ton of money. If you have four servers and can virtualize them to one, the added complexity and management cost of the virtual system might outpace the savings in hardware. Same with storage, if you have four TB of data to protect, a USB hard drive might be the best bet. If you have 40 PB, automated tape libraries with modern high capacity tapes will likely be the overall cost leader.

  3. Make things simple. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier. In truth, we are over complicating things with technology most of the time. The more complex things get the harder they are to implement and troubleshoot. They might do amazing things, but when they break, they are often a lot harder to get running again. Technology today seems to love complex solutions to problems. Many problems are hard to solve, and need complex solutions, but we need to focus on finding simple solutions to all our problems. Amazingly they can often save time and money. If they solve the problem but aren't as fancy, who cares?

We can each make 2014 a great year and make some resolutions that will help our lives both at work and home better. Thinking back to my resolutions, I entered myself in a 5K and my car in a show on the same weekend in April. Nothing like some targets to help keep the goals real. I'm still looking for a plan for finding the girl…

Installation Planning and Ensuring Success: Part 2

installation image

Caption: Here a T950 perfectly fits underneath a fibre patch panel.  We love it when a plan comes together.

Let's face it, managing all the cabling and interconnects required by our products isn't the most exciting task in the world but a well-organized cable deployment is a thing of beauty.  Having all the relevant information about the servers that are our product attaches to enables us to locate the proper device drivers and utilities needed for reliable operation and effective management.  Features like our Media Lifecycle Management, AutoSupport, and Encryption all have configuration requirements that are customized to every environment.

In addition to all the interconnects and logistical details associated with setting up the equipment, the way customers regularly interact with the device is also important.  The administration of a large storage system can present a challenge to a department that may have diverse responsibilities.  Spectra Logic designs its products with the customer administration and workflow in mind.  That is why the knowledge transfer and orientation phase of every install includes information on how to leverage the unique features found in our products to help save the customers time.  The size of the Entry/Exit pool in the library is a good example where time savings and operational efficiency can be increased.  Matching the Entry/Exit pool to the amount of tapes a customer typically exchanges in a given batch will greatly streamline the tape handling process.  This can save operators a lot of time by reducing the amount of interaction that is required between the management software and the tape library.

Once in operation, our tape libraries monitor the internal workings and the health of the tape media.  Configuring the library to alert the appropriate personnel of any unexpected events is another important step for the installation.  There are several options available to monitor and alert datacenter operations staff including SNMP, SysLog, and email.  Customers can choose to configure one or more of these alert mechanisms depending on their environment.

Getting the most from your storage and archive systems requires a lot of attention to detail during the installation planning.  Basic datacenter logistics, power and cabling are just the start.  To take advantage of all the features offered in our products it is important to be aware of all the setup parameters that are available.  The Professional Services Group at Spectra Logic is committed to the success of our customers and is here to help.

If you have any questions for Spectra Logic's Professional Services team, you may contact us at any time at, or call us at 1-800-833-1132.

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