I always assumed that CDs and DVDs would last forever. But research shows that is not always the case. They might deteriorate in less than three to five years. So what can you do?

Remember that quality counts. Since you are going to trust these little round discs to hold your precious images, don’t skimp on quality. Buying the cheapest blank CDs and DVDs you can find may be the worst decision you make during your photographic career. These cheap discs can cause problems.

In my experience, I’ve found that the gold discs give the best performance. I am now using the Delkin Deviced Archival Gold products.

Why gold? Gold foil layers don’t oxidize. Oxidation is one of the downfalls of the cheap discs. They can become unreadable. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Gold discs offer better quality control, are properly balanced and usually havean extra layer of scratch protection.

But backups shouldn’t stop at CDs or DVDs. Drive space is cheaper than ever. Consider using disk drives to hold your backups. Also consider online or tape.

I use a combination of Drobo for local backup, tape drive for remote backup (in this case in another state) and DVDs as well as redundant online storage for my really special images. I also have several copies of my photo library on another Drobo stored at my office.

What do you do?

This post sponsored by Lensbabies.

Join the conversation! 84 Comments

  1. I am relatively new to photography and have around 200GB of photos. Up to now I had decided to keep my images on my external newertech drive hooked up to my Mac Mini and back up on two USB drives. I just started this week backing up to the cheap CD’s, thinking they would last and be safer than the hard drives so this post was very timely. Thanks

  2. I am relatively new to photography and have around 200GB of photos. Up to now I had decided to keep my images on my external newertech drive hooked up to my Mac Mini and back up on two USB drives. I just started this week backing up to the cheap CD’s, thinking they would last and be safer than the hard drives so this post was very timely. Thanks

  3. I usually back up to CD/DVD an external hard drive and offline backup. Special images such as wedding pictures and special photos also get a CD/DVD copy get sent to my parents house and they put it in a small fire resistant safe I gave them.

  4. I usually back up to CD/DVD an external hard drive and offline backup. Special images such as wedding pictures and special photos also get a CD/DVD copy get sent to my parents house and they put it in a small fire resistant safe I gave them.

  5. Scott, you really take this backup thing too seriously. What’s that? Ooops. Just a minute.

    Ya honey, what do you need?

    You unplugged the Time Capsule cause the light was blinking? You what? When? Last week?

    OMG, hey Scott I’m gonna have to get back with you later man. It looks like none of my last four shoots ever got backed up.

    Bye. See-ya!

  6. Scott, you really take this backup thing too seriously. What’s that? Ooops. Just a minute.

    Ya honey, what do you need?

    You unplugged the Time Capsule cause the light was blinking? You what? When? Last week?

    OMG, hey Scott I’m gonna have to get back with you later man. It looks like none of my last four shoots ever got backed up.

    Bye. See-ya!

  7. unfortunately, i can’t afford a drobo and a few 200gb drives for it. and space on my macbook is extremely limited, so i store photos on wuala (http://wua.la/en/home.html) and it’s a pretty well place for them.

  8. unfortunately, i can’t afford a drobo and a few 200gb drives for it. and space on my macbook is extremely limited, so i store photos on wuala (http://wua.la/en/home.html) and it’s a pretty well place for them.

  9. All the research I’ve done says that as long as your get decent metal, that’s not usually the problem (at least for DVDs, not the same for CDs). Everything I’ve seen suggests that the extra money for gold isn’t worth it. The biggest problem is they dyes that are used to make the discs writable, many of them break down over time. The brand I see recommended most is Taiyo Yuden, which comes out of japan. Should last 70-100 years and is very consistent in its quality… that’s what I give images to my clients on. You can find them at reasonable prices at supermediastore.com (no affiliation).

    Realistically though, you only need something that will last until the next format change.

  10. All the research I’ve done says that as long as your get decent metal, that’s not usually the problem (at least for DVDs, not the same for CDs). Everything I’ve seen suggests that the extra money for gold isn’t worth it. The biggest problem is they dyes that are used to make the discs writable, many of them break down over time. The brand I see recommended most is Taiyo Yuden, which comes out of japan. Should last 70-100 years and is very consistent in its quality… that’s what I give images to my clients on. You can find them at reasonable prices at supermediastore.com (no affiliation).

    Realistically though, you only need something that will last until the next format change.

  11. Having spent a good deal of time researching this, I think DVD/CD storage is not an efficient solution, in part because of their fairly low capacity, and in part because of the inconvenience of managing a huge number of DVDs.

    Smugmug, my hosting provider, now offers unlimited storage (on Amazon S3) pretty cheap. So, I keep my hard drives at home, another set of hard drives in a secure storage facility (updated monthly) and am now uploading all my pix to SmugVault.

    As cloud storage (like S3) becomes more common, it should be a cost-effective archive choice for lots of photogs. As interfaces for cloud storage improve, it should become routine for backups to the cloud to be an easy part of workflow.

    Of course, if you don’t trust Amazon (or any other cloud provider) to adequately back up your stuff, you can always burn DVD. But in my view, it is not worth the time. Yes, Amazon S3 did have an outage last Sunday, but they didn’t lose any data.

  12. Having spent a good deal of time researching this, I think DVD/CD storage is not an efficient solution, in part because of their fairly low capacity, and in part because of the inconvenience of managing a huge number of DVDs.

    Smugmug, my hosting provider, now offers unlimited storage (on Amazon S3) pretty cheap. So, I keep my hard drives at home, another set of hard drives in a secure storage facility (updated monthly) and am now uploading all my pix to SmugVault.

    As cloud storage (like S3) becomes more common, it should be a cost-effective archive choice for lots of photogs. As interfaces for cloud storage improve, it should become routine for backups to the cloud to be an easy part of workflow.

    Of course, if you don’t trust Amazon (or any other cloud provider) to adequately back up your stuff, you can always burn DVD. But in my view, it is not worth the time. Yes, Amazon S3 did have an outage last Sunday, but they didn’t lose any data.

  13. I stopped using DVDs for backup years ago, both because of the problems you mention and the sheer volume of data to be backed up no longer makes them feasible. I now use hard drives exclusively.

    I have Time Machine locally for my entire system (actually one TM per computer in the office). I then have three 320GB USB drives. Each gets a full copy of all my photos, music and tax records (fits so far, but getting close to needing 2 per copy). One of those goes into my bank safe deposit box each quarter. One is in a fire-vault in my office and one is on the shelf next to my computer.

    I also have Mozy backup all my photos, music and tax records. That took almost 3 months to make the initial backup, but now just barely keeps up with changes daily.

    I am seriously considering getting a Drobo with 4TB and putting it at my mother’s house (40 miles away) and using CrashPlan to it as my “final layer” but haven’t taken the step yet — mostly because I am not convinced CP has its local-seed-go-remote process down pat yet.

  14. I also recommend using offsite backup. I use Mozy but Jungle Disk is also good.

  15. I also recommend using offsite backup. I use Mozy but Jungle Disk is also good.

  16. I use SmugMug to host my photos online and also ordered back-up disks from there. Unfortunately, I can’t afford a Drobo, so I use a standard back-up drive. Maybe not the best back-up solution but it’s working for me so far.

  17. I currently use a 750 gb Seagate Freeagent and a 500gb Western Digital at my home with one copy on each. I then have a backup of all of that information on a Set of Seagate 500GB Freeagent’s at an off site location.

    I abandoned DVD backup when I got about 40+gb behind on backing up and decided that multiple external drives was the way to go. I hope to get a Drobo sometime in the next year to make things a little easier.

    One other thing to note, make sure that if you have a double backup (eg. one copy on computer and one on external drive, or two external drives) make sure that you DO NOT have them in the same place. If someone breaks into your house they will most likely take the computer and the drive beside it so make sure that you have one copy in a hidden location or off site, ideally both.

  18. I currently use a 750 gb Seagate Freeagent and a 500gb Western Digital at my home with one copy on each. I then have a backup of all of that information on a Set of Seagate 500GB Freeagent’s at an off site location.

    I abandoned DVD backup when I got about 40+gb behind on backing up and decided that multiple external drives was the way to go. I hope to get a Drobo sometime in the next year to make things a little easier.

    One other thing to note, make sure that if you have a double backup (eg. one copy on computer and one on external drive, or two external drives) make sure that you DO NOT have them in the same place. If someone breaks into your house they will most likely take the computer and the drive beside it so make sure that you have one copy in a hidden location or off site, ideally both.

  19. I have tried to use CD or DVDs in the past and the process of managing the copying and multiple sets of disks prevented me from consistently performing the backups. Since then, I have moved to a NAS array and a project based organization structure. The NAS provides the convenience of working with my images in a single location regardless of which computer I’m working on, rather than switching USB/FW cables on a direct attached device like a Drobo. The project based organization structure allows me to use external hard drives for additional backups (backing up as many projects to a drive as it will hold)

    My NAS is my redundant archive (multiple disks protect me from a disk failure). For the offsite backup I have been exploring the options of having a second NAS at a friends house and then configuring a nightly remote backup process. However, I recently investigated the Mozy Home online backup service and will likely use that solution for offsite backups (can’t beat the price!). As I discuss in my posting about Mozy Home, an automated solution is critical as requiring action on my part just means it can sometimes get pushed to the lowest priority.

  20. I have tried to use CD or DVDs in the past and the process of managing the copying and multiple sets of disks prevented me from consistently performing the backups. Since then, I have moved to a NAS array and a project based organization structure. The NAS provides the convenience of working with my images in a single location regardless of which computer I’m working on, rather than switching USB/FW cables on a direct attached device like a Drobo. The project based organization structure allows me to use external hard drives for additional backups (backing up as many projects to a drive as it will hold)

    My NAS is my redundant archive (multiple disks protect me from a disk failure). For the offsite backup I have been exploring the options of having a second NAS at a friends house and then configuring a nightly remote backup process. However, I recently investigated the Mozy Home online backup service and will likely use that solution for offsite backups (can’t beat the price!). As I discuss in my posting about Mozy Home, an automated solution is critical as requiring action on my part just means it can sometimes get pushed to the lowest priority.

  21. I buy external hard drives in pairs. I keep one here at the house and one over at my parents house. We are also building a cabin in another state and I’ll probably keep a set up there too.

  22. I buy external hard drives in pairs. I keep one here at the house and one over at my parents house. We are also building a cabin in another state and I’ll probably keep a set up there too.

  23. Hi,
    I use a combination of drobo and a NAS. I really should sort out some off site storage, and I’ll probably end up mailing a hard drive to my brother (I’m in England & he’s in Ireland). I’d like to back up into the cloud, but I’ve ADSL and transferring 130G would take a while. Perhaps I should do it anyway, and just be patient! Hmmmm.
    William

  24. Hi,
    I use a combination of drobo and a NAS. I really should sort out some off site storage, and I’ll probably end up mailing a hard drive to my brother (I’m in England & he’s in Ireland). I’d like to back up into the cloud, but I’ve ADSL and transferring 130G would take a while. Perhaps I should do it anyway, and just be patient! Hmmmm.
    William

  25. @William – my Mozy does about 4GB/day, which took me almost 3 months to back up my 300GB to Mozy initially. Now that it is there though, it daily backs up whatever differences there are.

    It may take you 3 months to get your full backup initially, but how much backed up will you be in 3 months if you don’t start now?

    I definitely do not trust Mozy as my primary backup, but it is a nice safety net in the event of a fire or earthquake destroying the house (I live in the San Francisco area, so earthquakes are a very real consideration).

  26. I use a combination of ZFS and S3.

    Each week I copy changes to a a ZFS drive (attached to my Mac Mini). I take a ZFS snapshot, and then use s3sync to upload changes to Amazon’s S3 service.

    So I can rollback local (with my home network) changes by using ZFS snapshots, and if I lose everything due to theft or fire, I’ve can retrieve my entire library from S3. It costs me about $3 per month to have 20GB stored on Amazon.

    Flickr of course offers unlimited storage for $24 per year, but I found it very difficult to manage backups. It’s not easy to remove duplicates en masse.

  27. I use a combination of ZFS and S3.

    Each week I copy changes to a a ZFS drive (attached to my Mac Mini). I take a ZFS snapshot, and then use s3sync to upload changes to Amazon’s S3 service.

    So I can rollback local (with my home network) changes by using ZFS snapshots, and if I lose everything due to theft or fire, I’ve can retrieve my entire library from S3. It costs me about $3 per month to have 20GB stored on Amazon.

    Flickr of course offers unlimited storage for $24 per year, but I found it very difficult to manage backups. It’s not easy to remove duplicates en masse.

  28. I gave up on CD/DVD for backup purposes a long time ago. The corrosion story on the disks is known for decades, and I ran into this about 7 years ago when I couldn’t read a burned CD. Thankfully the information was replaceable, but the experience put me right back on earth.

    I have Time Machine on my iMac for basic backup needs. Besides that I have three relative inexpensive 2.5″ USB powered external hard drives. I use these to backup my images, documents, etc.
    One of them is stored in my car. One at my parents place and one at my brothers place.
    I update the disk in the car regular, and when I visit my parent or brother I swap the disk for the one in the car.
    This also guarantees regular visits to my folks :-)

    The disks are TrueCrypt encrypted, so the information on the stolen disks are worthless to the villains.

    On thing you shouldn’t forget is to check the actual backup for inconsistencies. Because when the ‘sh*t hits the fan’ you won’t be happy with a corrupt/unusable backup (understatement) :-).

  29. I gave up on CD/DVD for backup purposes a long time ago. The corrosion story on the disks is known for decades, and I ran into this about 7 years ago when I couldn’t read a burned CD. Thankfully the information was replaceable, but the experience put me right back on earth.

    I have Time Machine on my iMac for basic backup needs. Besides that I have three relative inexpensive 2.5″ USB powered external hard drives. I use these to backup my images, documents, etc.
    One of them is stored in my car. One at my parents place and one at my brothers place.
    I update the disk in the car regular, and when I visit my parent or brother I swap the disk for the one in the car.
    This also guarantees regular visits to my folks :-)

    The disks are TrueCrypt encrypted, so the information on the stolen disks are worthless to the villains.

    On thing you shouldn’t forget is to check the actual backup for inconsistencies. Because when the ‘sh*t hits the fan’ you won’t be happy with a corrupt/unusable backup (understatement) :-).

  30. Right now I have a Drobo at home with 2 1TB hard drives that I sync with time machine and aperture every night and then 2 320GB externals at work that I bring home once a week to sync and take back to work the next day. I am a flash designer/graphic designer full time so I have alot of data other than just my photography but I haven’t hit 640GB yet so I have double redundancy at home and then the offsite externals make a third copy where at most I could loose a weeks worth of work.

  31. Right now I have a Drobo at home with 2 1TB hard drives that I sync with time machine and aperture every night and then 2 320GB externals at work that I bring home once a week to sync and take back to work the next day. I am a flash designer/graphic designer full time so I have alot of data other than just my photography but I haven’t hit 640GB yet so I have double redundancy at home and then the offsite externals make a third copy where at most I could loose a weeks worth of work.

  32. I have heard several options discussed, but in everybody’s opinion, what is the best online backup solution? I have been looking at either a Moxy, Carbonite or S3/Jungle Disk solution, but am having a hard time deciding/

  33. I have heard several options discussed, but in everybody’s opinion, what is the best online backup solution? I have been looking at either a Moxy, Carbonite or S3/Jungle Disk solution, but am having a hard time deciding/

  34. I have a NAS right now, but I’m lookin into off-site. I just read up on Mozy, and it looks good with their unlimited storage. Walt Mossberg commented that they should be pretty secure given the due diligence that GE must have done before contracting them to handle data from 300000 employees. I think Mozy would be even less maintenance than I do now to keep my NAS running cleanly.

  35. I only have around 10GB of photos at the moment, so my backup source is Carbonite. Need to figure out a local solution too, which I am hoping will be a Drobo.

  36. I only have around 10GB of photos at the moment, so my backup source is Carbonite. Need to figure out a local solution too, which I am hoping will be a Drobo.

  37. As of right now, my process is this:
    1. Photos immediately backed up to second internal HD in the computer
    2. Once a month, I pull my 500GB external HD out of the Firesafe box, copy over all the new photos, then put it back in the box.
    Where I live, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would break into my house, and the Firesafe box should protect against quite a bit, although I’m looking at “cloud storage” solutions currently as well.

  38. I do a bit of what a lot of what I’m reading here: I have an External LaCie 500GB USB hard drive, which I backup to weekly and then put in a Pelican case and deviously hide somewhere in my home.

    I’d love to go the drobo way, but I think that would only act as an extension of my current drive array and not as a safe backup (like you’ve all said, anyone can come in and steal your computer and attached peripherals). Which reminds me – my camera’s not insured… see ya!

  39. I do a bit of what a lot of what I’m reading here: I have an External LaCie 500GB USB hard drive, which I backup to weekly and then put in a Pelican case and deviously hide somewhere in my home.

    I’d love to go the drobo way, but I think that would only act as an extension of my current drive array and not as a safe backup (like you’ve all said, anyone can come in and steal your computer and attached peripherals). Which reminds me – my camera’s not insured… see ya!

  40. I broached this very topic in the TWIP Flickr group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/twip/discuss/72157606111489424/), though the main focus of the tutorial was to integrate inexpensive and safe backups into a workflow. There is a neo-conventional wisdom that says never upload anything that you wouldn’t want to show up on the internet. Which, while ‘commonsensical’, can’t be overstated. The same is true for backing up personal photos to CD/DVD in the clear, that is without encryption or obfuscation of some sort. A CD/DVD that contains your life’s-work that can be popped into any computer without precondition is a recipe for disaster. While you may certainly miss a portable hard drive if it were to walk off, the same can’t be said if 1 of a couple hundred CD/DVDs goes loose. Also you need to consider how you will destroy the backup media when it approaches end-of-life; with encryption you can throw away the discs which are worthless without keys, without encryption you’ll have to use far more creative methods like a shredder, bonfire, or microwave. And no matter how well preserved the CD/DVDs are, you will want to transfer them to another medium as technology cost (most likely BluRay, the 25-100GB discs make it an awesome archival medium, albeit a little costly) goes down and end-of-life approaches.

  41. I broached this very topic in the TWIP Flickr group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/twip/discuss/72157606111489424/), though the main focus of the tutorial was to integrate inexpensive and safe backups into a workflow. There is a neo-conventional wisdom that says never upload anything that you wouldn’t want to show up on the internet. Which, while ‘commonsensical’, can’t be overstated. The same is true for backing up personal photos to CD/DVD in the clear, that is without encryption or obfuscation of some sort. A CD/DVD that contains your life’s-work that can be popped into any computer without precondition is a recipe for disaster. While you may certainly miss a portable hard drive if it were to walk off, the same can’t be said if 1 of a couple hundred CD/DVDs goes loose. Also you need to consider how you will destroy the backup media when it approaches end-of-life; with encryption you can throw away the discs which are worthless without keys, without encryption you’ll have to use far more creative methods like a shredder, bonfire, or microwave. And no matter how well preserved the CD/DVDs are, you will want to transfer them to another medium as technology cost (most likely BluRay, the 25-100GB discs make it an awesome archival medium, albeit a little costly) goes down and end-of-life approaches.

  42. Perhaps I’m overly cautious, but having dealt with digital media for over 20 years, I have two back-ups with multiple versions offsite on one of them.

    My setup is a 2TB ReadyNAS for primary storage. That is backed up nightly using JungleDisk to Amazon S3. I also have that ReadyNAS setup to mirrored locally to a DroboShare in case something happens to the ReadyNAS I can instantly start working from the Drobo.

    My workflow is to pull-photos off my camera using Photo Mechanic. I do this because it’s fast and can do some basic IPTC tagging and file renaming (prefixed date) while pulling the photos off. These are pulled off locally to a PhotoDump folder on my Mac. Then, I copy those files to the logical folder on ReadyNAS (I strucuture my photos by project or subject matter, knowing that dates imbedded).

    I then import the new ReadyNAS photos into Aperture telling Aperture to store files in their current locating (leaving them on the ReadyNAS). I then backup my Aperture library (which does not include the actual photos since they’re on the ReadyNAS) to an Aperture Vault. That vault is also backed up to JungleDisk.

    That’s probably more redundant than most need. While it may sound complicated, it actually works well for me and is easy after setup. I can have my Mac die and my ReadyNAS die and I’m still able to be up and running in minutes on another Mac using my DroboShare because of the mirrored photos and the backed up Aperture vault. While, I still have offset backup of everything.

    Because of versioning at JungleDisk, even multiple days of inadvertent deletions that get replicated to the DroboShare are still at Amazon S3 (human error is just as likely as hardware error so this is useful). It’s as full-proof a solution as I’ve never been able to implement.

  43. Perhaps I’m overly cautious, but having dealt with digital media for over 20 years, I have two back-ups with multiple versions offsite on one of them.

    My setup is a 2TB ReadyNAS for primary storage. That is backed up nightly using JungleDisk to Amazon S3. I also have that ReadyNAS setup to mirrored locally to a DroboShare in case something happens to the ReadyNAS I can instantly start working from the Drobo.

    My workflow is to pull-photos off my camera using Photo Mechanic. I do this because it’s fast and can do some basic IPTC tagging and file renaming (prefixed date) while pulling the photos off. These are pulled off locally to a PhotoDump folder on my Mac. Then, I copy those files to the logical folder on ReadyNAS (I strucuture my photos by project or subject matter, knowing that dates imbedded).

    I then import the new ReadyNAS photos into Aperture telling Aperture to store files in their current locating (leaving them on the ReadyNAS). I then backup my Aperture library (which does not include the actual photos since they’re on the ReadyNAS) to an Aperture Vault. That vault is also backed up to JungleDisk.

    That’s probably more redundant than most need. While it may sound complicated, it actually works well for me and is easy after setup. I can have my Mac die and my ReadyNAS die and I’m still able to be up and running in minutes on another Mac using my DroboShare because of the mirrored photos and the backed up Aperture vault. While, I still have offset backup of everything.

    Because of versioning at JungleDisk, even multiple days of inadvertent deletions that get replicated to the DroboShare are still at Amazon S3 (human error is just as likely as hardware error so this is useful). It’s as full-proof a solution as I’ve never been able to implement.

  44. Also on the topic of online backup solutions, for about $9 a month you can easily setup your own Gallery2 site, the service provider I use allows 250GB of storage. I had considered writing another tutorial for the TWIP audience, but not sure if there is any real demand.

  45. The problem is not how long will the media last, there are gold CDs with 200 years archival. The problem is the format/technology lifespan. I wrote about it: http://foto-biz.com/doku.php/blog:archival-cds and http://foto-biz.com/doku.php/blog:archival-media

    It’s the same thing that happened to the floppies, the zip drives… and many other technologies gone by the way side.

    Where can you find CD writers, luckily DVD writers can read/write CDs. HD-DVD was compatible with the old formats, but Blue Ray is NOT. How long before the CD/DVD technology disappears? Usually 10 years.

    On line storage are not any better. When will the company go out of business?

    Digital is not an archival technology. We have 175 years old photos, we have 2,000 years old books and we have 25,000 year old engravings. We don’t have any 20 years Wordstar archival documents.

    Syv Ritch
    The business of being a photographer

  46. The problem is not how long will the media last, there are gold CDs with 200 years archival. The problem is the format/technology lifespan. I wrote about it: http://foto-biz.com/doku.php/blog:archival-cds and http://foto-biz.com/doku.php/blog:archival-media

    It’s the same thing that happened to the floppies, the zip drives… and many other technologies gone by the way side.

    Where can you find CD writers, luckily DVD writers can read/write CDs. HD-DVD was compatible with the old formats, but Blue Ray is NOT. How long before the CD/DVD technology disappears? Usually 10 years.

    On line storage are not any better. When will the company go out of business?

    Digital is not an archival technology. We have 175 years old photos, we have 2,000 years old books and we have 25,000 year old engravings. We don’t have any 20 years Wordstar archival documents.

    Syv Ritch
    The business of being a photographer

  47. @Syv I am just curious – how old are you and how can you be sure that there are gold CDs with “200 years archival?”

    I saw those claims on CDs I burned in the 90s. Those CDs have failed and it’s not a format issue at all in these cases. They simply won’t read in my CD reader because they’ve deteriorated.

    It’s an issue of lifespan plain and simple. While your theory surely may be correct that formats will change, and that’s worth thinking about, I think it’s unfortunate and misleading to make a blanket claim that implies format changes are all that matters.

    That pointed out – let the readers decide which they believe and how many images they’re willing to risk to find out if the CDs will last 200 years.

  48. @Syv I am just curious – how old are you and how can you be sure that there are gold CDs with “200 years archival?”

    I saw those claims on CDs I burned in the 90s. Those CDs have failed and it’s not a format issue at all in these cases. They simply won’t read in my CD reader because they’ve deteriorated.

    It’s an issue of lifespan plain and simple. While your theory surely may be correct that formats will change, and that’s worth thinking about, I think it’s unfortunate and misleading to make a blanket claim that implies format changes are all that matters.

    That pointed out – let the readers decide which they believe and how many images they’re willing to risk to find out if the CDs will last 200 years.

  49. this post should have been sponsored by Drobo…

    I don’t own one, but that’s exactly what I’m recommending to everyone else. And I’ll be getting one when my 500gb external drive fills up.

  50. this post should have been sponsored by Drobo…

    I don’t own one, but that’s exactly what I’m recommending to everyone else. And I’ll be getting one when my 500gb external drive fills up.

  51. @Syv I am just curious – how old are you and how can you be sure that there are gold CDs with “200 years archival?”

    1. I am no “spring chicken”, I started part-time in 1983 and became full time in 1986. In other words, I am a gizzard but no I am not 200 years old.

    2. Many brands such as: Delkin Gold, Kodak Gold Archival, and many other claim to have a 200 years archival. If you don’t believe their claim, you shouldn’t believe either HP, Canon, or Epson with their print lasting 200 years. Since I am not a scientist and nobody has refuted their claims, I do accept that if stored properly it should last around 200 years.

    I saw those claims on CDs I burned in the 90s. Those CDs have failed and it’s not a format issue at all in these cases. They simply won’t read in my CD reader because they’ve deteriorated.

    There were no 200 years archival CDs in the 90s. The 200 years CDs came in the early 2000. Did you store them properly?

    I think it’s unfortunate and misleading to make a blanket claim that implies format changes are all that matters.

    I have never said that format is ALL THAT MATTERS. I have said that every 10 years there is a “new storage revolution” that obsoletes the previous one. After 10 years it is almost impossible to find the hardware to read your “archival” media.

    Syv Ritch
    The business of being a photographer

  52. @Syv I am just curious – how old are you and how can you be sure that there are gold CDs with “200 years archival?”

    1. I am no “spring chicken”, I started part-time in 1983 and became full time in 1986. In other words, I am a gizzard but no I am not 200 years old.

    2. Many brands such as: Delkin Gold, Kodak Gold Archival, and many other claim to have a 200 years archival. If you don’t believe their claim, you shouldn’t believe either HP, Canon, or Epson with their print lasting 200 years. Since I am not a scientist and nobody has refuted their claims, I do accept that if stored properly it should last around 200 years.

    I saw those claims on CDs I burned in the 90s. Those CDs have failed and it’s not a format issue at all in these cases. They simply won’t read in my CD reader because they’ve deteriorated.

    There were no 200 years archival CDs in the 90s. The 200 years CDs came in the early 2000. Did you store them properly?

    I think it’s unfortunate and misleading to make a blanket claim that implies format changes are all that matters.

    I have never said that format is ALL THAT MATTERS. I have said that every 10 years there is a “new storage revolution” that obsoletes the previous one. After 10 years it is almost impossible to find the hardware to read your “archival” media.

    Syv Ritch
    The business of being a photographer

  53. Syv, you do make a valid point about how time obsolesces technology, however if you migrate to newer media as time passes, technology cost decline, and storage capacity increases, Optical Media backup remains a safe and cost effective option. More cost effective than, say, creating and storing multiple hardcopies of your work. The argument that digital is ‘not an archival technology’ is nonsensical when considering that what your are archiving is in fact digital data, even if you were to produce the highest quality archival print you could today, you would still lose much of the valuable data that the ‘negative’ contains. Who knows what will be possible in a few years time regarding digital photo manipulation and correction, retaining this data is very critical. I guess we could carve the 1′s and 0′s on to stone tablets?

  54. Syv, you do make a valid point about how time obsolesces technology, however if you migrate to newer media as time passes, technology cost decline, and storage capacity increases, Optical Media backup remains a safe and cost effective option. More cost effective than, say, creating and storing multiple hardcopies of your work. The argument that digital is ‘not an archival technology’ is nonsensical when considering that what your are archiving is in fact digital data, even if you were to produce the highest quality archival print you could today, you would still lose much of the valuable data that the ‘negative’ contains. Who knows what will be possible in a few years time regarding digital photo manipulation and correction, retaining this data is very critical. I guess we could carve the 1′s and 0′s on to stone tablets?

  55. @Syv
    “Many brands such as: Delkin Gold, Kodak Gold Archival, and many other claim to have a 200 years archival. If you don’t believe their claim, you shouldn’t believe either HP, Canon, or Epson with their print lasting 200 years. Since I am not a scientist and nobody has refuted their claims, I do accept that if stored properly it should last around 200 years.”

    The paper manufacturers are going through an independent third-party – Wilhelm to validate their longevity claims. I haven’t seen the CD companies take this step so while you may be willing to trust your images to marketing hype – I am not.

    “There were no 200 years archival CDs in the 90s. The 200 years CDs came in the early 2000. Did you store them properly?”

    Actually you’re right – they were either LIFETIME or 100 year guarantees – does that debate point obviate the clear fact that the CD’s lasted less than 10 years? I stored those CDs according to the guidelines offered with the guarantees. Once again, I am not interested in debating you since you have a position you’re going to stick with as do I – I just want innocent third-parties reading this to make sure they don’t get hurt by putting stock in CDs given their poor track record.

    “I have never said that format is ALL THAT MATTERS. I have said that every 10 years there is a “new storage revolution” that obsoletes the previous one. After 10 years it is almost impossible to find the hardware to read your “archival” media.

    Well you sure implied it – let me quote your first sentence…

    “The problem is not how long will the media last, there are gold CDs with 200 years archival. The problem is the format/technology lifespan.”

    You’re saying there is no longevity problem – I am saying there is. Let the readers decide who they want to risk believing.

  56. Timely subject as I accidentally erased my backup of some of my images. I store offsite on DVDs and they restored without a problem. That being said, I was more than slightly nervous until I had the DVD in my drive. I’m now in the process of encrypting a giant zip file to send up to my hosting provider. I have a ton of disk space here, but need something offsite. I’ll probably take one of my servers to the girlfriend’s place and backup to it. She needs a backup as well.

    So how many folks are encrypting before sending up to the cloud?

    Rob

  57. Timely subject as I accidentally erased my backup of some of my images. I store offsite on DVDs and they restored without a problem. That being said, I was more than slightly nervous until I had the DVD in my drive. I’m now in the process of encrypting a giant zip file to send up to my hosting provider. I have a ton of disk space here, but need something offsite. I’ll probably take one of my servers to the girlfriend’s place and backup to it. She needs a backup as well.

    So how many folks are encrypting before sending up to the cloud?

    Rob

  58. One of my co-workers used to be in our information technology auditing team. One of the audits did a review of the tape backup system. He picked a tape at random from the system, note this is a huge tape backup operation it is automated and cataloged. So this was an active tape in the system. When they reviewed the tape it did not have any data on it and there was no record of what the failure was. He picked another tape at random guess what same problem. They found their was an unacceptably high rate of failure with the tapes.

    The moral I would give from that is to “audit” your tapes, online cloud or any backup regularly to verify they worked like you expected and are cataloged correctly.

    Some other issues with backup options I’ve thought about.

    Single external drives fail that, is why the Drobo is so very useful one drive can fail and you don’t lose anything. It also seems that hard drives have better lifespans if they are left on and running. So there might be issues with putting one in a safe.

    I store my stuff on a home network server so I can keep my working machine’s hard drive a little more free. Home versions of Mozy and Carbonite, don’t do backups off of network drives. I use linux for my server and I’m not sure if those companies offer a linux client yet.

    Jungle disk does do encryption of your uploaded data so it might be a bit safer from prying eyes. The Security Now Podcast did a good review of Jungle disk. But jungle disk seemed a bit expensive when you got up around 200 Gig.

    My personal solution is a drobo, linux server and time machine. For photo’s I also put them up on flickr. But I don’t really see an easy way to get them back off there if I ever need to. That is a service they should consider.

    I think for the professional, outsourcing of backup services to a reputable company is the best way to go, yes in addition to your local backups. You should probably consider their business/office plans as opposed to their consumer plans. Multilocation backups are almost necessary to be really safe so make sure they are storing your content in more than one data center. It is great that the average small business owner (professional photographer) can now afford to have high speed data connectivity, so take advantage of it and get your data stored by professionals.

    My five dollars worth anyway, hey I’m a professional and can charge more tham two cents :-)

  59. One of my co-workers used to be in our information technology auditing team. One of the audits did a review of the tape backup system. He picked a tape at random from the system, note this is a huge tape backup operation it is automated and cataloged. So this was an active tape in the system. When they reviewed the tape it did not have any data on it and there was no record of what the failure was. He picked another tape at random guess what same problem. They found their was an unacceptably high rate of failure with the tapes.

    The moral I would give from that is to “audit” your tapes, online cloud or any backup regularly to verify they worked like you expected and are cataloged correctly.

    Some other issues with backup options I’ve thought about.

    Single external drives fail that, is why the Drobo is so very useful one drive can fail and you don’t lose anything. It also seems that hard drives have better lifespans if they are left on and running. So there might be issues with putting one in a safe.

    I store my stuff on a home network server so I can keep my working machine’s hard drive a little more free. Home versions of Mozy and Carbonite, don’t do backups off of network drives. I use linux for my server and I’m not sure if those companies offer a linux client yet.

    Jungle disk does do encryption of your uploaded data so it might be a bit safer from prying eyes. The Security Now Podcast did a good review of Jungle disk. But jungle disk seemed a bit expensive when you got up around 200 Gig.

    My personal solution is a drobo, linux server and time machine. For photo’s I also put them up on flickr. But I don’t really see an easy way to get them back off there if I ever need to. That is a service they should consider.

    I think for the professional, outsourcing of backup services to a reputable company is the best way to go, yes in addition to your local backups. You should probably consider their business/office plans as opposed to their consumer plans. Multilocation backups are almost necessary to be really safe so make sure they are storing your content in more than one data center. It is great that the average small business owner (professional photographer) can now afford to have high speed data connectivity, so take advantage of it and get your data stored by professionals.

    My five dollars worth anyway, hey I’m a professional and can charge more tham two cents :-)

  60. Steven, you can get a 1and1 Linux hosting account for about $9 a month, this includes bash shell access, FTP, 250GB storage, 2TB bandwidth/month, 3 free domain names, and really too much to mention. 1and1 has an awesome data center with the redundancy a photo archive would need. Jungle Disk (well Amazon S3) is a little pricey the higher you go up ($.15/GB), but since you have a linux server you have a tremendous amount of flexibility with getting your data into the cloud securely, there is a pretty nifty perl script that allows linux to interface with Amazon S3 from the commandline. Which means you can script and cronjob it.

    My recent (and ongoing) project is the archival of old family 35mm negatives. My backup solution is way, way overkill, but I won’t be doing this ever again. I scanned the negatives in at 3200dpi (which I admit is also overkill) backed them up on three separate hard drives (one for me and the others for each of my brothers), uploaded them to my Gallery2 site (for the family to access), and backed up the Gallery2 site to Amazon S3.

  61. Steven, you can get a 1and1 Linux hosting account for about $9 a month, this includes bash shell access, FTP, 250GB storage, 2TB bandwidth/month, 3 free domain names, and really too much to mention. 1and1 has an awesome data center with the redundancy a photo archive would need. Jungle Disk (well Amazon S3) is a little pricey the higher you go up ($.15/GB), but since you have a linux server you have a tremendous amount of flexibility with getting your data into the cloud securely, there is a pretty nifty perl script that allows linux to interface with Amazon S3 from the commandline. Which means you can script and cronjob it.

    My recent (and ongoing) project is the archival of old family 35mm negatives. My backup solution is way, way overkill, but I won’t be doing this ever again. I scanned the negatives in at 3200dpi (which I admit is also overkill) backed them up on three separate hard drives (one for me and the others for each of my brothers), uploaded them to my Gallery2 site (for the family to access), and backed up the Gallery2 site to Amazon S3.

  62. For those using hard drives you might be interested to know that some warn that hard drives that go unused for long periods of time may fail and that it’s actually better if the drive is used often.

    As for encryption of hard disks, Truecrypt is an easy way to encrypt a whole drive. I have three backup drive that I rotate through and leave at different locations and they’re encrypted. If anyone found one it’d just look like an unformatted drive.

  63. For those using hard drives you might be interested to know that some warn that hard drives that go unused for long periods of time may fail and that it’s actually better if the drive is used often.

    As for encryption of hard disks, Truecrypt is an easy way to encrypt a whole drive. I have three backup drive that I rotate through and leave at different locations and they’re encrypted. If anyone found one it’d just look like an unformatted drive.

  64. Good information. I am TOTALLY guilty of getting the most dirt cheap backup DVD’s I could. I’ll hafta change my ways.

  65. Good information. I am TOTALLY guilty of getting the most dirt cheap backup DVD’s I could. I’ll hafta change my ways.

  66. A blog post (2006) about DVDs for archival purposes (-R vs +R and other issues)

  67. A blog post (2006) about DVDs for archival purposes (-R vs +R and other issues)

  68. Nice for once to see people as paranoid (or moreso) than me :)

    I have my primary collection on my laptop, sync’d nightly to media center HDD1. That’s sync’d nightly to media centre HDD2. I’ve got an external USB hdd enclosure that lives at work, which is sync’d monthly. I sporadically back up to DVD too, though that’s just for the hell of it. All syncing is done with robocopy.

    I think I might start encrypting the external that lives at work, but I’m more worried about data loss than data theft at this stage.

    Ben

  69. Nice for once to see people as paranoid (or moreso) than me :)

    I have my primary collection on my laptop, sync’d nightly to media center HDD1. That’s sync’d nightly to media centre HDD2. I’ve got an external USB hdd enclosure that lives at work, which is sync’d monthly. I sporadically back up to DVD too, though that’s just for the hell of it. All syncing is done with robocopy.

    I think I might start encrypting the external that lives at work, but I’m more worried about data loss than data theft at this stage.

    Ben

  70. also a big plug for Taiyo Yuden. work out to be $1 a disc here in Oz

  71. also a big plug for Taiyo Yuden. work out to be $1 a disc here in Oz

  72. You guys should take a look at Microsoft’s Home Server – http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/default.mspx

  73. You guys should take a look at Microsoft’s Home Server – http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/default.mspx

  74. There is no question that the Delkin Archival Gold discs that you use are the safest and best solution for PERMANETE storage on the market TODAY (who knows what the medium will be in the future). Hard drives can and will crash. I don’t care how many different drives you use to back up files, you are playing with fire if you expect your data to be there 10 years from now. There is no substitute for gold. We know that it is the strongest element on earth that won’t oxidize, tarnish or fade; so why is there still a debate on this? As far as limited storage capacity for DVD-R’s, I see that B&H is now selling Delkin Archival Blu-Ray discs with a capacity of 25GB and a life span of 200 years.

  75. There is no question that the Delkin Archival Gold discs that you use are the safest and best solution for PERMANETE storage on the market TODAY (who knows what the medium will be in the future). Hard drives can and will crash. I don’t care how many different drives you use to back up files, you are playing with fire if you expect your data to be there 10 years from now. There is no substitute for gold. We know that it is the strongest element on earth that won’t oxidize, tarnish or fade; so why is there still a debate on this? As far as limited storage capacity for DVD-R’s, I see that B&H is now selling Delkin Archival Blu-Ray discs with a capacity of 25GB and a life span of 200 years.

  76. I second the vote for Windows Home Server. Now that the corruption bug has been fixed, I have no worries about my backups. WHS was really designed with the non-techie in mind. I have been running it since beta with no problems at all.

    Personally, my backup solution goes like this:

    Stage 1: – Stored on my desktop
    Stage 2: – Upload to Flickr (only viewable to me)
    Stage 3: – Manually transfer files to my WHS
    Stage 4: – Backup my desktop HDD to the WHS

    The nice thing about the WHS is that you can have 3 backups of the same data. 1) desktop backup (only used to fully restore your PC, not for individual file retrieval) 2) File server – see stage three 3) Backup of the Backup – w/ the new PowerPack that was released, you can hook up an external HDD to the WHS and create a backup which would be perfect for putting in a safe or deposit box.

    The best part of the WHS is that it is almost 100% automated. If you haven’t played around w/ one yet, find an old PC and download the demo. You wont be disappointed.

    http://connect.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer

    FYI – I am not a Microsoft fanboy either. I am typing this on a mac.

  77. All my photos are stored on my File server with now 2TB HDD and every so often I upload them to my 1and1 only ftp account.
    I accesss them Via a nice ajax directory manager script called relay.
    I have the drive mounted to my mac and I can download on the fly

  78. All my photos are stored on my File server with now 2TB HDD and every so often I upload them to my 1and1 only ftp account.
    I accesss them Via a nice ajax directory manager script called relay.
    I have the drive mounted to my mac and I can download on the fly

  79. I have been backing both the MacBook Pro and iMac to their respective Time Machine FW800 drives. And the iMac backs up to Mozy also.

    Johnny

  80. I have been backing both the MacBook Pro and iMac to their respective Time Machine FW800 drives. And the iMac backs up to Mozy also.

    Johnny

  81. I copy my important data to two external USB drives. I found a really slick – and free – utility from Microsoft called SyncToy v2.0 that, with a click of a button, quickly and easily syncs the external drives with any changes I’ve made to my local files.

    Years ago I used to backup files to ZIP drives and later to CD’s but, keeping up with the disks is a pain. I like the idea behind Drobo but, I don’t like the price. I already have two 200GB USB drives so adding the SyncToy utility gives me something similar to what a Drobo provides but at a fraction of the price.

  82. I copy my important data to two external USB drives. I found a really slick – and free – utility from Microsoft called SyncToy v2.0 that, with a click of a button, quickly and easily syncs the external drives with any changes I’ve made to my local files.

    Years ago I used to backup files to ZIP drives and later to CD’s but, keeping up with the disks is a pain. I like the idea behind Drobo but, I don’t like the price. I already have two 200GB USB drives so adding the SyncToy utility gives me something similar to what a Drobo provides but at a fraction of the price.

  83. Hi All,

    For my backups I currently use both an apple Time Capsule and an external hard drive. I’m Irish and here everything tends to be WAY overpriced, so on my next trip to the US (next week) I’ll be picking up a Firewire Drobo. I also want to set up some automated off-site backups, but that’s a little longer in the pipeline.

    One tip I have that may be useful to others is to use an iPod as a backup. I have an 80Gb iPod and just over 30GB of music. As my photos only take up around 40Gb of space I enabled disk use on the pod and created an aperture vault. As I take more and more pictures I know this isn’t going to work indefinitely, but for now it provides some piece of mind.

    I love the site and podcast, keep up the good work lads!

    Dave

  84. Hi All,

    For my backups I currently use both an apple Time Capsule and an external hard drive. I’m Irish and here everything tends to be WAY overpriced, so on my next trip to the US (next week) I’ll be picking up a Firewire Drobo. I also want to set up some automated off-site backups, but that’s a little longer in the pipeline.

    One tip I have that may be useful to others is to use an iPod as a backup. I have an 80Gb iPod and just over 30GB of music. As my photos only take up around 40Gb of space I enabled disk use on the pod and created an aperture vault. As I take more and more pictures I know this isn’t going to work indefinitely, but for now it provides some piece of mind.

    I love the site and podcast, keep up the good work lads!

    Dave

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