View Full Version : Best storage media

01-15-2012, 09:57 PM
Evan's post about the card sticking out prompted me to ask this- what is a good storage media for the computer? I have data on sd cards, which is still accessible, some on the older hardware like floppys, etc, which are all toast, some on cds, of which only some are still readable (what a wasted effort that was) and some on usb sticks, some of which the computer doesn't always recognize. My latest idea has been to buy mp3 players and store the data there. So far I've had no problem with the computer recognizing them and always finding the data. Some of these are cheaper than sd cards for the storage capability. Of course they won't play the files if they aren't mp3s, but that doesn't matter. The computer treats them like any other drive, and dutifully drops and retrieves the data.

My concern of late is the expected lifetime of the player. Maybe the battery will fail, even without much use, and screw it all up.


01-15-2012, 10:09 PM
I have a junk drive on my keychain, and also have a cell phone with a decent amount of memory on it. Between the two I can move most files if need be.

Typically I dont use either though. Most work related stuff stays on the laptop or at work per company rules. Smaller files that I am allowed to move otherwise typically get emailed to myself to prevent possible issues.

01-15-2012, 10:11 PM
Cloud storage. Example: dropbox.com (http://www.dropbox.com/) which is free up to a certain amount. There are plenty others, Icloud, for instance, but I think that more geared towards buying music thru their (Apple) store, etc.

You can store and share data on different devices, automatically updates itself. And you can always access the data should your computer die, just log on from somewhere else.

Hardware does have a limited lifespan.

01-15-2012, 10:26 PM
It kind of depends on how much data you want to store. Normally I would suggest optical media or USB/SD sticks, but you seem to have a history of not being able to read them later. I think a general rule of thumb is to have at least two copies stored on different media, and to refresh, or move the data once every few years.

If you only have a few gigabytes, I would suggest two different USB/SD sticks. If you have more, I would suggest you store on one of those portable laptop drives with a USB interface.

I don't trust "the Cloud".

01-15-2012, 10:42 PM
Why not clone or copy your HDD to another - twice - particularly C:\>clone drive as if your C: or drive packs it in you can format a new HDD and restore your cloned C: to C: and away ya go just as you were.

Same applies to any other HDD.

I have most of my data on D: and copied to a HDD in a USB drive.

If one computer packs up you can use a disk from it to copy to the functional computer.

Just about any file written on W2K can be read on XP and W7 and any written on XP can be read on W7.

I sometimes use thumb (flash) drives if necessary or more convenient.

IDE and SATA drives can be written to each other.

01-15-2012, 11:04 PM
I feel beanbag has it right ... migrate your stuff to new media every couple of years to stay current with technology and keep your data "fresh" and usable. I like the offsite/online backup as extra assurance against disasters.

01-15-2012, 11:09 PM
Just about every media has a limited life. Some are more limited than others.

Flash memory is not really meant for long term storage. Neither are writable CDs. Given enough time, they will degrade. They often degrade at an astonishing rate. Tapes are often used in business, but even they have a limited life at the storage facility.

If you really want to save your data, the best way is to use a routine of continuously making new copies. If you have old copies that are only on your backup, then you should periodically make fresh copies on the newest media.

No matter what you use, make sure you verify the backup. Many of the backup programs bypass the verify step to cut the backup time in half.


01-15-2012, 11:29 PM
I don't have a lot of stuff that I'd want to save- probably 10 gigs tops. None of it is business or 'sensitive'. I like the idea of having a complete restoration backup as tiffie suggested. I do find it somewhat incredible that even in this day and age, there isn't a data storage medium that you could confidently say would keep data for a 'long' time. By keep I mean that say 20 years in the future you would be able to retrieve the data, which would have to cover the computer, software, and hardware that would still work together.

Seems best that you would transfer the data every so often, taking advantage of the latest and greatest devices at the time.

01-15-2012, 11:41 PM
I was wondering why they only wanted three paper copies of my thesis, and nothing digital. It's because you never have to transfer it.

01-15-2012, 11:56 PM
There's a novel idea- paper storage. These days we have acid-free paper which is supposed to last a long time. How about having a printer lay the data down in black and white, banner style, on a large roll. Of course, you'd use non-disappearing ink. Then 20 or 40 years from now you could scan it in using your cnc mill and an opto-isolator, then verbally ask the computer to de-code it.

If the ink was the limiting factor, just modify the print head to carry an electrode. Input the data by making holes in the paper with an electric arc.

Or just grow the data on pieces of floor tile using the lithography machine. Maybe the kid will let you use his:) I wonder how quickly that part-making material degrades?

01-16-2012, 06:11 AM
There's a novel idea- paper storage. These days we have acid-free paper which is supposed to last a long time.

Many years ago there was a TV program which examined storage of information. They started with clay or stone tablets, papyrus paper, animal skin scrolls, medevial parchments and went right up to today with the latest electronic methods for data/information storage and retrival. They examined how hard it was to generate the storage media, how accessable the information would be in the future and how secure was the media on which the information was stored for the ability to withstand long term storage.

Believe it not, they come down very hard on electronic media as a bad choice for storage. They cited the rapid and evolving methods which over take and superceed older methods. They were looking for a method which did not require regeneration of the data every few years to put it on some "newr" media. They cited the old 5 1/2" floppy discs. How may machines in todays world can access data stored on those floppy discs. Even today, how many computers have slots for the 3 1/2" floppy discs?

After examing all of the methods avaialbe, they concluded that acid-free paper, stored in a proper atmosphere was the best method of storage. Once it was generated, it did not have to be "updated" to newer storage type. As long as people can read, the retrival of the information is readily available. It wasn't dependant upon some electronic gadget which would be out-dated in a decade or so. Very interesting progam.

01-16-2012, 08:51 AM
I use a USB attached harddrive.
They are cheap, big, and reasonably reliable.
Plug it in, make the backups I want, and unplug it.
It sits on my desk. As long as it's unplugged, no worries
about power failures zapping it or viruses eating it.
It's easy to move to another computer.

I keep everything on both my backup and my main
hard drive so no real worries about the media ever
becoming archaic. By the time the USB HD becomes
passe, I'll have moved to another computer, with a
different interface/etc, and have bought a new backup
drive appropriate to the new interface, etc, etc.


01-16-2012, 09:09 AM
I'm not sure there is much difference between an mp3 player and a usb flash drive in terms of how long each will last and be recognized by your computer.

You can also look into online backup services like iBackup but you'll pay a monthly fee that's going to be more expensive then buying new flash drives every year. But the advantage of something like iBackup is that it will backup whatever parts of you drive(s) you want automatically on a regular basis (daily is what we use at my work). A backup service is convenient if your data is constantly changing. If the data is fairly static then a backup service isn't worth the money and I would agree with what others have suggested. Multiple flash drives swapped out every year.

01-16-2012, 09:29 AM
I'd like to point out the root word of "secure" is se cura, meaning "without care". You are secure if you are not worried about it. For me to not worry about answering to a wife as to why the videos of our daughter disappeared, I set up as follows:

1) Backups have to be electronic - paper does not work very well to backup video
2) One single backup is not enough - a catastrophic failure (like a lightening strike) during backup could take out computer and backup device. You want at least 2. 3 is better. Keep at least 1 offsite (reduces issues with theft and fire).
3) Gotta test the backups - make sure the files are there, using a different computer, or it isn't a "secure" backup.

01-16-2012, 10:59 AM
On the subject of CDs and DVDs. Note that the coding on CDs uses error correction, so it's actually robust against small errors. DVDs don't have this feature, so the first error bit will make your data corrupt.

I don't know the numbers, but I'd also hazard a guess that write once CDs are much better at storing data long term than the rewritable ones.


01-16-2012, 11:31 AM
I shoot a fair amount of digital photographs, and in the raw format that I shoot in, they require space, lots of space. I keep the current photographs, (say the last year) that I am working with on my desktop computer. I back these digital files, and my files going back 10 years, on external Lacie harddrives. These Lacie harddrives, which are 1 terabyte in size each, are reasonably priced today. Of course there are other brand name external drives available besides the Lacie. I use two external drives, just in case one happens to malfunction, I have the second drive backing the first drive. I also have these drives stored at a different location, other than with my computer, in case of fire, or a break-in, etc.

01-16-2012, 11:34 AM
Long term data retention on static storage requires media refresh from time to time. That time being less than the advertised lifetime of the media chosen. Some companies have so much data this is simply impractical and so high-tech solutions such as de-dupe appliances (Data Domain from EMC, for example) and massive highly reliable storage arrays are used. Because of the investment in data and the need to never lose it, disaster recovery programs mandate second and third sites be built to hold replicated data.

For the guy at home the solution remains good discipline and DVD data storage. Definitely refresh these every few years, and pay attention to the threat of abandoned technologies (5 1/4" and larger floppies and Zip drives being examples).

SSD, or solid state drives, also known as sudden storage disasters, have reliability problems that keep them out of the long-term storage arena for now. They make great tiered storage (acting as cache in front of spinning media) and for boot disks that can be easily re-imaged, but for long-term storage they're a crap shoot. They really need to be in temperature controlled rooms but that is true for tape and DVDs.

01-16-2012, 06:04 PM
Someone earlier suggested dropbox. i think that is hands down the way to go. You have an icon next to your clock on the desktop and can move data to it or from it with a click of the mouse. You can access it from any computer and you can share it if you so desire. My son started me on itwhen he came to work for me and I love it. We even do daily backups to it automatically for our accounting software in case someone forgets to do it one day.

01-16-2012, 06:09 PM
Perhaps the 0th rule of backups is that if you make the procedure too complicated, you aren't going to do it regularly, and that defeats the purpose. So first you have to make an honest assessment of how much your data is worth, the chance of losing it, and how much hassle you are willing to go thru to take all the steps to preserve it. For example, I don't do offsite backups. I figure that if my house burns down, I'll have bigger things to worry about than my 2007 tax returns, or pictures I've taken and will probably never look at again.

01-16-2012, 06:33 PM
Not so very long ago it was not all that unusual for a CD/DVD written on one drive to be not readable on another. I have three IDE CD/DVD drives and if I put data on a CD/DVD I test it on the other two drives. The "cannot read" failure is quite rare - but it can happen. I only use the best CD/DVD disks I can get and I ditch what I have not used after two years and start again. Cheap CD/DVD disks are not (cheap!!). I never use RW disks as while they are "open" (not closed off) they can quite often ony be read (and perhaps not written to) by the original CD/DVD drive. I've had people give me non-closed-off drives and I could not read them on any of my drives. I had to get the person who gave them to me to close them off so that I could read them.

I rarely use CD/DVD now-a-days as it doesn't fit my needs as I use external HDD's and clone/image my drive/s to them. The only problem is that the cloning/imaging software is propriety and may be updated from time to time and recognition of older version clones and images may be a problem.

I had this problem when I went to restore a clone or image done with "Norton Ghost" on my W2K computer to my new XP computer. It completely erased my new XP HDD. But I was able to recover by other means.

Flash (thumb) drives work well too but if I am transferring a large amount of date to another computer elsewhere I prefer to use a good USB external drive with a good SATA drive in it.

IDE is fast disappearing on main boards but SATA drives can read from/to them. IDE drives and HDDs are very hard to get new but if your main board does not have an IDE channel any IDE drive can't be used on that (SATA) computer.

I have some data on IDE drives but it is quite accessable to as regards reading from and writing to them as I use my IDE and IDE/SATA external USB drives.

01-16-2012, 07:57 PM
I second the need for a discipline that you can follow. There are whole industries built around the concepts of data backup, data recovery and archiving. They are not synonymous.

It sounds like we are talking about archiving... The preservation of data so that it can be used at some time in the far future if the need arises.

The biggest hitch in archiving is that the programs used to use the data become obsolete. Even worse, the operating systems that the programs run on become obsolete. Even worse than that the hardware that the OS would run on is obsolete. Try running Win95 on a computer bought today and you will see what I mean. There are no drivers for the modern devices.

The solution is to re-evaluate what you have in your archive every Ground Hog day. It's a widely publicized holiday that you don't celebrate so it makes a great reminder. Make sure that you can still read every disk. tape, cd and DVD in your archive. Make sure you can still find a program to read the GEM and WPS and ARJ files that you created when you were dating your wife. If not, that's the time to copy them to a new format. If you wait too long the translator programs themselves will become obsolete.

A true story; I worked for a bank. A huge one. They had years and years of tapes in an off site commercial archive facility. We wrote them every day and shipped them off by currier. One day there was a challenge on a contract written years before and the data from that era was subpoenaed. We found that we had the tapes, but there was not a single copy of the database, the program that used the data, the tape drive or the OS that would run it in all the company. We looked at having a professional data recovery service do it for us, but that was going to be very expansive. I think they claimed the data was lost and negotiated a settlement.

The moral is : keep it fresh and check it regularly. Keep multiple copies. You never know if you really will need a 2007 tax return after your house burns down. The IRS works in mysterious ways. :)


01-16-2012, 08:01 PM
What ever we post today will be out dated in five years anyway, as well as the hardware, OS and company specific software to read it. Makes me wonder if going all digital is worth it with photography, CD's, electronic blueprints, music. I have digital files from CADKEY that will be non-usabe in five years, old "Word Perfect" stuff and data sheets that are just gone forever in terms of accessing, AutoCad 1.0 drawings that will not open....

If the Consitution was written today on Word 2007, it would be unopenable by 2020. Good thing for parchment I guess...... If the Bible were written today..... well, you get it.

Face it - we out smarted ourselves.

Alas, we can't back up everything on parchment, animal skins or stone tablets. I just ran a USB Thumb drive/stick through the wash machine last week, they do not like that at all. So, I guess my recommendation is a USB back-up hard drive for the important stuff, and keeping a legacy computer around for good measure.

01-16-2012, 08:12 PM
I almost forgot. My current backup scheme is to copy my main computer to a networked 2tb drive once a month. A gigabit ethernet card makes it fairly painless. The computer also has a backup of the networked drive so I can lose either one and rebuild.

I still have files from 1993 on my computer. :) If I ever use Kermit again I have the RC file!


01-16-2012, 08:33 PM
I've had - and I mean "had" "Zip" drives which were propriety and unreliable and a total PITA.

I've had several tape drives "Colorado" and others and those that continued to run had no support and those that failed were really just a high-end (???) version of a kids (or adults) tape recorder - with similar albeit less frequent but much much more disasterous failures.

I have 32GB USB flash drives but I use two - dual copies - just in case.

Have you seen what some people do to and with those flash drives and where they put them etc. etc. and they expect them to work??? Most times they do but a sense of self/over confidence builds up and then comes the day when they give up the ghost - and you should hear and see the antics - of course its never "me" so it must be "it", but whatever the fault the data is lost or degraded.

I should enlarge on "cloning" and "imaging".

A cloned drive is an exact copy of the original and if say a "C" drive it can be inserted in your computer in place of a failed "C" drive, booted up, and voila - a new up and running fully functional "C" drive exactly the same as when the original "C" was cloned.

A cloned copy uses the whole disk (preferably) or partion (not preferred but it works) whereas an "imaged" copy uses a complete partition on its own but it requires the software that created the image to restore the drive ("C"). You can fit as many images on a drive as you have disk space for.

Imaging has its uses - very much so.

If I have say four images on one disk - each say a month apart - and I lose or delete a file on say "C" drive I can search the images with a windows-like "Explorer", find the file, click it and it starts up using the format it was created on - Word, AutoCAD, JPG etc. etc. You can search each image for different versions of that file and restore the one you want right back to your "C" (or other) drive.

This sort of backing up is tedious but you must stick with it.

I use "Acronis" back-up. It like many others reverts to a DOS-like mode on the screen which may really concern any who have only used Windows and not DOS.