How viable are hard drives as long term storage media?

I hate DVD dics. I’m done with them, and I’m looking for other solutions for long term media storage. I wanted to ask how long can hard drives be reallied upon to store data? Are they a good investment?

Here’s how I came about this idea:

I own the entire Star Trek voyager series on DVD. Of course, the packaging holding all 49 discs took up an entire shelf. I did the only sane thing. I ripped all episodes and managed to fit the entire series into 8 dual layered DVD’s. Nice, except here comes DS9 and TOS, and Enterprise, and the next generation, and the movies, and my SO’s favorite shows like felicity and 90210 and on and on. It’s ridiculous the amount of space needed. Not only that but DVD media isn’t very reliable. Just yesterday we tried to play a few shows stored in a DVD about 2 years ago and it was a no go. The DVD didn’t play on any of our PC’s.

So I told myself, self, I could probably squeeze the entirety of Star Trek Media, all episodes from all the series + all the movies in HD in a single 750 GB had drive. With a simple external USB to SATA dock I can easily hook up that hard drive and have media center on our HTPC read all the data therein. Imagine that, all of star trek not strewn across dozens of unreliable DVD’s, but all in one single $50 hard drive.

So my questions to you guys are:

How reliable are Hard Drives for this kind of long term storage with occasional access? Are there better solutions out there now, or in the near future? How do you guys deal with all the space discs take up? Are there any solutions for the storage of hard drives? I’m thinking some sort of racks or something were they can slide in. I know there are enclosures, but they are expensive since they usually feature USB or network access, or even RAID. Obviously, I wouldn’t need that, just a physical rack where they can be inserted without having them just stacked on top of one another.

Any suggestions, thoughts, ideas are welcomed!

Not very.

A hard drive is a little plate of plastic and metal, spinning around at roughly 100 revolutions per second. It is the most fragile and least dependable part of any computer.

Sure, a hard drive could last for 20 years. Theoretically. Or it can fail 5 minutes from now.

I’ve been working with computers for 30 years now and I’ve learned this lesson well and watched many others learn it the hard way: Never bet your life or your data on the survival of a hard drive.

Seconded. You should look at Blu-Ray for additional storage options.

Chimera got it right. There is something called the dreaded MTBF. That’s Mean Time Between Failure.

Many dirves last for years, but sooner or later, all of them will die.

Main three rules of computers: 1. Backup. 2. Backup 3. Backup.

Yeah, the boyfriend runs a video production business and if he goes a month without a massive hard drive problem it’s cause for celebration.

OK, time for the minority opinion. I think using hard drives is a pretty good idea.

First of all, you can buy a $200 hard drive that is way more reliable than the $50 you mentioned. More precisely, you can buy four of the $50 drives for $200. The probability that all four will die within 10 or so years is pretty low, especially if you buy four different brands.

Second, it’s a real problem to find hardware or media that are supported for 20 years. Paper probably will be for longer than any of the others, humorously enough. The thing about hard drives is that stuff on a single hard drive can be moved onto the dilithium drive they are going to announce tomorrow, en masse. So you can keep migrating data from device to device every few years.

Third, there is a pretty major commitment to hard drives out there, and I can imagine fancy methods like RAID that provide redundancy being available for a long time.

Fourth, if you keep a drive in a cool dry place and don’t run it often, but occasionally move its data elsewhere and reformat it, your expected lifetime will go way up.

Fifth, you also should worry about the MTBF of your house. Not to be too scary, but they do burn sometimes, and flood, and get robbed, and so forth. Your plan should include copies in separate buildings. Hard drives are good for this.

Sixth, you probably have other data you want long term. With me it’s photos and banking backups and various interesting articles and program source code I’m really fond of. You should cultivate one big pool of information that you look after that contains all this. Hard drives are good for this.

So, I don’t think one hard drive is a very good plan, but several hard drives, or the idea of hard drives in general, with occasional moving around of the data, would probably be a great idea.

I suspect that in the near future, virtually everything will be stored on remote servers which are automatically backed up. You rent storage capacity, upload whatever you want to store and access it from any computer or device.

Problem is that they often are not backed up as often as they should, as witnessed by a couple of high profile public storage failures this last year.

Then if you’re storing entertainment media on it enmasse, be prepared to be the next legal battleground of the moronic entertainment industry legal departments.

“Well gosh, anyone could access that on-line media. You might be enabling piracy! Pay us millions!”

I just finally sold the last 100 of almost 800 dvd’s on craigslist. I have all of my movies/music/tv shows stored on TB drives now. Hooked up to my comp, which is hooked to a 42inch lcd that I use as both a monitor and tv. I even threw in the dvd players when I sold the last batch. When the price comes down for multi TB drives, I’ll just copy them onto those and leave the older ones as backups as I have with my old GB drives. Dvd’s and thier players are old news, man.

Thing is, hard drives aren’t especially reliable. Neither are DVDs. Hard drives have moving parts liable to failure, and DVDs scratch and can even degrade with time even if you’re not using them. I wonder if a solid-state drive of some kind might be the most reliable- USB sticks, maybe? It certainly wouldn’t be cheaper.

I assume that you deleted all of the videos that you copied from the DVDs after you sold them…

Your assumption would be wrong.:slight_smile:

Then congratulations, you are now, legally speaking, engaging in video piracy.

What was your solution exactly? A rack with a bunch drives in Raid in closet somewhere? On the network? What hardware did you decide to use?

i’ve got a DNS 321 which has two 2 terabyte drives in RAID 1. Nice, but 2 terabytes fill up quick.

The newer drives are small and flat and easily stacked next to the tower. They’re almost unnoticeable. There’s no need for a rack. 3 Drives hold all my stuff and my older GB backups are in a box somewhere. One of the drives holds 583 movies and still has about 250 gigs in free space. I’ve never had a single problem with Western Digital hardware and I’ve been using them and Seagate for years.

Well, that’s what they once said about floppy disks. :slight_smile:

I’m sure he was quite aware of the fact.

Solid State drives actually have a shorter lifespan, especially if they’re continually used, then their performance degradesas well.

Hard drives are cheap enough that you can buy two and have two copies of the data. You don’t even need to use raid 1 - that’s convenient but also raises the potential issue of a controller failure that screws up both drives. Since you’re copying a lot of stuff once, and don’t need daily backups, that works fine. Both can fail, but both of them losing data unrecoverably in the same time span is unlikely - less likely than DVDs simply aging and becoming unusable I think.

Modern hard drives are pretty reliable - many come with a 5 year warranty… which doesn’t guarantee your data or anything, but it does show that the companies are confident about the quality of the drive. I haven’t had a hard drive fail in… I can’t remember how long, at least 7 or 8 years… they end up getting retired because a bigger drive wants their hard drive bay. I’ve had good luck with Western Digital - my 2 80gb drives from them got retired after 3 or 4 years, the 250gb drives I bought 4-5 years ago are still working fine, and my raptor is still happy at age 6.

An enormous benefit to (smartly) transferring to all HDD (or SDD as the case may be) storage is in re-transferring to the Next Big Media format. That is, copying a gajillion CDs, DVDs, or BDs to the next hard(ish)-copy format is a fairly time-intensive chore. Moving digital files from X to Y drive or converting formats is a mostly automated process. I have no doubt that I’ll eventually shift from one drive to another and will likely be changing the digital format, but all this will be relatively painless.

I added “smartly” because posters above are correct. You don’t want a lifetime of photos and movies and a music collection stored on just one drive – that’s asking for trouble. But there are easy and inexpensive options.

Our setup is fairly inexpensive, and as prices drop it will become even more so. We have all our media files in a D-Link NAS. It’s a simple box with two 1.5 TB drives in it. Total cost is around three hundred dollars. The two drives are in RAID 1, meaning each is mirrored to the other. It has a built-in email server to alert me if there are any problems.

This is automatically backed up (periodic full and interim incrementals) via Gigabit ethernet to another NAS device two floors down and in the opposite corner of the house. It too has two drives in RAID 1 (and alert feature, etc.). Checking its status is a monthly routine 15-second task.

Maybe not absolutely tornado or inferno proof (though it should be good against velociraptors), but it would take the most determined thief to steal not only the office equipment but also the innocuous looking box in the basement next to the extra cat litter with no other electronic or other valuables near it.

If this seems a bit over the top, it came about because we run our business from our home — the genesis for the architecture and initial investment was to backup our office files. But despite its origins, the total overall cost is about six hundred dollars, and prices continue to drop. For that we have all our media stored on four different disks in two distinct locations.

Though catastrophe could strike, I daresay we have minimized the probability while maximizing portability and long term storage options.