The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Encore Data Products' CD-Rs and DVD-Rs

Okay, I lied. I said in the post "My Ad Salesman SUCKS," below, that we've only gotten advertisers that have come to us. I did go after one, a while back, because I thought it was important for readers to have a ready, reliable source for the highest-quality archival blank CDs and DVDs. It's very important to use the best quality CD and DVD blank media for archiving our most precious photographic files, and blank media are especially hard to buy intelligently because brand names typically mean almost nothing at all. Even some of the best discs, such as those made by Taiyo-Yuden, are sometimes counterfeited, so you're never quite sure if you've gotten what you think you've gotten.

The result of my research, which I summarized here, was that MAM-A and MAM-E (Mitsui) discs are the safest bet of any of the available alternatives. So I went searching for a company that could provide them, to cajole them into advertising. The company I found did advertise with us, for a while, but didn't renew when my contact there left. Now, my contact at that company, Jeff B., has formed Encore Data Products. He's still offering many of the excellent products he did at his former company. Anyway, if you'll look at the bottom of the column of ads on the left, you'll see the little ad for "GOLD Archival CDs and DVDs."

A little advice: Don't forget it's there. I strongly encourage you to buy the best media for your most precious and valuable archives— even if you don't use the best discs for everything. Encore Data's very first customer from T.O.P. was me. I ordered a 25-pack of the MAM-A CD-Rs with jewel cases. Don't stint about this; it ain't worth it. Get the best. You will thank me one day!



Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

I've got a load of blank Kodak Gold CDs. I simply do not use them any more. Since external HD's have gotten so cheap I do a nightly automatic dual back up on two 300 GB external Seagate HD's.

Each holds a load more than a CD/DVD can, no pain in cataloging and storing CD/DVDs, finding a DVD to access a file, etc. And if a HD goes I have the mirror backup up on the other and I simply buy another to continue my dual backups. The chances of both going at the same time are miniscule. And if one is concerned over the latter, no matter how tiny the chance, then do a third mirror back-up for for only $190 more. Can someone figure out the chances of three separate external HD's going bad at once? A friend who is a real worry wart triple backs with the third HD being backed up only on Sundays and he takes it with him on Monday AM and stores it at work during the week.

Seagate USB 2.0/Firewire External 3.0 GB hard drives currently $189 at Fry's or At that price you gotta ask why fuss with DVDs? If someone can tell me why I'll be happy to be convinced why I should be using DVDs instead.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Obviously, it's up to youy WHETHER you use CDs and DVDs. IF you do, however, it's important to use good ones.

Your hard drive scheme is good, but requires maintenance. I use two external hard drives as well, but prefer to archive my best shots to CDs. That way they can last a couple of decades at least when I'm not around.


6:46 PM  
Blogger Mike Potter said...

Here's one potential reason for backing up to removeable storage media like CD-R/DVD-R. I also use external hard drives for regular backups. I have a 120 GB Firewire external drive, and a Glyph GT 051 external chassis with two Glyph GT Key 250 GB hot-swappable hard drives that I rotate on a weekly basis. I use software that automatically backups up any changes to folders that I specify to the Firewire and Glyph drives. And usually twice a year, I backup all my image files to DVD-R disks that I then store in my desk at work. Even with all of that, I have images that became (somehow) corrupted on my hard drive, without me noticing. These corrupted images were then dutifully backed-up to my external hard drives. They were also backed up to the DVD-R disks. Since I don't keep every suite of backed-up DVD-Rs (I usually throw out one set when I make a new one), I have now effectively lost those images that became corrupted. Which is why I'm now adding this step to my back-up process: back-up all unprocessed RAW image files to high-quality DVD-R to keep these "digital negatives" from becoming corrupted. If the processed files are ever corrupted again on my hard drive/backup drives, at least I'll have the original RAW files on DVD-R to rebuild from. Yes, it's a pain/cost impact to maintain these "archival" DVDs, but I don't want to ever again have images that I cannot use/that are "lost".

10:41 PM  
Blogger m. said...

File corruption problems with individual files aren't what worries me about external hard drives (although it is a possibility). They're also typically prone to the same sort of catastrophic failures that could destroy the files on your workstation. Many of us may even leave those hard drives plugged in. The same lightning strike (tornado, flood, fallen tree, fire, etc.) may take out your workstation and your external backups.

Personally, I'm looking at both on and off site storage. I've been looking at Amazon's S3 for off site storage and either external hard drives or DVDs for on-site storage. Prior to buying a DSLR, I had been shooting JPG and using smugmug as my off site storage.

Everything has its downside, though. What happens if Amazon (if I go with S3) goes out of business, drops its S3 services or has some kind of catastrophic failure? Well, hopefully it won't happen at the same time as I lose my external hard drives.

11:39 PM  
Blogger robert e said...

I look forward to the day when we can back up our digital images to Provia or Elite Chrome.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Glenn Twiggs said...

I came across this article today. It seems to be well-researched and recommends a different CD/DVD than the MAM discs:


3:16 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Thanks--that is indeed an excellent and informative article. He recommends Taiyo Yuden, which I mentioned in the post. My preference for MAM-A/E (formerly Mitsui) is that MAM is a closed loop (i.e., they don't manufacture for anybody else and nobody else manufactures for them) whereas Taiyo Yuden muddy the water with varied labeling and are known to be counterfeited. Obviously he has what he feels is a secure source for genuine TY discs, and he may well be right. If you're certain what you're getting is genuine TY, I'd say go for it. My preference is still for MAM discs, but it's not a question of inherent superiority, just secure procurement.


4:39 PM  
Blogger Mike Potter said...


I didn't include it in my earlier post, because that post had already gotten so long, but I do use both onsite and offsite storage of my backups, for just the same reasons as you mentioned. Of the two Glyph GT Key drives that I use, I keep one in the chassis at home, and the other in my desk at work. Once a week, I bring the one from work home and swap it out with the one in the chassis. The next day, I bring that one back to work with me. Also, the twice-yearly DVDs that I make I store in my desk at work. And, I also failed to mention that I also use an online service (Carbonite) for my image files.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

If someone can tell me why I'll be happy to be convinced why I should be using DVDs instead.

No reason to be using DVDs "instead" but it can't hurt to do an "off-line" back up once a month as well as the "near-line" backups that you're currently doing.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Glenn Twiggs said...


Thanks for the response. That is an excellent reason for sticking with MAM and one I will remember.

On an aside, it looks like the price of good DVD media has dropped a lot since I last looked. Might be time to switch. Your post indicates you're still buying CDs. Is there a reason for not using DVDs? Seems like storage space and burning time are both improved with a DVD.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Is there a reason for not using DVDs?"

Yes, a VERY good one...I don't have a DVD burner.



12:57 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

So far, I don't believe that anyone pointed out two other failure modes, when using online backup (hard drives, local or otherwise):

1) Controller failure - a failure of the hard drive controller can trash both drives, effectively killing your mirrored backup in one fell swoop.

2) Operator error - having a system that 'automagically' backs up changed files can boomerang on you, if you accidentaly overwrite a file on the source media, the backup program will merrily do the same to your backup media.

Other failure modes that were discussed are also quite real:

1) Filesystem errors - Neither Windows PCs nor MACs are absolutely error-free when it comes to handling their file systems. Things like failures when a volume fills, etc. have haunted them from day one. It seems like it is almost impossible to get a completely bug-free file system implementation these days. This means that the more changes/updates made to online media, the more likely will uncover that unsavory bug in the filesystem implementation, and end up losing something.

2) Catastrophic localized disasters - think fire, storm, etc. If all your media are stored in one location, then you are tempting fate. Even if you just take a drive to your office once a week, or swap DVDs with the one in your office desk drawer, you've increased the robustness of your backup scheme manyfold.

I like the idea of burning original RAWs to DVDs before doing anything with them, and moving those discs offsite. This is a strategy I've been pursuing for some time now, by burning a disc with an insert printed with thumbnail images to make it easier to locate something by just flipping through the slim jewel cases, if need be. The first stop for any RAWs I shoot is to a folder on my internal hard drive monikered 'to burn'. Nothing is modified in that folder, except the files are burned to DVD, and the thumbnails are printed, using an action in PS CS2.

In a former life, I was the first full-time software engineer for what was once the world's largest manufacturer of PC/Mac tape backup drives (Irwin Magnetics). I guess I come by my archival tendencies somehow naturally 8-).

8:15 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Thanks for that.

What are your preferred strategies for archiving?


9:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home