Cold/Warm Storage Media Discussion

w.meri mod edit: this thread has been broken out from another thread. Thanks!

Wendell weighed in on this topic before, External HDD is a better option then Tapes generally (until huge data amounts)

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From what I remember, HDDs generally tend to have a shorter lifespan than tapes, but I am not sure how that works when using them for cold storage. If it still applies, you would need to rewrite and potentially swap out HDDs more often than tapes.
Considering the price of the LTO drive, this might be still worth it for small amount of data, though.

True but you shouldnt ever really reach the end life of a storage medium you should be upgrading more often then that.

Rotate 2-3 14+ TB HDD and you wont have many issues. IDK how much data you would really need to have multiple cold storage backups of

If its that small a SSD like a p3600 would be an even better choice, crazy access speed and endurance.

I doubt the data will be valuable in the time required for that flash media to have issues, I was also suggesting rotating the drives hence my 2-3 comment on the external HDD. So even if you only did a re write once a year wouldnt have any issues.

(also you would want to store these at a different site or at least a fireproof safe if you truely are using them as a back up)

That reminds me of another cold-storage solution if you are fine with write-once, read-many solutions: M-Disc. It’s basically an optical medium that is compatible with standard DVD and BluRay drives (depending on whether you use DVD-M-Discs or BluRay-M-Discs), but you will need a burner that supports it (LG has some which are pretty much the same price as others).

The basic idea is that you make a “deeper” burn into the medium which according to their calculations and testing should last a millennium (hence the “M”). The medium is a bit more expensive as standard BluRays though, but compared to the cost of an LTO drive, it makes sense. So as long as you will have access to a DVD/BluRay drive in the coming decades, it should be readable.


Just buy some spare drives to have on hand if you are worried about them going away (They have at least 20 years more of existing, but are sadly on their way out)

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if we’re talking worm storage, I would assume that it’s data that would always be valuable. How valuable that data is is really going to come down to the person storing it.
having a snapshot of your digital life at different points can be pretty valuable to some people, similar to an old photograph.

flash doesn’t really hold data very well when it’s not plugged into things. A year? High quality MLC would probably be fine. 2? 3? Maybe not so much. 5? 10? You shouldn’t be using flash for that. Even mechanical drives can get data corruption over the course of decades.

I actually just stumbled across a mention of this in an older L1 thread. It seems interesting, but I don’t know enough about it to know if it’s reliable.
If it’s just a “deeper burn”, that’s not really going to prevent disc rot. Plastic it’s self will decay naturally over time, and 1000 years for any kind of plastic to retain data at that level is pretty crazy in the best of conditions.

Sounds a bit like a scam, but if it’s actually got some real science behind it, it would certainly be a cheap archival solution for the average joe.

Looking around though, it’s apparently not anything close to the claims. Just a bit better than el-cheapo bluray.

According to an accelerated aging test of the French National Laboratory of Metrology and Testing at 90 °C and 85% humidity, the DVD+Rs with inorganic recording layer like M-DISCs were still readable after 250 hours, however with an error rate above threshold, and were rated “less than 250 hours” equivalent to competing offers. The performance was: better than several DVD brands using organic dyes, where discs were not always readable after 250 hours; slightly lower than another brand which achieved a lower read error and was rated “250 hours”; much less than glass DVD technology (Syylex) which was rated “more than 1000 hours”.[15]

I would assume they would be generating more and more of things they would want stored, so a true cold storage wouldnt really be needed on a personal level. Just keep rotating and adding / rewriting and boom zero issues with flash.

Also OP is just looking for backup not Cold Storage (we are focusing on this to much and isnt even on topic with the goals)

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I haven’t done an extensive research myself, but you might get some insight from the references linked on the Wikipedia page. If you only need to rotate it every 10-20 years, that’s already an amazing result, really. Maybe we will have “PurpleRay-M-Discs” then to switch to :smile:

But with every cold-storage solution, there is always a tradeoff between the convenience of storing it and the effort it takes to read it in the future. If you want a guarantee to be able to read it in the future, you will need a “semi-cold” storage strategy where you keep rotating the storage and occasionally upgrading/converting it.

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I’ve been reading into a bit over the last few minutes, and afaict, m-disc is basically a meme. Outrageous claims, no data to back it up, and some preliminary testing suggests it’s nothing special. Just a little better than the cheapest consumer BD-Rs.
Apparently, it’s C-grade for cold storage, and doesn’t really do what it claims in reality. There were some other, longer lasting competitors, but they didn’t pan out either and I can’t find anywhere to even get them anymore.

This seems like a good read, actually. Of note, the fragility of LTO a ways down seems like a killer.
Also, while I don’t agree with the HDD statistics, as they’re taken from, afaik, 24/7 operation in datacenters, and will actually last much longer if you give them a spindown timer and keep them in a sort of lukewarm storage, the numbers are pretty scary in spite of that.
I’ve had drives last for decades(plural) without significant issues, but not when under constant use, and I didn’t test them for data integrity after 5+ years in cold storage. For consumer use, I’d say 8~10 years would be a pretty normal usable drive life under frequent use.

Sounds like blurays are pretty good.

We had a thread about storage longevity a few months ago,

Basically both tapes and optical mediums can last decades if they are kept in a good environment.

I would not go with used tapes, no telling how long those will last.


Where are you saying they have to be cold storage if so thats fine just did not specify that anywhere

Rotate as if your a horder the sotrage is just going to grow. If you want cold storage then I guess tapes but just seems like you will want to add more often then every 20 years where tape would have a reason to the goal

Are tape backwards readable? Like in 4-5 years, when the recorder is dead and no replacements are available, will the tape still be fine in a LTO-8 (or whatever) reader?

SATA/USB probably will, Probably,
And I presume new readers Can read old tapes, but maybe not the other way round?

I believe you only get 2 generations of compatability.

So buy two.


As much as i hate to do it , i think after hearing some of the reasons and experience about tape, you and others may be right about just using hard drives, i posted some pictures in the other thread and for the time being there’s not a financial benefit for tapes i’m still torn as to how to make reliable long term backups.

I have tried M-disk and i feel like they are possibly one of the best options for lifetime backup.

They are emp, and static proof and “should” last a lifetime.

i just wish they weren’t such a PITA to actually use. it takes so many of them as they only really come in bd and bdxl 22.7 and 90.8 gb . and they are expensive 55usd for 25 BD and 250usd for 25 BDXL

If literally every one says to not use tape, i must be wrong.

I went down the rabbit hole on this once. At 90 deg C. You’re attacking the plastic layers and M-Disc doesn’t looks so good. Longer tests at 70-80 deg C. Show a significant factor of improvement over conventional media.

Simulated ageing is a bit of a vodoo science, especially when you get to multiple parts and layers that react differently.

M-Disc has an inorganic data layer which requires a higher energy laser to write to, but not so high-energy that the drive is impractical to manufacture. It’s the data layer which is much more resilient than the conventional media, but still made in a way largely compatible w/ conventional manufacturing equipment.

It may not last the full thousand years outside ideal conditions, but I would expect it to outlast me. Especially if combined w/ a little parity data, and kept at reasonable storage conditions.

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