backup media ?

a59303

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Hi,

Just wondering what is a common, durable, reliable media for backups. Do people keep hard drives in the closet that work forever, or is optical media better... Tape storage? Is a pen-drive good for long term? Are Cd's better than DVD's or vice-versa? I have several music cd's that have skips where there are no scratches that I can see (which I attribute to deterioration).

I see that one can obtain a tape drive online for a somewhat inexpensive price, although I wonder if the availability of the tapes may be an issue for the less expensive ones.

Essentially looking for a archive method that is not on, that is, plugged into electrical power.

Thanks,

a5'
 

SirDice

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Writable CD/DVDs are absolutely awful as backups. They're extremely prone to bitrot. The most reliable and durable is still tape backups. But storage sizes have made it almost impossible to use tape for backup unless you have a really big tape robot. It'll get really expensive if you need to backup a couple of Terabyte.

If you need something affordable and easy to use, external harddrives are the way to go. Preferably to two or more.
 

kpa

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I use a 2TB external USB drive. I know it won't last forever but it's only for home use and the data is not completely irreplaceable. Optical media is out of the question for me because I consider the disks dangerous toxic waste that can not be recycled.
 

PacketMan

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I'm using Bittorrent Sync to replicate my stuff to other FreeBSD nodes that are off-site. Drop a file in one machine and it automatically replicates to the other nodes. In the event a node suffers a catastrophe failure my content is on the other machines. I can rebuild the failed node, add the Bittorent Sync shares back in and all data will re-replicate back to it.

But that doesn't protect me from something like rm -f -R *. So I also use network based 'backup/cloud' drives you get at the big box stores. I don't enable the cloud stuff, just FTP. I use TAR for each 'parent' folder, and then FTP the .tar files to the backup drive. I have two of these and I rotate them on/off site.

So far so good.
 
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a59303

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Thanks for the replies.

-SirDice

So for a drive without power an external would do or would a regular internal with an antistatic bag do the same. I am thinking long term, closet situation.
Although I think you mean an ongoing situation, I intend this to be a manual backup and not too frequently.

-kpa

I am aiming to treat this data as valuable, so hoping for something that will last at least ten years, without checking for verity.

-PacketMan

As far as solutions to backing up real-time I am less interested in. The problem of backing up once, likely redundantly (reminded by SirDice), is not really what I am addressing here. What I mean to say is, the way of backing up is not what I am interested in.

Thanks,

a5'
 

SirDice

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So for a drive without power an external would do or would a regular internal with an antistatic bag do the same. I am thinking long term, closet situation.
Although I think you mean an ongoing situation, I intend this to be a manual backup and not too frequently.
Both would be the same but it's a little harder to open the case, place the backup drive, backup, open case again, remove backup drive, etc. In this sense a USB external drive is easier to move, plugin, use, unplug, store. But you could achieve the same if you have one of those hot-swap drive bays.
 

ANOKNUSA

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Essentially looking for a archive method that is not on, that is, plugged into electrical power ... I am aiming to treat this data as valuable, so hoping for something that will last at least ten years, without checking for verity.
Digital storage should never be considered quite reliable enough to last for years on end. The true advantage that digital storage has over stone and paper is the ease with and speed at which information can be duplicated and disseminated. Even if you buy industrial-grade hardware, you'll want to periodically check it every so often, and replace it in a few years if you actually expect to keep something intact "forever." External hard disks, thumb drives, and optical discs will gradually break down even if you leave them sitting in an airtight container in a locked safe in your closet, and in any case, the connectors to those media will inevitably change and render them useless. When that will happen (and how quickly) can be hard to say.

A couple years ago I sat down for a talk with Arvid Nelson, the head archivist at the University of Minnesota's Charles Babbage Institute. He said one of the most interesting, yet taxing things they had to deal with from time to time was people donating historical records that had been stored on digital media with the expectation that they'd last "forever." The cost of storing and transporting fifty boxes of photocopied paper is pretty quantifiable. Tracking down an old connector for a dozen hard drives for a early-1980s Macintosh, getting it working with a modern hardware interface, and then writing a machine-level program, just to retrieve already corrupted files from it? That's a cost you can't measure in money alone.
 
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a59303

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-ANOKNUSA

Sounds like kinda the situation I was wondering about. Do you have any pointers as to where to find some sort of time/durability comparison?

Thanks,

a5'
 

ANOKNUSA

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Thanks for the link, a59303. I'll have to read through all of that myself. It actually reminds me that the file format can also be important, and depending on the type of information the better archival file formats can require much more storage space.

I'm no professional archivist or engineer myself, so I can't really say what plan or which media would be the absolute best in the long run. This is actually something I'd enjoy learning too. ;) I'd definitely second other's opinions about optical media---way too fragile, not reusable, and a waste of vital natural resources. I'd also put no faith at all in low-cost flash storage like SD cards and thumb drives, which are practically disposable. So you're really left with some form of hard disk or solid-state drive solution.

Really, there are three inescapable considerations:

  • No matter what medium the data is stored on, it will need to be periodically verified
  • No matter what medium the data is stored on, it will inevitably need to be moved.
  • The best practice would be preservation through propagation, keeping multiple copies in multiple, reasonably safe locations (what is "safe" is an assessment you will need to make)
  • Nothing is ever guaranteed. Houses burn down, safety deposit box keys get lost, safe combinations get forgotten, and disk drives fail.
 
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a59303

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ANOKNUSA
That is more or less what I had thought, although with much less actual knowledge. Although I also noticed, as you mentioned, that the format is also important. Video compressions change, formats change, things cannot be resurrected without advanced knowledge.
 

Crivens

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It actually reminds me that the file format can also be important
A friend of mine once had to access data stored in a company archive. The archive needs to provide at least 35 years of history, and they got an 8" floppy. After getting the thing onto more modern storage, they found some WordStar 1.0 documents. Luckily the information they were after was obtainable by "strings". That company archive, by the way, only accepts ASCII and PNG these days. So you need to archive your Word.doc? Print it into PNG files, page for page.

Other companies store their long-term records on laser discs, not the rewriteable but those made of glass which are gold-plated after laser etching. Funny things out there...
 
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a59303

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Yeah, but viable personal storage. This is less lucrative so less addressed and most people want to backup off-site. I want something that I can have access to physically, for a period of time.

I saw on the archive.org site ( https://archive.org/about/#store ) that they used to use tape but then they seem to be stopping that for I suppose a live setup. I mean one that is on. They mention that tape has a lifetime of 30 years but industry trusts it for 10. Although considering the entire data ecosystem seems to be in evolution, maybe backups would be good for 5 years... considering formats compatibility, particularly in the case of obscure formats. So one has to find a format that will last and is compatible with the intention (for example a .doc), convert to that and store.

Food for thought anyway.

a5'

For example softimage xsi scene format, which I used, and have accumulated a lot of data with is probably obscure considering that they have changed versions and company ownership.
 
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