Decentralize your data - Part 2
This is part 2 in a 4 part article about long term storage solutions for personal data. Read the 1st part at Decentralize Your Damn Data.
Before we talked about hard drives as a way to store private data off the cloud. Hard drives last a relatively long while, don't need any special equipment to load and read, but each drive itself is an investment of at least $100, but probably more, making it an expensive option to just have many spares on hand.
Floppies (remember those?) were made obsolete by the CD-R (remember those?), recordable compact discs, which stored orders of magnitude more data than the best floppy - a full hour of music! And they themselves were supplanted by recordable DVDs, of which today's generation can record 25 GB of data on a single layer disc (Blu-ray Disc Recordable or BD-R) and higher layered discs having up to 128 GB of capacity. For many people, a single BD-R could store all of their current data, and for most of the population, a couple of discs would be sufficient. Comparing the cost of storage per terabyte, they are comparable to hard drives. You will need a BD-R writer but they aren't expensive and are readily available. The cost blank discs is low enough to warrant having a few spares on hand.
The problem with CDRs and also with DVDs is that after several years, the discs are no longer readable or the data is corrupt. The organic material used in the burning of normal recordable discs breaks down and you lose more and more of your data over time, nothing you can do about it. If you used them, those were a terrible long term solution compared to hard drives.
Blu-ray discs have the same degradation problem. This is where M-DISC comes in. M-DISC is a special physical type of DVD or BD-R disc which is intended for use as archival media, which is exactly what we're looking for. To achieve that purpose, the discs are made to last 1000 years. Nobody could have tested this claim yet but some organizations are putting faith in it based on other people's stress tests. But the company that created it, Millenniata, already declared bankruptcy in 2016. Not a great omen. It's easy to make claims which you won't need to stick around to back later.
You can read an M-DISC in a normal DVD drive, but you need a special M-DISC writer (they aren't expensive though) and special discs (~$10/100 GB disc) to write them. Thus this should be used over normal BD-R. For the price, it could make sense for families storing data in a way that each member could leave and carry their own data with them in an easily accessible format. Although each disc is smaller than a hard drive, their more granular size facilitates more frequent backing up to more users. And compared to hard drives, the discs are very lightweight and don't have moving parts that could get damaged by dropping.
If the M-DISC longevity claims are true then they are a powerful tool for saving your data off the cloud and keeping backups around for when you might want the data again a decade from now.
So hard drives and BD-Rs are both good options for de-clouding your data. But is there something better? I'll keep exploring in Part 3.