For ReadyToPlay CD Ripping Services, Reliable and Trusted Storage Is Paramount

We get collectors who have fifty CDs all the way up to five and six thousand… These jobs are gigabytes, maybe terabytes of data.”
– Jeff Tedesco, President and CEO, ReadyToPlay

Ripping Means Data

ReadyToPlay, based in Palo Alto, California, specializes in high-quality CD ripping services. Ripping is technical jargon for converting audio media to a digital format for playback in iPods and other digital music players like Apple TV, Seagate FreeAgent Theater+, Logitech Squeezebox and Sonos. Since audio files are large, ReadyToPlay must be able to store, handle and ship a significant amount of data in a reliable, inexpensive way for its customers. “We get collectors who have fifty CDs all the way up to five and six thousand. The largest one we’ve done is eight thousand. These jobs are gigabytes, maybe terabytes of data,” said Jeff Tedesco, President and CEO of ReadyToPlay.

To put this amount of data in perspective, a gigabyte is one billion bytes, which is equivalent to the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. In terms of digital media, it takes six gigabytes of storage on average to hold:

  • 100 hours of digital music or
  • 1,600 digital photos or
  • 6 hours of digital video or
  • 1 two-hour DVD-quality movie or
  • 3 video games

As you can see, CD ripping means data!

ReadyToPlay formed six years ago after Apple introduced the first iPod. “It came out and I decided, ‘This thing is really cool, so I’m going to rip my own CDs,’” said Tedesco. “And I found the process to be cumbersome and inaccurate. So I ended up forming a company that rips CDs for people, but I utilize technologies and databases that allow me to do a better job than they could possibly do. So our value isn’t around the time savings – it’s around doing a better job and a higher quality job than they could do themselves. We have robotics equipment, sophisticated software, very rigid processes.”

The company’s clientele speaks to its level of quality. “We get orders from all over the world: Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Finland, all over the United States. I’ve done Elton John’s personal CD collection, Dave Matthews, Michael Tilson-Thomas. We’ve done the Juilliard School and all their classical CDs. So we’ve become accustomed to working with a lot of different types of individuals and a lot of different types of music,” he said.

Quality Is in the Metadata

An important way ReadyToPlay provides quality is through metadata, which is the descriptive information about the music files, such as artist name, composer, genre, album name and cover art. Metadata is very useful for audiophiles who want to organize their music collections, create custom playlists and view album artwork as songs are played. ReadyToPlay’s ripping software cross-checks metadata against four professional music databases, including one used by Amazon: AMG or “All Music Guide.” This multiple database approach generates thorough and consistent metadata. “So what’s great is Sheryl Crow comes up spelled right as Sheryl Crow. In classical music, the artist is always the conductor and it’s never Wolfgang Mozart – that’s under a composer field. So we have very high levels of accurate data,” he said.

ReadyToPlay also rips CDs to multiple file formats according to customer requirements. For instance, MP3 is commonly used for iPods, while full-fidelity, lossless formats like AIFF, Apple Lossless or FLAC are used for home stereo systems. Lossless formats are larger. A CD in MP3 format takes up about 150 megabytes of storage, while a CD in lossless format takes up to 600 megabytes. With multiple formats and CD collections numbering in the hundreds and thousands, the data adds up.

Customers are thrilled. Their whole CD collection which was a wall of CDs is now boiled down to a small, portable disk drive.
– Jeff Tedesco

ReadyToPlay Relies on Seagate Storage

The ripping process starts with a customer emptying his or her CD changer or case holder into a box and shipping them to ReadyToPlay. Once at the company’s facility, the CDs are loaded into robots that hold 600 CDs each. Then ripping commences. After the audio files are created and metadata is cross-checked and honed, the jobs are typically stored on Seagate FreeAgent Go portable external hard drives and shipped back to the customer with their CDs. “Love those portable drives,” said Tedesco. “We will put a person’s entire collection on one of those drives and be able to send it back. It’s literally amazing. We will get six boxes of CDs and what comes back is a three inch by five inch mini hard drive with all their files in lossless format. And customers are thrilled. Their whole CD collection which was a wall of CDs is now boiled down to a small, portable disk drive.”

“Having a reliable drive to put the customer jobs on is really important. I’ve never had a failure on a Seagate portable drive. It’s a name brand people trust and love. Some other companies might use drives that they build to try to save some money. I don’t want to do that. It’s just not worth it. I’m all about quality, so I just take the best name brand drive I can get and do the best quality work that we can.”

At its facility, ReadyToPlay backs up jobs on a Seagate BlackArmor NAS (networked-attached storage) 440 server for 30 days. “If they’re lost in transit, we still have a copy here and can recover them. We’ve never had anything happen, but it’s a matter of policy that we back up every job,” he said. The BlackArmor NAS 440 is RAID 5 protected and scales from one to eight terabytes of room to accommodate growing storage requirements.

Next Step – Audio Recognition Technology?

As a potential future service, ReadyToPlay is exploring automated audio recognition technology for CDs with custom music mixes. Identifying songs on these homemade CDs is currently not possible. But this new technology would analyze each song’s audio profile and beats per minute to figure out what it is. “We’re kind of looking into some partnerships to help us do that,” said Tedesco. “It’s really advanced.”

ReadyToPlay sells its services through Magnolia Audio Video stores, through a national network of custom AV equipment installers and direct via its website. In addition to audio CDs, the company also rips video DVDs to the Kaleidescape System, which is the only legal platform currently available for importing DVDs.


 Copyright © 2010 Apropos LLC. All rights reserved.

Party Innovations Reinforces Its E-Commerce Website with Site Security Monitor

I had to go through every page in the website to clean it out. It was a major hassle.
– Jeff Sadowsky, Owner, Party Innovations

A Breach in the Website

Jeff Sadowsky, owner of Party Innovations, was surprised to see the customer forum on his company’s website had disappeared. “The forum was a place for customers to post messages and get a coupon to use on the website. One day the forum just vanished. It was a white page. I assumed there was some type of database error, so I emailed my hosting company to find out. After several hours, they finally got back with me and said our website had been maliciously attacked by hackers,” he said.

Party Innovations is a third-generation family business that made the leap to the Internet and e-commerce six years ago. Based in Brooklyn, New York, it is a distributor of promotional products and printed items for corporate events, weddings and other types of parties. The company’s website is its main sales channel and includes an e-commerce component for online orders.

About ten months prior to the breach, Sadowsky had deployed a McAfee security service for the website. The McAfee software scanned the site on a daily basis to detect and correct viruses and security vulnerabilities, but it did not catch the breach that erased the customer forum. “Here I am paying all this money for these services that were supposed to be protecting me, and it didn’t. The hackers knocked off parts of my website. I had to go through every page in the website to clean it out. It was a major hassle. I have thousands of HTML pages,” he said.

Fortunately the attack did not affect the e-commerce component of the website, and customer information was secure. But the experience left Sadowsky feeling unsettled and wanting a stronger solution for website security.

Site Security Monitor Shores Up the Site

After researching various security solutions, he picked Site Security Monitor (formerly known as 54F3). “They gave good reviews to that company. I called and spoke to a gentleman there, and he was helpful in getting it set up and assured me that it could detect for malware. And since then the issue seems to be resolved,” he said.

Site Security Monitor scans the website each day and sends Sadowsky a status report by email which categorizes security issues as low, medium and high level concerns. “Their service seems more proactive. I get the email every day and can see if there is something at a medium or high level. Then at least I can react and not have it go on for a period of time without knowing anything. We may have found one or two medium issues so far and corrected it right away. The other ones were minor and won’t affect anything,” he said.

Sadowsky also found Site Security Monitor to be more price-competitive. The fee was about 40% lower and charged on a monthly basis, whereas the previous service required a yearly commitment.

Like many businesses, Party Innovations relies extensively on its company website. This makes it an important asset to protect. After shoring up his company’s website, Sadowsky now feels much more confident about security. “I’m happy with this service so far. I like the fact that I have something that is also detecting for malware,” he said.


 Copyright © 2010 Apropos LLC. All rights reserved.