1.    06 Feb 2016 #1
    Join Date : Dec 2015
    Posts : 6

    Archival Data Storage -- It seems like all modern options are lacking!

    I've been reading a lot about archival storage and it's kind of a depressing read. At this point in time, it appears that just about every archival storage medium has one or several major weaknesses. Obviously, redundancy can (and should) be used to supplement these inherent limitations, but that still is not ideal.

    I would like to know what y'all use for your archival storage. I have about 100GB of data I would like to save to a medium and then lock that medium inside my fire resistant, tool resistant, and torch resistant safe. About 30 GB of this would be considered of greatest importance because it contains pictures and videos of friends, family, and pet family members that are no longer with me. I can deal with losing almost everything else, but not this.

    I have also been thinking about just how long I would use an archival medium before transferring the data to a newer technology (that may very well be yet to be invented.) At a certain point, outdated storage systems have to be replaced by necessity. So I am going to guess this figure for me would be 15-20 years. It might be sooner if a superior storage technology comes out, but it might be later should no better products come to market, or should whatever storage medium I select winds up sticking around in the future

    So here is a list of what I have been reading about, and an explanation of the pros/cons and limitations of each. If I am wrong on any of these, please correct me as I want to learn everything I can when it comes to archival storage.

    While extremely durable, the costs are very high and User Reviews of m-Disk products are consistently poor. While rated for 1,000 years, many Users are reporting major issues with burning and reading the m-Disks, and have noted that many "M-disk capable" burners can be very finicky. That makes me uneasy given 50 years down the road, it might be very hard to find something that can read that m-Disk should optical disks disappear completely.

    Verbatim UltraLife DV-R (or other archival-grade DV-R)
    While only 4.7gb, these have superior ratings than m-disk and are more affordable. While advertised as only 1/10th the longevity of m-Disk, this is still 100 years and so it's at a point where disk-based media will become completely obsolete long before I face degrades in data quality. I mention the Verbatim UltraLife by name because it seems to have the best reputation among all DV-R archival disks, and a reasonable price to go along with it. As of right now, I am leaning in this direction as the best option because I already have several external DVD burners.

    BluRay BD-R & Future 1TB Archival-Grade BluRay
    The 25, 50, and 100 GB capacity is appealing compared to the smaller DV-R, as is the intent to take BluRay disks to sizes of 300, 500, and 1,000 GB, and those large sizes will all be archival quality intended to work well for at least 50 years. On the downside, I would need to buy a BluRay burner, and I imagine most existing burners will NOT be able to burn the 300/500/1000 GB BR disks. Further, these massive sized disks have NOT been released to the public yet, and so there is no guarantee that they will work well for archival storage, and until that type of product is formally released, there isn't complete certainty about its future.

    MLC Flash media
    Most of my experience with TLC NAND has left me very displeased and so I have switched to only using MLC, eMLC, or SLC*. I have several 64GB Samsung PRO microSD cards (and several Transcend SD cards), both of which use MLC NAND and are superior to most TLC alternatives. Beyond writing 5-10x faster than most TLC cards, I feel the MLC NAND Samsung is using is of extremely high quality/tier, and will have better reliability and endurance, alike. The biggest downside seems that, without power, the data may get corrupted due to a slow loss of electrical charge, and it is not clear whether or not SLC, MLC, or TLC fares the best when it comes to long-term storage without being powered up on a set schedule. (*With exception to the TLC Samsung Evo and TLC SanDisk Ultra, which I've had great experiences with.)

    SLC Flash Media
    I have an older 64gb Intel X25-E (extreme), that uses SLC NAND and has power protection. This may have been one of the most reliable storage systems in the history of data, and it has an endurance that puts the best modern SSDs to shame. However, it is probably no better than MLC for this type of archival storage.

    Standard HDD
    I considered this for a few moments but I consider most consumer-grade HDDs to be inferior to performance and enterprise alternatives. I also feel that standard HDDs tend to lack consistency, and that seems like a bad thing when it comes to needing a solution that is both reliable and lasting.

    Performance HDD
    I have used the WD Black 2.5 inch for many years now going back to when it was the Scorpio line. Based on personal use, I find that particular drive to be superior to most standard consumer grade drives. Additionally, it performs very consistently.

    Enterprise Grade HDD
    These seem to be considerably more reliable than consumer grade HDDs. I have used the WD Re/RE4 and HGST UltraStar extensively, and they have given outstanding reliability. However, the longest I have used any of these is about 7 years because they are moving huge amounts of data on a daily basis.

    Just like the other two HDD options, there are still concerns of loss of magnetic charge over time, and the fact that any HDD can be prone to several types of failures, and when HDDs fail it usually means that recovering data is expensive-to-impossible. Additionally, most enterprise grade HDDs are made with the intent that the drive will be running 24-7 for a period of years and then taken out of service...so there may be even less info on how enterprise grade HDDs do when it comes to data retention without being powered on frequently?

    So...am I missing anything? Any thoughts?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2.    06 Feb 2016 #2
    Join Date : Oct 2013
    Posts : 2,014
    Windows 7

    The longest lasting archival medium is paper. Some of it lasted for over 2000 years.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3.    06 Feb 2016 #3
    Join Date : Oct 2014
    Posts : 604
    Windows 7

    At a certain point, outdated storage systems have to be replaced by necessity. So I am going to guess this figure for me would be 15-20 years.
    I would expect rather less than that. 15-20 years is a very long time in the computer industry.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4.    06 Feb 2016 #4
    Join Date : Mar 2015
    Posts : 191
    Windows 10 Pro (x64)

    Enterprises still use Tape, Magnetic Strips of Tape to backup and archive data. They hold large quantities of data, retain data for many years before needing a refresh.

    You could use use multiple online services to archive your valuable data. Putting it in as many places as you can is ideal.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


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