Monday, January 16, 2006

Should you store on CD or magnetic tape?

In the article "IBM expert warns of short life span for burned CDs," Kurt Gerecke, a physicist and storage expert at IBM Deutschland says, "If you want to avoid having to burn new CDs every few years, use magnetic tapes to store all your pictures, videos and songs for a lifetime." The article states that cheap CDs may last two years, while higher quality CDs may last five years. (If your experiences have been better than that, you should be very thankful.) This is in stark contrast to the 100 year life span of CDs that is often discussed. According to Gerecke, magnetic tapes are better for long-term storage since they have a life span of 30 years to 100 years. However, no storage medium will last forever, so timely migrating from one storage media to another is necessary.

When talking about what media to use to store archival quality images, people have very specific ideas. Many people -- including me -- point to CDs. People involved in mammoth digitization programs might talk about using hard drives for long-term storage, due to the space requirements. There is perhaps no correct answer, but rather an answer that first a particular situation. What is worth remembering, though, is that those files cannot be stored away and forgotten. They must be maintained or they will be lost.

By the way, "j" in her posting about this says:
Conservation OnLine provides lots of information about preserving various formats. It includes some items about CDs and digital files in its audio materials and electronic storage media sections.

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