Sunday, May 6, 2007

Digital storage media

If you haven't experienced failures in your storage CD's or DVD's yet, you will. It is just a matter of time. I've seen more than a dozen of my genealogy backup CD's fail during the past 18 months.

So, what did I do wrong? I burned the data to a 'good' quality CD, wrote on it with a permanent pen or label and then stored the disks in a CD storage case made by CaseLogic, standing upright in a cool dark place with no pressure on the case. So I did everything right .... right? Well, some folks argue that the permanent ink will cause a failure in the CD, but that isn't necessarily true... It depends on where you write and many other factors... At least it isn't as bad as stick on labels..

Let's look at where the data is written on a CD or DVD. If you hold a CD in a horizontal position and look at it, you really only 'see' the plastic disk in its construction. The data is actually written on the underside of the foil that we associate with the top of the disk. And when I say foil, it is very thin foil when compared to the aluminum foil in our kitchens.

We see folks throwing CD's and DVD's down on desks, etc., stacking 'stuff' on them, and not even think that the music, movie, data is only a few thousandths of an inch below the surface. I'm surprised that CD's and DVD's last as long as they do. We often see folks prying their CD's and DVD's out of the storage cases by pulling up on one side bending the entire disk. Since the foil is so thin, every bend of this nature tears the foil storing the data in thousands of tiny cracks, guaranteeing an early death of that disk.

Additionally, the 'good' blank CD's and DVD's that we buy at the store aren't really that 'good'. They weren't designed as archival media, but rather for short term storage. Remember how many floppy disks you've thrown away in the past when they 'failed'? The same logic holds true for the standard CD / DVD we use today. They are good for so many uses / months and then we toss them....

Knowing that your hard drive IS going to fail, how are you backing up all your genealogy, photos, etc.? Using the right media will go a long way to insuring that the data and photos aren't lost.

Dick Eastman wrote an article on this subject a while ago. See his article about this problem here.

Dick references another article about buying storage media created with special dyes that greatly enhances the life of a CD / DVD. Read that article here.

Did I buy a stack of DVD's made using this dye for my data storage? You better believe it! I have too much time and money invested to loose my data because my carefully handled, carefully stored media failed due to its design.

We live in a digital world... If you don't want to loose your data, photos, family videos, etc., take a few minutes and read the two articles, then order the right storage media for your own use. Next, change the habits of yourself and family. Always hold disks by the outside edges, stop flexing them and stop abusing them by throwing them around. Store them upright, in a cool, dark place and remember ..... Your hard drive(s) WILL fail. It isn't a question. It is just a matter of when. If you don't back up your data regularly, you WILL loose it. How often should you back it up? That all depends on your threshold of pain.. Loose your data and photos once and you'll know at least one level of it...