Blu Ray or External HDD for storage

WARNING: This post is marginally related to Japan.

After my last external HD failed, taking a ton of my important files to the fiery pits of data loss hell with it, I've been thinking about wither buying a new drive or a Blu ray burner to burn all my stuff on to disks since it would be more convinient than trying to fit all my stuff onto DVD's.

On one hand drives are super cheap by comparison but I'm a little bitter at how my drive suddenly stopped working and a little scared of it happening again. I would imagine that my data would be safer on a disk. As they say, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... ええと... well you better not fool me again."

I did a quick google check and it looks like the region for Japan and the US is the same. Suggestions?
Region has nothing to do with the blueray discs themselves, nor with DVD's. That's just some lame-ass trick they do for the game/film industry.

That cast aside, I think that disc based data storage, taken good care off, usually lasts longer then HDD based, though at least for bluerays will be quite expansive.
Another option would be to get a dual HDD RAID setup, so all your files are copied to two and not one drive, so you'll have a backup left in case one of the HDD's dies.
Burnable discs (cd, dvd, bd) only last for a few years and there are no warning signs when they start to go since they are offline media.

I personally recommend using an hdd and keeping an eye on the SMART status and what the disc sounds like when it's spinning. If you're feeling spendy you can keep a redundant copy of the disc and leave it offline.

HDD are actually amazingly reliable. The majority of data losses are caused by viruses or faulty controllers. Personally I've never had an unpredicted HDD failure. If you keep a duplicate copy offline it should last for decades. Just make sure to use a reliable filesystem like NTFS (Windows) or HFS (OSX). FAT32 is incredibly unreliable.
Edited: 2010-02-22, 9:56 am
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If you worry about HDDs being unreliable then forget about DVDs/Blu Rays for storage.

I've burned probably 100+ disks during my time at University and now I can't access about 70-80% of them and it wasn't even that long ago.

If you want your data safe, make multiple backups. For example: my anki deck is stored with multiple copies on 2 computers, online, 2 pendrives and one external disk. Don't even get me started on my thesis, I still find various copies of it in multiple places (like SD card for my camera). Sort things that are REALLY important and put more effort into them.

Biggest problem these days is with pictures, we make HEXAGIGABYTES of them with our digital cameras, but we never view them and yet find them "precious". In this case just select those that really matter (kids, weddings etc.) and in addition to multiple copies print them somewhere.
aquafina Wrote:I'm a little bitter at how my drive suddenly stopped working and a little scared of it happening again.
Hard drives are full of electrical and mechanical bits and pieces. They break
all the time. You just need to have a system set up so that WHEN your
hard drive breaks it isn't a problem.

As Thurd said, you need to have your data in more than one place. That depends
on how much data you have, how often it changes, etc. but as a minimum I would
buy TWO drives, and use one to back the other up every week or so. That still
won't protect you against fire, theft, a freak event happening when you have
both disks plugged in, etc. so is only a starting point...

If you are going to use blu-ray disks then remember you'll need to burn at
least TWO copies of every disk for even the slightest guarantee you can read
them again... oh, and check them regularly, and make sure you can read
them with other blu-ray readers in case your reader breaks, etc....
Sorry to interrupt but what about USB keys? For personal data as long as you're not a designer, or video maker, 16-32GB is plenty enough. You could buy also organize different data accross different keys. Would that last longer than HDD or laser discs (and by extension would SSD also last longer? Noting that USB key will get far less writes than a SSD drive).

In theory laser discs were meant to last longer, but in practice if you leave them in the sun they will become unusable in a matter of years!

If you use CDs or DVDs for storage, keep them away from light as much as possible.

start_three Wrote:If you are going to use blu-ray disks then remember you'll need to burn at least TWO copies of every disk for even the slightest guarantee you can read
them again
That may not even be fully reliable, best would be to check the "Verify disc" box when you burn anything. Do it, otherwise you'll never know. Likewise, use special software to write/read test your entire USB keys after you buy them, you may have surprises... It's very nasty to make zip archives of your data only to realize they have CRC errors when you really need them. I had to return a 8GB key (from PNY) just last month.
Definitely go with Hard Disks. You can buy multiple 1-terabyte drives cheaper than you could get a blu-ray burner (seriously, a 1tb internal disk is only like $100 these days), and back up your data across multiple drives. If you set up a raid array, it can get mirrored automatically.
Edited: 2010-02-22, 1:46 pm
What about dropbox?
Yes, the cloud, put everything on the cloud!
Though theoretically, even that is not safe, those servers could also get infected with viruses, or break. Data is determined to get lost eventually...

I guess the safest option is to just use all the methods, but maintaining that would probably drive you insane..
Another vote for THA CLOUD! I haven't tried Dropbox, but out of curiosity (and realization that I never back up my files) I did recently check out Mozy which seems to be a pretty solid option. Like Dropbox, you can register a free account and keep up to 2GB of files synced, which may or may not be enough space to cover all of your critical files (it's plenty for me, personally). Mozy has an unlimited storage plan for $5 a month, too, which seems really reasonable.
The nerd inside me wants to yell at you about the evils of cloud based solutions, but let's not do that.

The best way to keep backups is to have a secondary HDD which is an exact mirror of your primary drive (ie RAID1). With the proper hardware setup, you won't see even a tiny drop of performance, but you will see slight increase in reading speed.

Assuming lack of maware and no physical damage to the devices, it's next to impossible to suffer total data loss, considering how reliable modern HDD drives are.

Flash sticks are great, but they tend to die after few hundred full rewrites. The good thing is that even after they die, you can probably still read data that existed on them up to the point of failure.
I doubt they'd last longer than a HDD through. An inactive HDD in proper storage conditions will remain functional and readable forever. Flash drives however will expire in ~5-10 years if you don't refresh the data.
Clouds are probably even less reliable than burnable media. They are for access-anywhere, not reliability.
Mirroring is *not* a backup! It's useful, and will offer a good protection against hard drive failures but it's not enough. You need backups, lots of them including some off-site.

Since no backup media is 100% reliable, use more than one. Have backups on external drives, DVDs, USB keys.

Not all data is equally important, backup accordingly. If you lose your dorama/anime collection, it's annoying, but you'll probably be able to download your favorite ones again. However, the same isn't true for your work. Use different backup strategies for different types of data.
If you do decide to back up your stuff online somewhere, make sure to encrypt and/or password protect any personal, copyrighted or private data you might be storing.
Jarvik7 Wrote:Clouds are probably even less reliable than burnable media.
What exactly do you mean by "less reliable" here?
There have been a great many cloud data failures in the news over the past few years due to power outages, hardware failures, hacker attacks, incompetence (Microsoft's sidekick cloud) etc. Plus there is the fact that the service can disappear at any time without notice or a chance to retrieve your data first. It's the exact same problem as online DRM servers.

Clouds can make nice secondary/tertiary backups, but don't trust them too much.
Edited: 2010-02-23, 11:08 am
Amazon S3 has supposedly not had a single reported case of data loss in its 3 years of operation:

I think the chances of this and your main storage all failing at once are pretty slim.
Man, You guys are amazing with your vast knowledge of nerd-dom and what not!
I seriously thought a disk would be safer untill you all crushed my delusions...
I guess I have a bit to think about. Thanks guys! ^_^
Any suggestions about where to store physical off-site backups?

And for the cloud, consider that if a thief obtains your key, they may delete your data out of spite. Amazon S3 for example uses a key-file that they give you rather than a memorable password, so unless you have it encrypted, someone who steals your computer and local backups can then delete your S3 files too. For services using memorable passwords, the same problem could arise if you get a virus on your computer.
So how long would blue ray discs last if just kept in a container? Not actually being used frequently?

Do they degrade naturally?
@bladethecoder: It depends how valuable they are. Most people just store the offsite copy at their parents'/friends' house or work. If it's super important you can get a safety deposit box at a bank.

@Erubey: Yes, all burnable media degrades naturally from the instant it is manufactured.
Edited: 2010-02-25, 10:21 pm
Is there anything you need to backup forever though?

My philosophy now is that I keep 2 copies, and sometimes a third one for important data like website backups; and the data has to change anyway. And if it doesn't change at all in years, chances are it's obsolete by the time it would have been unusable. There's no point for me for example to keep backups of the website code from 3 years ago. So eventually I have old CD/DVD backups that I throw away while I reburn new ones.

What I do now is I keep a Install/ and Backups/ folders on my main drive, and reproduce these on a external HDD. Once in a while I'll also backup the most important files from these folders on a USB stick.

Then the plan is to use a synching program that will just copy the newer files onto the external HDD (right now I haven't found a good one on Mac, so I'm simply copying folders by hand).

Do you have recommendations for a simple software on Mac OSX that will compare two folders and copy all changes? I need one because doing a full copy is simple, but very slow.

I also do less Zip archives now, since discovering an error on a USB stick. If you have images or mp3 for example they are typically already compressed at great efficiency so doing an archive only reduces the number of files (besides making them unusable directly from a media player). But also many other files now such as PSDs if I don't see a major gain in space I don't compress them because if you have the slightest CRC error, BOOOOOOM say bye bye to all your data.

Maybe I should enable some option in zip/7zip to add repair data?
Codexus Wrote:Mirroring is *not* a backup! It's useful, and will offer a good protection against hard drive failures but it's not enough.
Yeah, something like Raid isn't going to help you, when you accidentally (or with the help of a virus) delete or corrupt your data... everything on the mirror is going to be corrupted/deleted too. The same goes for dropbox as it is not possible to restore an older version of an corrupted file (please correct me if I am wrong).
Even an (incremental) backup/mirror from time to time can produce problems if you don't control, which files are going to be mirrored. I had once the problem, that some files on my source got corrupted... I don't know why but I think because of controller problems. When I did a backup, the corrupted files automatically overwrote the correct files on my backup HD... which made the backup useless. As you normally use some software like rsync, which only mirrors files which are changed, it makes sense to do a dry run first so you can have a lookout for files to be mirrored which are already on the backup hd (means they have changed since then)
Zumodrive (, an online cloud storage company, keeps track of all versions of your files and you can retrieve deleted documents by using their online recycle bin.

I've used Zumodrive for over a month now and I love it.

Straight from their FAQ:

# I deleted my file in ZumoDrive by mistake can I recover it?
Yes. You can log onto and restore the file from the recycle bin.

# Does ZumoDrive keep track of previous versions?
Yes. ZumoDrive keeps track of all your previous versions. You can access them by logging to and viewing the history for the file.


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I don't know how big your website code is but 2GB(FREE) and 10GB($30/year)
would probably be good enough to backup most websites. If you're afraid of
relying on one cloud storage provider, you can replicate the backups
across multiple cloud storage providers (Zumodrive, SugarSync, Dropbox,, etc).

Also, many webhosts have backup services.

So if you're really paranoid, you can do:

1)HDD, Flash memory, etc
2)Backup via webhost provider
3)Cloud storage (if necessary, multiple providers)
4)Tape backup (what most enterprise companies use for storage)
Edited: 2010-02-26, 1:01 pm
If you want to be truly secure, most people are missing a critical aspect-you can keep a million copies in your home, and the problem is, what if you home is broken into, or there's a fire, or a power surge and your surge protector wasn't as great as you thought? Not to mention with all these copies, you're just asking for some of your hardware to wind up missing and you can't be sure if it's stolen or just missing.

You need routine, secure, encrypted backups at an off-site location that has professional security. There are lots of good online places for this.

So a professional level of security / backup protection looks something like:
-The working copy, on your machine
-The backup, which should be as external from your machine as possible (discs or an external drive, they're both about equal here)
-The off-site copy

Not to mention if you're talking this level of security you need to be getting into a whole realm of disc encryption and whatnot.

Mirroring and poses as much of a security threat as it solves. There exists malware that installs to your mirror so that it cannot be undone. Mirrors are great for restoring casually lost data, but they don't really do anything for your overall system security.

All optical media degrades over time due to oxidizing of the media layer, not to mention general wear-n-tear where applicable. BluRay discs wear out at such a rate, especially early discs (some companies pulled shortcuts in manufacturing), that some owners have already seen their games or DVDs fail to play due to decay or non-user-fault damage. Regular DVD lasts longer, but it certainly has a lifecycle. Even flash memory wears out after so many writes.

Edit: And yeah, tape. It seems laughable, but I know companies that still use the same cassettes they have since they first got computers. Of course they hold like nothing, but still.
Edited: 2010-02-26, 1:56 pm
ファブリス Wrote:Do you have recommendations for a simple software on Mac OSX that will compare two folders and copy all changes? I need one because doing a full copy is simple, but very slow.
Answering myself here: DirSyncPro is really nice, fully configurable, cross platform.