Life Expectancy of Digital Records

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by Osaban, Mar 14, 2009.

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  1. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    A friend of mine told me (and I also have read something similar in the NY times) that digital supports like CD ROMs, DVDs have a life expectancy of just over 5 years... I mean they can last longer but their accuracy reproducing data can't be guaranteed.

    I was really shocked, all this excitement about the digital age, laser technology, perfectly cloning records, paper become obsolete. Even recent historical events in terms of their live recordings are threatened by this incredible weakness of digital supports.

    Are there really no alternatives? What does it mean in practical terms? Do we have to keep our records on hard drives (many of them) so that we can pass over data to new harddrives as they will inevitably fail (oddly enough even HDs are expected to last safely 5 years).

    Seems to me that the good old photo-negative film and vinyl plastic music LPs along with the ubiquitous paper book form are not about to disappear so soon.
     
  2. Kerodo

    Kerodo Registered Member

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    I have heard things like that also, however, I'm not sure what that means. I have data CDs that are over 5 years old and fine. Likewise, I have music CDs that are approaching 20 years of age and they are just dandy too.
     
  3. dw426

    dw426 Registered Member

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    That's because of the old dyes that were used. It's different now, but they still won't last forever:

    1. Smudging does more damage than scratches.

    2. Rapid temp and humidity changes stress the materials

    3. Direct sunlight and intense heat can pretty much obliterate them

    4. Gravity, believe it or not, can actually bend the disks...and there isn't a whole lot you can do about gravity.

    The owner is the greatest enemy, if you take care of them, they'll last years. But they won't last forever of course. I wouldn't give up my records for anything, lol. I love my vinyl thank you very much. Film, well, digital photography actually has surpassed film capabilities. It's one of the few exceptions where new is better than old.
     
  4. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I had done some research on this a while back (probably 4 or 5 years ago) and while some of the details that follow may be off a bit for the most part I believe them to be fairly accurate. I am sure where I am in error someone will correct me.

    To the best of my recollection my findings were as follows.

    1: the disk quality is critical. A low quality disk will degrade much faster than a high quality one. As I recall one of the best was Verbatim.

    2: R disks will last longer than RW disks.

    3: there is a big difference between a disk you burn and (say) a music CD you buy. The CD you buy has actual physical patterns in the surface of the metal layer so there is no dye to degrade, thus, these disks, given reasonable care, should last essentially forever. The disks you burn do not have this feature, they work by the laser causing the die to change colour somehow and the difference between the raw dye and the affected die is what makes the disk data readable.

    It is often repeated that temperature extremes are to be avoided with burned disks as extremes will cause the dye in the CD or DVD to degrade. However I have music CDs that I burned 5 or 6 years ago that I have left in my car year round (I live in Canada and so we have a full range of temp from very hot in the closed car in the summer to well below freezing temps in the winter) and my CDs have not shown any signs of degradation. I suspect estimates are intentionally low regarding data integrity but ...........

    4: DVDs are better than CDs in terms of data life.

    5: I have seen stats that a Verbatum DVD R has a life of up to 99 years, but I would take that with a grain of salt or 2.

    Given that many/most people will copy their important files (including pictures etc) when they upgrade technology, for example from CDs to DVDs to Blue Ray, to whatever is next, most personal data will last generally for the persons lifetime. If you had important personal files on zip disks and you bought a nice DVD burner, odds are very good that before you got rid of your zip burner/reader you would copy your files to the new media. This effectively rejuvenates the data and extends its life considerably. Further, many people are skipping this kind of storage media entirely now opting instead for ever larger external/portable drives. As drives fill up and the data transfered to newer larger drives the data is rejuvenated. If you defrag your external drive, the data is rejuvenated if its been rewritten. ...... well I suspect you get the idea.

    Much has been made of the longevity of paper and film but they really are not anywhere near fool proof. Paper can dry out and fall apart, it can be ruined by getting wet, it can burn, etc etc.

    The best course of action in this digital age is to periodically rejuvenate you data by copying it to a new media or some such. Without proper care paper data files will over time become degraded and lost and the same holds true for digital. Arguably the digital data is more susceptible to loss due to natural degradation but as noted in one of the posts above the biggest enemy of data longevity is the human in charge of it.
     
  5. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    Thank you for your reply, very informative.

    What kind of equipment do they use to produce "a CD we buy" ? It's not available or is it just too expensive?

    I also think this is probably the best solution, and I'm now planning to go through all the data stored on my CDs and transfer the important stuff to medium size USB HDs.

    @dw426
    When I was talking about photo-film negatives, I wasn't referring to quality in traditional photography versus digital, but to the lasting capabilities of a well kept black & white negative which can nowadays be guaranteed for over 100 years before it might start to degrade. One could also argue about the quality, there aren't yet digital camera sensors that can match a negative of 10 X 8 inches, but this is off topic anyway.
     
  6. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    I am not sure but I expect its some kind of pressed die. If this is the case then a master would be made, put onto a press of some sort, and then the blank disks would be stamped. Clearly this is not something that will ever be available for individuals to use.

    That being said I could be completely wrong about this and it may be some laser process (a higher powered laser than is used in a PC) or perhaps a chemical etch process.

    As always you probably would be wise to take anything posted with a grain of salt and do your own research to confirm or discredit what you have been told. As I said I believe my information to be fairly accurate but I did the research a good number of years ago and my memory could be fuzzy. Also, and this may be more relevant, technology changes very quickly and what was true 4 or 5 years ago may well have been supplanted by new processes and technologies. For example,,,,,Do Blue Ray disks have better life or worse? Is Verbatum still one of the best or has it slipped?

    The subject is important enough that making sure of the facts is probably a good idea.
     
  7. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    After using the CD media for approx. 14+ years, my conclusion is:
    Life expectancy is anywhere between 0 seconds and infinity :) Nothing solid.

    I found the BURNER and BURNER SW to be the most critical elements - more important than media itself. I have el cheapo disks more than 10 years old working fine and brand high-quality disks that died just after being burned.

    Mrk
     
  8. Longboard

    Longboard Registered Member

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    This is an interesting topic: very important for many of us who run businesses that require some form of record keeping for >20 years ( me included)

    We all know Paper and ink as a medium can last for 100+ years.
    <AND WE CAN STILL READ IT>
    Anyone really think that any CD, DVD, Tape or Hd will last like that. ??

    Think of the massive techno changes from early tapes through to 10inch floppies,cassetes. then, current floppies, then laser discs, miniCD, DVD, now Blue Ray discs, tape systems, high speed HD, SATA, PATA, IDE, USB etc etc , now SSD ( and all the 'card' options. )even in our computer experience timeline.

    And I'm prolly not even utd.

    We don't even know what we'll be using in 5 years, let alone have readers and/or software for any of the legacy systems.

    File formats changing all the time.. ?? .pdf still here in 10 years.??
    LOL, can Office 2009 even read MS works files ?? NO.

    Certainly from my own experience, spreadsheet files are rendered without any compatibility from Office 2000 to Office 2008 ( or something)

    The implications for data retention over the last 60 odd and the next 100 years are very important; both HW and software.

    From my perspective none of the current HW solutions are immutable or indestructible and your data needs to be migrated to new HW and through new SW as required or you will lose it, or almost certainly lose access to it.

    That may sound a bit melodramatic: but remember Google is only 10 years old.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2009
  9. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    Hello,

    Long, your post brings up two important points:

    1) Data should be saved as plain text - then, no worries about formats.
    2) Paper lasts longer, but it's more difficult to replicate. You can copy digital data every year and maintain it fresh forever.

    Mrk
     
  10. Longboard

    Longboard Registered Member

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    LOL: even paper is not what it used to be and ink, and physical photos;definitely not.
    I've seen fresh prints on paper from cheapo printers 'fade to grey' over 6 months.
    We hope so.
    ;)
    PS: Sounds antique but we keep hard copy and digital copies of all our data.
    Hope to hell there are no rats in the vaults at Iron Mountain. :D
    We also rely on prolly the poorest paid workers at that company to accurately scan and back-up what we send them.

    ( infact we have 4 backups: Original working system, backed up 2-3x daily onto 3 computers and network drive, physical hardcopy in place: active files on site, inactive in storage and in storage, scannned records of inactive hard copy on physical media CDs and HDs.)
    Realistically for my biz, that is about the minimum for ease of operation and compliance. :blink:
    The phrase "paper trail" takes on a whole new dimension.
    :)
     
  11. dbknox

    dbknox Registered Member

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    I have been making data CD/DVD for some 20 years now and when I read that they might not last as long as was originally thought, I bought 2 USB hard drives and backed up everything to them, so far I have not had problems with any of my data media, but I still feel a little safer with my backups on 2 USB hard drives. As mentioned above every time a new Media comes out, floppy, cd,dvd and next blue-ray the Data disks get burned to the new Media.
    I have old Data CDs, which are backed up to DVD and to hard drive, I will soon need a bigger house.
     
  12. JRViejo

    JRViejo Global Moderator

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    bgoodman4, you were correct the first time. The Music Industry replicate CDs, while most computers users duplicate CDs and the technology is vastly different. A glass master is used to stamp (or press as you mention) the data onto a disc and this replication process allows a CD to be played in all players, while a duplication process writes data to the CD via a laser, and sometimes that CD does not play in some players, although it's a lot better these days than in the past.

    To answer Osaban's question, you can buy excellent Duplicators, like the EZ Dupe, but Replicators are found in professional CD replication companies, like Oasis, a well known source for independent music artists, and that equipment is not available to the general public.
     
  13. DCM

    DCM Registered Member

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    I have read that archival grade cd's will last a very long time. They are hard to find but I finally saw some on sale at Fry's today and may go look at them.

    Anyone know if they actually do have a longer life?

    Thanks
     
  14. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    This is probably as good an assurance as you are going to get (and its obviously no guarantee). That being said it is more likely that you will get something closer to advertised life from a high quality disk than from a low quality one. It just makes sense that if the disk was not designed to last a long time it probably won't. If the data is very important then its reasonable to make multiple copies of it and periodically "refresh" it. Lets be honest, much of the data produced has little value except for the relatively short term. Personal data generally has value only for the person who created it and possibly a few of the people in his or her circle. The pictures of my dog mean a lot to me but as a record for posterity they have no value at all. The same goes for the vast majority of e-mails out there,,,etc. I suspect if things have some sort of historic significance a record will be preserved. As for ancient documents, well, even on paper they are rare. If you want permanence then chisel your data into stone,,,,or maybe etch it into stainless steel. Then you know it will survive most anything. Frankly I cannot imagine any piece of data that I so zealously protect now having any value 100 years from now. Once I am gone it will mean very little if anything to anyone alive at the time.

    To get back on topic--------

    There is all kinds of info on the net, the results of 2 google searches can be found below.

    A google search using the search "archival grade cd"

    http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&s...ndow=1&q=archival grade cd.&btnG=Search&meta=

    Result for "test dvd life'

    http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&s...newwindow=1&q=test dvd life&btnG=Search&meta=
     
  15. PROROOTECT

    PROROOTECT Registered Member

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    Burn 'your data into stone'.

    Let me start this from today.

    My dear Favorites, my address of Wilders Forums ...:argh:

    PROROOTECT
     
  16. DCM

    DCM Registered Member

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  17. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    I have bookmarked all the interesting links kindly supplied in this thread. It is reassuring to know that there are companies where one can buy these gold etched DVDs which seem to have a projected life expectancy of up to 200 years (it's not only a commercial issue, I wouldn't mind to make sure my grand grand children can have a chance to know the world we are currently experiencing, a bit like creating your own museum pieces).

    The price remains an issue at the moment, and as already mentioned it is probably cheaper and more versatile to use USB HDs to transfer data to new ones every 4- 5 years (I also think archival qualities of CDs and DVDs can only improve in relation to a price/archival ratio perspective, in the near future).
     
  18. EASTER

    EASTER Registered Member

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    I always been an outspoken advocate against the rapid deterioration of plastic media for something on the level of a metal composite material with a much greater lifespan.

    It can be done, and is in more technologically advanced industries, but the way the big commercial distribution players make such whopper profits is with the use of plastic and it's thin weak coating that a even exposure to sunlight can quickly render it coaster platter.

    It's a money maker for them, and cheap to boot.
     
  19. Longboard

    Longboard Registered Member

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    @DCM: ta for that link = interesting reading and stuff to follow up on. :thumb:

    Beyond business concerns re data retention and protection/compliance issues:

    Never even heard of Gold archival dvds: never really looked for it yet I s'pose.
    LOL, buy several gold dvds then have the industry move to a different standard and no more dvd readers o_O

    Never really think of .tif files as lossless till now.

    Lots of digicams will take 'raw' images.
    Hadn't even begun thinking of archives for g'children yet :blink:
    Still too young :D
    BUT, I have had friends who have had seriously life altering experiences recently and they have started giving some thought to AV archives for their kids and g'kids.
    Had one friend die of really rapidly progressive ALL with a three yo son. No memories for him other than still photos. :(
    Kinda nice really to have some AV files for him.
    Maybe a bit spooky. ?

    Some of my own family archives were destroyed in a fire and some old films were lost somewhere, Saddened me that my sprogs wont see some of that stuff that I remember so well.

    As we move into "digital memories"; lots of stuff to think about.
    lol, look where a simple query by Osaban re has taken me.
    Ruminations re Life, memory and preservation in the digital age.
    :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2009
  20. bgoodman4

    bgoodman4 Registered Member

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    Even with the gold archival disks there is a big question mark ------ will there be devices capable of reading a 200 year old disk available to the public? I would imagine historians and the like would have some sort of disk reader if not one that is itself approximately 200 years old but the average Joe (or your great great grandkids) not too likely. IMO the best bet is keeping up with technology and transferring the data you deem important to the new technology when it becomes available and affordable. Hopefully as new technologies develop they will also have better life expectancies than current popular media. 5 years can go by real fast and I bet many if not most of us have CDs and DVDs that are older than that already. ------- Probably a good idea to include the creation date on the jewel-case so its easy to get an idea how long its been since creation.
     
  21. JRViejo

    JRViejo Global Moderator

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    Just talking about sound recordings & reproduction, I have used the following media:

    • 78's (Shellac discs rotating at 78 rpm)
    • 45's (7" Vinyl singles in Mono & Stereo)
    • 33's (12" Vinyl Long Playing Records in Mono, Hi-Fi, Stereo & Quadraphonic Sound)
    • Reel-to-Reel Tapes (still own a Teac 4010GSL, 4 Tracker)
    • 8 Track Tapes
    • Cassette Tapes
    • DAT's (Digital Audio Tapes)
    • Compact Discs
    • MP3
    That's new technology being available every 7 years of my life. Thus the question becomes not how long media will last, but, as Longboard & bgoodman4 pointed out, will the equipment be around to play that media in 20 years, let alone 200 years?

    Remember Betamax tapes or 8 mm film? You are going to be forced to buy newer technology every 5 years anyway, simply to keep up with advances in technology. Call it built-in obsolescence. ;)
     
  22. Mrkvonic

    Mrkvonic Linux Systems Expert

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    I think that data we have today will remain pretty much forever. Since approx. mid-80s, everything we do digitally is gonna stay. You have emulators for dos, atari, commodore, etc. You have formats that are approching their 40th birthday and are still valid. Because they were done wisely and because there are some basic laws in physics that preclude any fancy mumbo jumbo. You may have usper-hyper storage, but it still comes down to little particles and what semi-conductors do and such.

    If books from 11th century survived a 1,000 years to sit in libraries, across ages of war, famine, rats, moisture, etc, then I guess digital data will last at least as much.

    Furthermore, digital data is spread across the world. Internet is a giant p2p net; everyone has a bit of everything. So data will always remain, even if 80-90% of people move on. While lots of data exists on public servers, much of it has been downloaded to our machines or created thereon. We hold and shape the data. We're the data.

    As long as humans exist, the data will be kept. And today, it's simpler than it was thousands of years ago and yet we have quite a bit from those ages.

    Mrk
     
  23. DCM

    DCM Registered Member

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    I saw an ad last week for 100 of the archival quality CD's. The price was $14.99 I think. Seems like it was at Fry's. I haven't been to their store this week but will look on my next visit.
     
  24. LockBox

    LockBox Registered Member

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    Absolutely! This is the key. High quality archival media with high-quality sealants. Remember, the DVDs we produce at home are 'burned' versus the 'pressed' varieties from the studios. The 'burned' media requires high-quality sealants and dyes. That means Gold, which means Advanced Azo dye. Nothing else if you want long lasting preservation. The problem is the market is not big enough to find these in most retail stores. You'll more than likely have to buy online. Remember the name: Taiyo Yuden with a TYG02 disk type. That's the best of the best. CD prices are very reasonable, DVD prices are pretty steep. But in this case, you truly get what you pay for.

    Here's a good site to look over concerning digital preservation - http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/you/

    edit - I should also mention certain Cyanine dye disks. The Taiyo Yuden Silver Thermal Lacquer CD disks are also considered 100+ year disks and are a little bit cheaper. Some people swear they are as good as anything. I know Amazon has these for about $30 for 100. Not bad for that that kind of quality. Remember, we're talking CDs.

    If you must have DVDs, they're very expensive. US availablity is pretty much limited to Delkin, Verbatim and MAM-A. All very good, but again, be prepared to shell out the big bucks.

    Another edit: The Library of Congress is now using a disk called the Millennial Disc™
    http://news.millenniata.com/newsrelease-cid-1-id-10003.html

    The manufacturers of the Millennial Disc is Millenniata. http://www.millenniata.com

    The basics -

    Millenniata’s products are the new Millennial DiscTM and the Millennial WriterTM. Together, these products will revolutionize the way we store and preserve information in the digital age.

    Instead of burning new CDs or creating new magnetic tape backups every few years, companies and individuals will be able to write information onto a Millennial Disc using a standard desktop computer equipped with the Millennial Writer, and archive the data in its initial format for a thousand years.

    What’s more, the Millennial Disc is backwards compatible, so existing CD and DVD drives are able to read data from the new Millennial Disc.


    Fascinating stuff!
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2009
  25. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    Fascinating indeed, there's no mention of price though, and I suspect they are not going to be cheap. I can imagine that museums and libraries might be very keen to have such technology available.

    I have always thought that our real history (from a documentation perspective) started with the 20th century, photography and film making recording events as they happened. If we are going to survive self destruction in the far future, we might have a chance to have a record of our relative origins.
     
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