M-DISC archival media

Short version: my parents are in danger of losing all the data on their external drive, where they are storing all their digitized photos to a corrupted drive, and that's prompted a lot of questions about the best way to store media files so that they won't get lost to this kind of problem in the future. I looked online for lifespans of SSD and flash memories, and came across a relatively new physical media called M-DISC, which writes from a DVD or Blu-Ray writer and supposedly has a life of 1000 years without getting damaged, and can resist scratches, humidity, and the like.

Anyone know anything about this technology?

I suggested cloud storage, but my mother - as is the case with many of the boomer generation - has privacy/personal data concerns. She doesn't want The Google to know what her photos look like.

The optical drive is a real concern, but it's not likely going to matter long-term. In a perfect world my mom's got 30 years left (which sounds morbid to type but is a perfectly practical point to raise).

It seems like a decent technology to me. There are some things which would keep me from using it from a personal perspective.

Things of more immediate concern: You'd need a drive which is able to write to it (not many can), and many older drives can't read them.

Looking farther out: Optical drives are beginning to go the way of floppies. It may not be long before we don't use them anymore.

For digital photos I prefer a cloud solution, and actually keep our photos in multiple places just in case.

Yeah, cloud anything took some real selling to get my mother on board, and she still hasn't set it up because she doesn't want to deal with picking an account name. That said, the CrashPlan site is pretty explicit about the fact that the data is encrypted before it leaves your computer.

My only concern about removable media for backup is that it means they'll have to remember to perform the backup. I'd be more inclined to get a higher quality NAS and use automated backup software on their computers.

That said, the CrashPlan site is pretty explicit about the fact that the data is encrypted before it leaves your computer.

Encrypted, yes, but do you know, for sure, that Crashplan doesn't also have a key?

Fair point. I know for a fact that another large cloud service has no means of decrypting the data it stores on the users' behalf, but nothing about CrashPlan specifically.

Which cloud service is that, complexmath? I might be able to sell my mom on it.

The "remembering to manual backup" is not really a problem as my mother wants to use it for media storage, not just backup. It'll end up being a bunch of discs with pictures by the decade on each one, I suspect.

My mother's also rural, to the point where DSL and Cable Internet are not available for her. She's currently operating her internet over one of those thumb-drive routers that uses the cell network. For practical purposes, this just means that something with an "always-online" component isn't going to be practical for her.

iCloud. But they don't really have a backup service. And if she doesn't have decent broadband, cloud backup isn't an option anyway.

No broadband, but she averages about 25 Mbps over the network. (Not wonderful, but faster than my Cable on some days. Curse you Rogers Cable!) It's just not always on.

So, I work in digital preservation in academia. We generally take a dim view of these kinds of technologies simply because research so far has found that manufacturers vastly overstate the lifespan of these types of media. [CITATION NEEDED, I know I will dig it up] Also, once they are burned and put in the drawer/attic, there is no way to verify that the contents are:

a) in fact not degrading - despite manufacturer claims
b) still understandable - i.e., not in a weird oddball format that we have forgotten how to use

Spinning disk is still the gold standard for long term storage of digital objects, in spite of/exactly because it still requires/allows active management of the content. A particular hard drive configuration will only last for a few years, but then you have to migrate, which means you will touch and interact with these files at that time. At that time, you'll likely notice of there are things like outdated formats, etc., and you can migrate them when there are still likely tools to do it. Projecting out 50 years or so, old formats may be a bigger sticking point.

Honestly, I'd recommend migrating to another external storage unit, possibly one with some built-in redundancy. Redundancy is not the same as backup, but it can save you from a crashed head. Honestly, even if you can set up an rsync-type arrangement from her computer to some storage you manage, that's an improvement.

[EDIT: Also what LouZiffer said about drive compatibility.]

Regardless of what direction you go with it, consider generating PAR2 files for extra redundancy. The way that works is that you specify X% of additional storage; the default is usually about 10%, although you can devote more. The way the math works is that if you have 10% extra space in PAR2 files, you can lose up to 10% of the total bytes in the original files, and still recover the original back to bitperfect status.

But, if you lose 10% + 1 byte, the files can't be recovered, so being fairly generous with your allocation is not a bad idea.

Hard drives lie their little heads off about data safety, so they look better on benchmarks. The extra insurance from PAR2s is very cheap, and very effective.