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What's the Best Long Term Physical Storage Device?

By Right side bob · 21 replies
Feb 17, 2019
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  1. I'm looking to store personal and sensitive information for years/decades. Kinda like a memory box but with Videos of my Childhood for my descendants. They're also some financial and inheritance information I am looking to keep secure. The data is obviously going to be encrypted (I'm not dumb) 256 bit or higher. I don't care much about speed just how long I can retain data without it being corrupted.
  2. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,112   +1,592

    CD-RW or DVD.

    as the media is removable, it has its own physical security (unless your home is subject to periodic break-ins).

    CAUTION:- The loss of either the program or the encryption key will be fatal (aka make the media useless).
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
    MattS and learninmypc like this.
  3. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,173   +3,777

    Whelp hard drives and other forms of magnetic storage media are out of the question as their magnetic properties weaken and should be refreshed every 3 years.

    The US National Archive rates CDs and DVD at 5 - 10 years.

    Blu-ray discs last longer then CDs and DVDs as they use an inorganic dye and include a protective layer, unlike CDs or DVDs.

    M Discs claim to last 1,000 years (although no one has been able to test that claim to it's fullest yet). They are essentially blu-rays designed specifically for archival purposes. The US Department of defense has done testing on M Discs and found that they are significantly more durable then previous optical media. M Discs are not as greatly affected by temperature and humidity as DVDs, CDs, and Bluray discs are. The only caveats with this is that they are expensive and require a Blu-ray drive that works with them. Most good blu-ray drives should be compatible.
  4. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,403   +39

    How long is "good enough" for you though? That'd probably be the question that decides what medium you use.

    Regardless of the media, I would use the rule of 3, and probably forego encryption (a forgotten passphrase will make it all useless; memories fade). I'd also recommend using a non-proprietary format for your data so you can be sure it can be accessed in the future.

    Personally, I think a cloud backup would be ideal for your purposes since it'd be least likely to be affected by obsolescence (we might not have optical media readers around forever).
  5. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,173   +3,777

    I do not think he would go out of his way to mention this data is personal and sensitive to just end up storing it on the cloud. The first question you have to ask is do you trust the cloud provider to keep your data secure for potentially decades? I'd say no. Mind you cloud providers haven't even been around for a decade, who says the provider you pick won't just up and disappear along with your data?

    Don't think storing data on an optical disc is a problem either. VHS was invented in 1976 and you can still get players off eBay dirt cheap. Optical drives are even more common.
  6. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,403   +39

    Cloud storage provides the largest guarantee that the data will be accessible for the longest period of time possible, unlike most physical media.

    Google Drive for Business offers unlimited storage for a fairly low price; if you’re worried about privacy, use something like rclone to encrypt the data you put on there. Also, I don’t think Google is going anywhere anytime soon.

    Just my $0.02; physical media-wise, optical is really the only one that has any kind of longevity.
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,173   +3,777

    I don't think Cloud storage advertises cold storage of your data for up to 1,000 years, even if they go out of business like M-Discs do. Mind you cloud storage is not cloud backup. Services like google drive do not offer all the additional perks that an online backup provider would give you. If you are going to backup your data online I would at the least suggest you go specifically to an online backup provider.
  8. GaryMove

    GaryMove TS Enthusiast Posts: 169   +13

    I prefer USB because I lost so many DVD CDR store options of damaged disks.
  9. lexster

    lexster TS Guru Posts: 611   +299

    That was most likely a cheap discs problem or improper burn speed selection. The thing with optical media is that just because it states a maximum burn speed doesn't mean you should use that speed. I generally use the lowest speed available to ensure the most stable recording possible.

    I can confirm statements above that MDisc is the most stable media available for long term data storage.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
  10. lexster

    lexster TS Guru Posts: 611   +299

    Problems with your options;

    Cloud storage can be hacked and if the company shuts down, or is shut down, without notice good luck getting your data back. It also does not qualify under the terms requested in the Title and OP.

    Storage appliances, such as external HDD's and NAS are good, but can break down. Optical disc storage is safe, can be encrypted and is always at your finger tips.
  11. lexster

    lexster TS Guru Posts: 611   +299

    Let's review the title of the thread topic;
    "What's the Best Long Term Physical Storage Device?"
    Yup, that's what it says. Notice the part where is says "Physical Storage Device"? Do you think cloud storage applies here?
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  12. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,552   +437

    My take is there is no real answer here. What you should do is put it on whatever you have available, and refresh that thought every few years. You can attempt to store stuff on whatever media you want, but if you can't read that media in 20 years because you can't interface with that reader anymore then it doesn't do you much good.

    I've been around and burning CDs since the 2x burn rates and I still have some that will read - most of the ones that fail to read aren't because the dyes failed, but simply because I failed to take care of them (scratches). That is ~20 years. However, I never burned them expecting them to last 20 years and I don't think anyone should store something expecting that longevity. I think if something is very important, put it on something you can easily deal with now, and when it looks like that technology is losing favor, copy that stuff over to something that is current. Repeat this as often as necessary. Do it with file formats too, you don't want to be holding on to some file type that looks like its fading into obscurity without at least attempting to get it saved into something that is going to be used for a few more years.
    LNCPapa and cliffordcooley like this.
  13. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 15,172   +4,121

    Just an observation that "RW" discs aren't in any way shape or form, stable. My experience is that they fail frequently, after being overwritten perhaps only a couple of times.

    Also that DVD-Video files written to DVD-R discs didn't always read correctly. But that may have been the responsibility of the trash DVD burner (Toshiba), which came with my eMachines.

    Oddly, I had a freestanding DVD burner by Pioneer, which pumped out hundreds if not thousands of Video discs onto DVD-R blanks, without a hiccup.

    The most currently (and formerly), durable media, is good old fashioned silver B & W photo prints, dark stored.

    I full well realize it's not germane to this issue either, but I have some 40 year old Ektachrome slides which have been dark stored and are as good as new. Although, I also have some which have faded, or gotten moldy.

    You're right thinking that optical media is likely the path to greatest longevity. However, "these kids today", and their streaming habit, along with the extravagant prices of prerecorded DVD & Blu-Ray, are causing the media to fade into oblivion. We just had a news article about Samsung would no longer be introducing new Blu-Ray players.

    New computer cases are coming in plenty, without optical media slots, and well, "the rubber band breaks" on most computer burners in a couple of short years.(You push the "eject button" on the drive, and it just sits there and "burns rubber", in a manner of speaking.

    So, as a matter of practicality, "the duck did come down", on the "there is no correct answer', answer.

    Well Google probably will be around throughout everyone's lifetime in this thread. "Back Blaze" though, not really sure.

    Privacy really isn't an issue for not using the cloud. I figure a hacker could make as many copies of your son's 2nd birthday party, and cause no harm nor earn a penny by illegally distributing them.

    For the real hardcore stuff like birth certificates, deeds to your property (s), grandma's wedding ring, an old school safety deposit box is the best solution for those type things.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  14. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,581   +5,140

    I've only had that issue with HP branded drives (some I think were Toshiba). Since I started buying LG and Samsung, I no longer have that issue. I'm sure there are other brands that never had the issue. Does new drives still suffer from spinning wheels?
  15. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,581   +5,140

    I prefer not using Google. I will continue to despise Google, as long as they are bundling their browser in every piece of freeware on the Internet. That pretty much classifies their browser as a PUP. With that said I do have an account. But I don't use it, unless I absolutely have to.
    Evernessince likes this.
  16. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,552   +437

    Somewhat related... Microsoft recently upped my free OneDrive storage from 50GB to 100GB.. I'm not sure they are better than Google for storing my stuff, but they might be :)
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,581   +5,140

    Mine is only 5GB. I'm now questioning why you would have 45GB more than I, and then upgraded to 100GB. They must be data mining or else they would want you to pay for anything higher than the other accounts.

    On the rare occasion I might take a picture with my phone. I have it set to upload to OneDrive. I'm currently only using 15MB. The 5GB just isn't large enough for any backup solution I want. I'm not complaining just stating I can't use it unless paying for the upgrade. Which is why I don't understand why your free account was upgraded higher than 5GB. They must love your activity.
  18. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,552   +437

    Yikes. I don't know man. https://imgur.com/a/SIrFF17

    I've had a OneDrive account for a LONG time, and added some additional storage twice WAY back in the day when you could still exchange Bing points for additional storage, so that may have something to do with it.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,581   +5,140

    You may have something there. I never did trade point. I have 62K points at the moment.
  20. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,552   +437

    Oh man, start cashing those things in for gift cards!
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  21. oliverpowell

    oliverpowell TS Enthusiast Posts: 28

    Well, whatever storage device you chose all are uncertain in life and needs special treatment when you want to store data for long time. I won't suggest any CD or DVD because several scratches on the platter of the disc may ruin your data. I will suggest you to go for any Seagate or WD external hard drive to store your important and personal data for long time as it's easy to maintain and store these drives.
  22. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 4,173   +3,777

    External Hard drives are not suitable for the OP's use case. They need to restore the strength of the magnetization every 3 years. That's at the maximum. Ideally you would run the drive more frequently then that. The OP has clearly stated they want to store it long term.

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