You’ve stored photographs, movies, and more on a few hard drives, a bunch of CDs, and many DVDs. What’s the best way to protect those items so that you can retrieve the data later, especially if you need to put it them in a storage unit?
Let’s look at how quickly these and other media last, and how to compensate. CDs and DVDs can last as few as five years. These optical media are susceptible to scratching, high temperatures, and sunlight. For home, purchase CD and DVD shelves, and make sure they stay in an area that always gets shade. Handle them carefully when using them. One drop on the floor could cause a scratch. Alternately, there are many CD and DVD storage boxes available that would work well for home or a storage unit.
Hard drives, when in use, last typically for between three and five years before disk failure. However, hard drives not in use can last much longer. You can store old hard drives, either internal or external versions, in small fire-safe boxes.
Flash drives don’t degrade much with age. However, the more you write, delete, and rewrite to them, the sooner they’ll fail. With frequent use, they will last about ten years, but look for solid-state media rated for more cycles. These can be placed in small boxes.
M-Disc is a new form of storage expected to last up to 1,000 years. These are readable in standard DVD drives, but special M-Disc writers are required to record to them. They are also not as prone to scratching. However, it’s best to store them the same way you would CDs or DVDs.
If storing these media at home, keep them in a cool, dry place. If keeping them in a self-storage locker, it’s best to go with a facility that has climate control.
Now, here’s the big question. What’s more important, protecting the media, or protecting the data?
Everyone should agree that protecting the data is the goal. One option is to keep multiple copies of everything with a home backup system. This is more difficult to do for movies on DVD, so you’ll need to protect your physical copies of those. However, CDs can be converted to mp3s, so consumers can back up just about all other forms of data.
The other option is one most people didn’t have access to even ten years ago: cloud services. Many companies offer data backup and direct use of your stored files, including Google with Drive, Microsoft with OneDrive, and Dropbox. Often, you can get a terabyte or more of data storage for less than $10.00 per month. For example, Microsoft Office 365 Home Edition costs $6.99 per month and comes with one terabyte of cloud storage. The great thing about cloud services is that the companies that run them keep multiple backups of all data, ensuring you’ll have access to your photographs, writing, and more for years to come.