How and where to store data over time

How and where to store data over time

Many people think about how to store data for years to come, and those who don't simply don't know that a CD of wedding photos, a video of a baby shower, or other family and work information is very likely to be. unreadable in 5-10 years. I wonder. How is this data stored in that case?

In this article I will try to tell you in as much detail as possible which storage devices are reliable and which are not and what their useful life is in different conditions, where to store data, photos, documents and how to do it. So our goal is to ensure the security and availability of data for as long as possible, at least 100 years.

General principles of information storage that prolong its useful life

Among the most general principles that apply to any type of information, be it photographs, texts or files, which can increase the chances of success in future access to it:

  • The higher the number of copies, the more likely the data will live longer: a book printed in a million copies, a photograph printed in multiple copies for each family member and stored digitally in different drives are the more likely to be stored and accessible for a long time.
  • Non-standard storage methods (at least as the only way), exotic and proprietary formats, and languages ​​(for example, ODF and TXT are better for documents than DOCX and DOC) should be avoided.
  • The information must be stored in uncompressed and unencrypted formats; otherwise, even a small corruption of data integrity can make all information inaccessible. For example, if you want to save multimedia files for a long time, WAV is better for sound, uncompressed RAW, TIFF and BMP for photos, uncompressed frames, DV for videos, although this is not entirely possible at home, given the amount of video in these formats.
  • Periodic verification of the integrity and availability of the data, reusing them with the new techniques and devices that have emerged.

So, with the basic ideas to help us leave our phone photos to our great-grandchildren resolved, let's move on to the information on the different storage devices.

Traditional storage devices and their duration.

The most common ways of storing various types of information today are hard drives, flash drives (SSD, USB thumb drives, memory cards), optical discs (CD, DVD, Blu-ray), and storage on the cloud (Dropbox, Yandex Disk, Google Drive, OneDrive), which is useless.

Which of the following is a reliable way to save data? I suggest that we consider them in order (I'm only talking about everyday methods - streamers, for example, I won't consider):

  • Hard drives. - Traditional hard drives are the most widely used to store a wide variety of data. In normal use, its average life is 3 to 10 years (this difference is due to external factors and the quality of the device). At the same time: if you write information to the hard drive, disconnect it from the computer and put it in a drawer on your desk, the data can be read without errors for approximately the same period of time. Data retention on a hard drive is highly dependent on external influencesIn any case, even small bumps and shocks, and to a lesser extent magnetic fields, can cause the unit to fail prematurely.
  • USB Flash, SSD - Flash drives have an average life of about 5 years. At the same time, conventional flash drives tend to fail much earlier: a single static discharge when connecting to a computer is enough to make data inaccessible. As long as important information is recorded and the SSD or flash drive is turned off for storage, the data availability period is about 7-8 years.
  • CD, DVD, Blu-Ray - Of all those listed, optical discs are the ones that offer the longest lifespan, capable of exceeding 100 years, but there are more nuances associated with these types of drives (for example, a DVD recorded by you is likely to only live a couple of years), and will therefore be discussed separately later in this article.
  • Cloud storage - The duration of data storage in Google, Microsoft, Yandex and other clouds is unknown. Most likely, it will be stored for a long time and as long as it is commercially viable for the company providing the service. According to the license agreements (I have read two, for the most popular storage services), these companies are not responsible for data loss. Do not forget the possibility of losing your account due to the action of criminals and other unforeseen circumstances (and the list of them is really long).

Thus, the most reliable and durable domestic drive at the moment is an optical CD-ROM (which I will write about in detail later). However, the cheapest and most convenient are hard drives and cloud storage. Neither should be neglected, because their combined use increases the security of important data.

Data storage on optical discs CD, DVD, Blu-ray

Surely many of you have come across the information that the data on a CD-R or DVD can be stored for decades, if not hundreds of years. I also suppose that there are some readers who recorded something on a disc and when they want to see it a year or three later they can't even read it properly. What is the problem?

The most common reasons for rapid data loss are poor quality of the disk being written and the choice of the wrong disk type, improper storage conditions, and the wrong write mode:

  • Rewritable CD-RW, DVD-RW discs are not designed for data storage, the retention period is short (compared to single-write discs). On average, CD-Rs retain information longer than DVD-Rs. Based on independent testing, almost all CD-Rs are expected to last for more than 15 years. Only 47% of the DVD-Rs tested did the same (tests conducted by the Library of Congress and the National Standards Institute). Other tests place the average life expectancy of CD-Rs at around 30 years. There is no verified information about the Blu-ray.
  • The cheap jumbo disks that are sold for just three rubles each at the supermarket are not intended for data storage. You should not use them to record any meaningful information without saving a duplicate of it at all.
  • Multisession recording should not be used and it is recommended to use the minimum writing speed available for the disc (using appropriate disc recording software).
  • You should avoid exposing discs to sunlight and other adverse conditions (temperature fluctuations, mechanical influences, high humidity).
  • The quality of the recording drive can also affect the integrity of the recorded data.

Select a disc to burn information

Recordable discs differ in the material they are recorded on, the type of reflective surface, the hardness of the polycarbonate backing, and indeed the build quality. Regarding the last point, it should be noted that the same record of the same brand produced in different countries can differ a lot in terms of quality.

At present, cyanine, phthalocyanine or metallized Azo are used as the recording surface of optical discs, and gold, silver or silver alloy are used as a reflective layer. In general, a combination of phthalocyanine for the record (being the most stable of those listed) and a reflective layer of gold (gold is the most inert material, others are subject to oxidation) should be optimal. However, quality discs may have other combinations of these characteristics.

Unfortunately, archival storage disks are practically not sold in Russia; I could only find one online store that sells excellent Mitsui MAM-A Gold Archival and JVC Taiyo Yuden DVD-Rs at a fabulous price, and Verbatim UltraLife Gold Archival, which I understand the online store brings from the US All. They are leaders in the archival storage industry, promising data retention for around 100 years (and Mitsui claims their CD-Rs last 300 years).

In the list of the best recordable discs, in addition to those mentioned above, you can include Delkin Archival Gold discs, which I did not find at all in Russia. However, you can always buy all the discs on the list on or another foreign online store.

Among the most common discs that can be found in Russia that can retain information for ten years or more are quality discs:

  • Verbatim, made in India, Singapore, UAE or Taiwan.
  • Sony, made in Taiwan.

"Can be saved" applies to all Archival Gold discs in the list; even so, it is not a guarantee of conservation and, therefore, we must not forget the principles listed at the beginning of the article.

Now take a look at the graph below, which shows the increase in optical disc read errors as a function of the time they have been in a corrosive chamber. The diagram is of a marketing nature and the time scale is not marked, but it makes you ask a question: which brand -Millenniata- has no errors on their discs? Now I'll tell you.

Disc M Millenniata

Millenniata offers single-write M-Disk DVD-R and M-Disk Blu-ray discs, with a lifespan of up to 1.000 years for videos, photos, documents and other information. The main difference between the M-Disk and other recordable CDs is the inorganic glassy carbon layer (other discs use organics): the material is resistant to corrosion, temperature and light, humidity, acids, alkalis and solvents, and its hardness is comparable to that of quartz.

Thus, if in the usual discs under the influence of the laser the pigmentation of an organic film changes, in M-Disk literally the holes in a material are burned (although it is not clear, where the products of the burning go). It also appears that the more common polycarbonate is not used as a substrate. In one of the promo videos the album is boiled in water, then put in dry ice, even baked into a pizza, and then it continues to work.

I have not found these discs in Russia, but on Amazon itself they are present in sufficient quantity and are not so expensive (about 100 rubles for an M-Disk DVD-R disc and 200 for a Blu-ray disc). At the same time, the discs are compatible for reading with all modern drives. Since October 2014, Millenniata has started a collaboration with Verbatim, so I do not rule out that these albums will soon become more popular. Although, I am not sure which in our market.

As for burning, burning M-Disk DVD-Rs requires a certified drive with the M-Disk emblem, as they use a more powerful laser (again, we haven't found this type at home, but the there are on Amazon, starting from 2,5 thousand rubles). For M-Disk Blu-ray recording, any modern drive for recording these types of discs will do.

I intend to get such a drive and a blank M-Disk set in the next month or two, and if suddenly the topic is interesting (check in the comments, and share the article on social media) , I can experiment with its boiling, exposure to frost and other effects, compare with conventional records and write on it (and maybe not too lazy to make and video).

Well for now, I'm going to finish my article on where to store the data - everything I knew, I told you.