Safest permanent storage method

Over the years, I’ve always wondered: what is the safest permanent method of storing our important personal files.

I tried backup hard disk drives, but was shocked to find that everything can vanish in a second if the hard disk broke suddenly, which happens unexpectedly.

I tried CDs, but scratches can make them impossible to access.

I tried DVDs, but after sometime they fail to open too.

I tried flash drives, but they could break too. I have a relatively new flash drive which now fails to let me access it or even format it.

I tried online file storage. They’re great, specially But there is no guarantee that they will not go out of business in the future.

I even tried gmail, sending important files to myself. It works great, but they have a 30mb limit. I guess we can split large files. It would require some work, but at least google is not likely to go out of business, and probably more stable than any other web company.

I know important files should be double backed up. I made some cost comparison and found out that hard disk drives are still the cheapest media. May be one should buy a hard disk (500gb costs about $50 now), and keep it offline, connected only when saving files, so that we keep one copy in that offline hard drive, and another in gmail.

What do you recommend for storing a backup of your important files?

Use at least TWO different methods, eg. tape/dat streamer in combination with a dvd backup.

[QUOTE=chef;2290610]Use at least TWO different methods, eg. tape/dat streamer in combination with a dvd backup.[/QUOTE]

Good advice; one method should be offsite (in case of fire, meteorite strike etc.!). Use good quality DVD media and store in a cool, dry, dark place and check annually.

If backing up online, I would use at least two different servers and use hard encryption to protect your data. Again, you should check your data annually and update the encryption as new methods and longer encryption keys become available. You should store your encryption passwords in a safe place at home as well as in a fire proof safe, or offsite with a trusted friend/family member. Remember: losing the key is the same as losing the data!



For price per Gigabyte, DVD is by far the cheapest medium to store data on, but as you mention, if you use a large number of discs, there is a very good chance of having one or more unreadable discs later on. If you plan backing up a large amount of data (e.g. >100GB), DVD is also the most tedious (after CD), as you need to change disc after each one is filled.

Unless money is not an issue, I would also suggest avoiding Blu-ray, which in my opinion is a rip-off compared to other storage mediums, including hard disks! Like CD & DVD, there is also the risk of a disc becoming unreadable later on. The main advantage over DVD is that you don’t need as many discs when backing up a large quantity of data, however, if you plan backing up over 500GB worth, even this storage medium can be quite tedious.

For convenience and the next cheapest after DVD, hard disks have the huge advantage of storage capacity. For up to the hard drive capacity, you can backup everything in one go, leaving the backup process run overnight. Use a 2nd hard disk if you really want to make sure the data can be recovered. The chances of losing files on your main hard disk along with two backup hard disks failing together is extremely rare. Just be sure to keep one off-site.

A few tips depending on the amount you want to backup:

[li]<5GB - Write this to 2 DVDs or several CDs or to a a combination of CD/DVD and online storage[/li][li]5GB to 50GB - Make 2 sets of DVDs from this or a set of DVDs and to removable media (e.g. ext. HDD or flash drives)[/li][li]50GB to 500GB - Store the data on 2 external hard disks. If you have Blu-ray or tape drive, you can use a single hard disk and make a set of BD-Rs or tapes as the 2nd backup.[/li][li]500GB+ - Store the data on at least 2 external hard disks.[/li][/ul]

Follow midders’ advice also. As midders mentioned, it is very important to keep at least one copy off-site. E.g. Even 1,000 back-up copies of that precious once in a lifetime photo is no good if they are all destroyed in a fire. :disagree:

The following gives an idea of the price to back up 1TB on two sets of same media, assuming you have the necessary drive (DVD or Blu-ray writer) if required. These prices are based on Dabs Ireland, so the pricing will likely differ to your area:

[li]4 packs of 100-spindle of Verbatim DVD+R 16x (2 sets of ~940GB) - €100 (10.6c/GB)[/li][li]2 Western Digital 1TB Elements Black USB drives - €167.62 (16.8c/GB)[/li][li]8 packs of 10-spindle of Verbatim BD-R 4x - €485.68 (48.5c / GB)[/li][/ul]

Tape storage has a high initial cost for the drive, but if you plan backing up several Terabytes worth of data, tape storage is very reliable from my experience of working with servers. Unlike hard disks and other media, it is very rare for a tape to become totally unreadable, unless of course it is lost or is destroyed. On the other hand, recovering individual files can be quite tedious, as like with any other tape medium, it takes a while for the drive to seek each file. A full recovery on the other hand goes relatively quick, as the tape is simply sequentially read. I would suggest avoiding the tape route unless the content you are backing up is business related.

Embed the data in dinosaur or tree fossils! As you know fossils survive for millions of years! :slight_smile:

Multiple backups give you a higher guarantee that your data will be safe, but a lower guarantee that your data is synchronised over each and every seperate backup.

If you have a NAS (network attach storage), set it up so that your client makes automatic backups. The backup your NAS frequently using another disk. Make sure you verify all data transactions.