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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media

By Patrick McFarland

Ahh, I’ve been planning to write this one for awhile: an entire article on archival quality media. As I do professional software development as well as professional photography (what a weird combination), I need archival quality CD and DVD media to store my data on.

However, one of the hardest things to is actually find good media, or even understand why it is good media. This article focuses on the history of Compact Discs, writable CD/DVD media, and why DVD+R is superior to DVD-R. If you want to just know what media is worth buying, skip to the summary at the bottom....


Posted by: JOHN LEHET


Blogger Alex Wilson said...

Someone mentioned it in the comments there, but it's worth mentioning here:'s media guide is quite useful.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

I don't have any experience with any of these services, but this article is intriguing:

Unlimited, automatic, hassle-free backups for $50 a year? I don't need to worry about archival media, rotating external hard drives, or shuttling data back and forth between physical locations? This actually sounds like a steal. I bet people spend more than that on their media and on replacing hard drives every few years.

Plus, this has other benefits. Presumably, a professional archiving company is doing a more thorough (and redundant) job of protecting my data than I can do without significant effort. Because the data is available to me over the Internet, I don't need to worry about future media incompatability (just software incompatability) and I don't need to store or sort through a stack of CD-ROMs or DVDs.

Anyone have any experience with these? If so, let us know you think.


P.S. The article's closing remarks on insolvency risk are not to be taken lightly, but even if one of these companies goes under, you should be able to switch to a different company and still be well covered, since the new service will just create an archive of your current files that shouldn't be any different from what the former service would have had. You only need to worry about one company going under AND your hard drives failing before you get the chance to open a new account with a competing service.

5:10 AM  
Blogger m. said...

You know, I'd be pretty careful about putting all my eggs in one basket with any service like this. For instance, Google lost gmail data for some of their users recently. While gmail is a free service, it could certainly happen to a pay service if they were careless, cheap or just unlucky.

(Also, suppose a file gets corrupted on your local PC. If the service does incremental backups, there is a risk that the good online copy will be replaced by the corrupt copy. I've personally seen this happen more often than I like to think about.)

I'm not saying these services aren't good or don't work--I am looking at using Amazon's S3 for online backup myself. I am saying that there is no magic bullet, and that I recommend at least two backup methods. The odds that both you and your online backup service undergo a catastrophe at the same time are much lower than the odds that just one of you will.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

I agree with you. But I would argue that there is a significant difference between the gmail situation and such an archive service (I tried to cover this off in my postscript, but even while I was writing it I knew I wasn't being clear).

with gmail, your e-mail data ONLY exists on Google's system, so if that gets lost, your goose is cooked. With these online backup services, if the company (or their system) goes down, you still have all of your data sitting in your home computer, so you can just sign up with another backup service and you're no worse off. The only time you're really exposed to catastrophic loss is if your backup service goes down AND your home computer crashes at the same time, before you have established a new backup.

I agree that the biggest danger with these services or with RAID arrays is the risk of winding up with a perfectly archived copy of a corrupted file. But that's a risk I'm willing to take. I just don't want to be in a position where (a) my hard drive fails and I lose ALL of my data, or (b) I keep archiving stuff onto CDs or DVDs and 10 or 15 years down the line I realize (too late) that the media has irreparably degraded and my data is lost.

Naturally, everyone's threshold with this stuff is different, so I understand the need for multiple backups. Then again, judging by a lot of the posts around here, my tolerance for risk is so high that it's nothing short of a miracle that I'm still alive...

[Just kidding. No offense intended to anyone that is passionate about preserving their art.]


10:30 AM  
Blogger m. said...

The thing is, it can be hard to tell if your backup really is good. When are you most likely to discover a problem with your backup? When you need to restore something. You'd hope your online backup service does something to validate your backup, but hope is not a plan.

(There are ways to validate your backup occasionally, of course. Do a restore, full or partial--although the services I looked at charged for restoting.

12:42 PM  

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