WARNING: Don’t Use Disk For Archival or Long-Term Backup

Hard drive storage is great for most backup purposes.

Not only is it cheaper than other media like DVD, but its read/write speeds make it the ideal solution for lightning fast recovery in a pinch. And it’s getting cheaper all the time.

dangerAlso, it’s an extremely dense way to store data, which makes it ideal for conserving space in an already over-crowded datacenter.

And of course, nothing beats disk when it comes to speed. Disk gives you random access to your data, which makes it more convenient than tape when it comes to finding specific files of interest.

But hard drives also have some other issues that you should keep in mind.

First of all, disk is very unstable. If a part of the disk fails, you’re very likely to lose all of your data. Contrast this with tape storage, where damage to one part of the tape is very unlikely to destroy the data on the rest of the device.

Second of all, disk drives are complicated devices which contain many moving parts. When stored over long periods of time, there’s an increased chance that these parts will deteriorate and cause the device to be completely unreadable. Once again, contrast this with the way tape separates the storage media from the reading devices.

Finally, unlike tape, hard drives are not built to be reverse compatible. If you store a drive for 10 years, there’s a good chance that the adapters and drivers for the device will become obsolete over time. This means that your data will be trapped forever unless you can somehow locate a reading device that supports your format.

To make matters worse, these risks compound with scale. As the number of disks and the age of the archives continue to grow, so does the chance of potential data loss.

If you enjoy the speed and convenience of disk for backup, keep using it. But if you plan on storing these backups for longer periods of time, you may want to consider adding other types of backup media to the mix.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/almaz73/3564244382/sizes/s/

2 thoughts on “WARNING: Don’t Use Disk For Archival or Long-Term Backup

  1. Bill

    There are probably FAR more tape formats that have become incompatible than hard drives. It’s a lot more likely to have tapes orphaned with out a reader than a hard drive. That and the formats used to store the data into the tape are often highly dependent on host software, which may no longer be available.

    So that argument just doesn’t hold up. Not that disk isn’t without it’s issues. But long-term compatibility is NOT one of them.

  2. Wtf


    I have taken time to read this through, and I will prove everything here is a bullcrap.

    Fact Nr 1.
    My first hard drive, a 160 MEGABYTE hard drive from 1991 is sitting right next to me and is WORKING. Thats 21 YEARS OLD.

    I have taken precausions never to drop it and have never used it since 1995, only powering it up 3-4 times.

    Fact Nr 2.
    This harddrive from 1991 has IDE interface with Molex connectors.
    Even in 2012, 80% of mainboards come with IDE interface. Molex´ are still here.

    Fact Nr 3.
    There are programs to read and check accessiblity of HDD surface.

    Fact Nr 4.
    Hard drive has SMART, which no other media from tape to DVD has.

    Fact Nr 5.
    Tape demagnetizises far quicker.
    A single drop of tape to the ground is just same as HDD – enough to destroy it.
    You can scratch a tape, expose it to dust, expose it to UV, accidently break part of its housing.

    Hard drives are in heavy duty metal casing. The only thing to do is not to shock them and you are safe.

    Fact Nr 6.
    For the cost of the tapes you need to back up one hard drive, you are good to purchase FIVE hard drives and make FIVE time so many back-ups.

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