« Open Mike: Thousand Picture Project | Main | How's This for a Preservation Scheme? »

Monday, 11 May 2015


Mike, my 2 cents, from (a Silicon Valley denizen) perspective here, and having discussed this for quite a long time in relation to storage of all kinds of media, not just jpeg, tif, or dng,

I don't trust storing on tapes or removable disc anymore. Either the media is not long-lived or truly archival, or, it is potentially long lived, but you can't really know if the technology will stick, or be around in 20 years, not to mention a thousand. Same as with the discussion about dng vs tiff vs proprietary raw.

What I have been doing is backing up to several hard drives (I tried to buy the ones analysts call the most reliable), as well as to the cloud, using Backblaze for all photos _and_ Dropbox and others for selected photos & videos.

I migrate to new drives around every 2-3 years, that means I have many older drives with older copies of all my files lying around, in different locations. Not that I trust these 100%. What I trust are my current drives and the cloud.

So I am not too curious about M Disk, or analogues - unless there is overwhelming evidence of wide industry acceptance.

Oh boy! Has this ever been a better opportunity for the 'knock-off' brigade! Who's going to be around in a hundred years' time to claim that theirs isn't an original because it's already useless, let alone a thousand years' durability.
Besides, strange how the advert goes on about heat and humidity but surely scratching and dropping are the main things disks are vulnerable to - imagine how many times you can manhandle one of these in a thousand years.
Nice idea going back to the 'Stone Age' but I think I'll pass. Not long before 1TB flash drives are available that are far smaller than a drum of these discs.

Mike I believe these were originally marketed under the name Millenniata. As an inorganic alternative to dye based DVD's
with the idea being that the super long lasting disks were physically altered by writing and thus there was immune to fading dyes or delamitation etc, This was a couple of years ago.
I got all excited, but it never took off. The capacity was smaller than 100 gb.
The M disk mentioned is an advancement of the original, which is really great, BUT it relys on a player/Burner
If it did take off, it would be vastly superior to a flash drive.
I'd buy one in a minute.
But right now the concept clearly has not reached critical mass, and there is one supplier of the disks.
There is a real need for 'permanent storage" But since most computers have given up on optical media, so it will require many folks go bo buy a burner (or two for backup) this looks like an uphill fight, even though it seems like a great idea.
I hope they make it.
I actually thought they had given up.

I worked in the computer hardware industry for over 30 years and if there is one thing I learned is nothing last forever or 5 years, which comes first. So whatever you use for archiving your photos will die at some point.

Heat is a big destroyer of DVD and Blue-ray. I would never use those products for archiving.

Whatever product you use you need to transfer to another at regular intervals. Maybe once a year copy from one flash drive, for instance, to another. You can reuse the old flash drive for another transfer.

If you are using hard drives it is very important that you do this transfer on a regular basis. This is because disk drives use magnetic technology and those ones and zeros with gradually go to totally random data. Just like grass to weeds. That's why transferring from one drive to another on a regular basis is REALLY important.

And whatever method you use keep up on what's happening with the hardware and software that allows you to read and write to your backup device.

Anyone have a 1.4MB floppy reader? How about serial interface on you computer. And disk interfaces are constanting changing.

In short there just isn't one archival method used today that for sure will be around in ten or more years. Maybe in even less time.

My current method is to use small disk drives that come in cases with the USB3 interface but I can see myself going to a more efficient and safer method very soon.

What's REALLY important is storing your archival backup somewhere off site. A bank safe-deposit box maybe.

+1 for curious...BTW, I thought "gold" disks were good for 200 years, but if you go to the M-Disk site they say all DVD's are good for a few years, which I find to be "not truthful". I read a report, from the DOD as well, on the viability of the Mitsui/MAM gold DVD's, and they started the life would be easily over 200 years. I'm very interested in the 1000 year life of this thing, but sounds like additional tech purchases in it, I've got older stuff...

There are two problems with disks. The first addressed by this disc is that the media stops working. By far the bigger problem is that as standards evolve you won't have the technology to read them. Think about how many of us have the technology to read a floppy disk any more.

I use M-DISKS. I have no way to test their claims that they may last 1000 years. But I can write them with any blue ray drive that is certified. (It seems most are). They basically work like any other DVD or Blue Ray disk, but last a long time. I did research them and found no contradictory information. When the 100 GB disks become available, they will be even more useful.

Hey Mike,

I did some research on m-disk a while back. The idea is solid, and avoids the dye fade issues of burnable dvd/blu-ray media. The problem comes down to cost, and future compatibility. Since the market for these disks is not a huge one, drive support was hit or miss when i took a look. You might eventually run into the issue of not being able to read the disks not because of degradation, but because you may not be able to find a compatible drive five or ten years out. I personally have taken the approach using a NAS along with external hard drive backups (one stays offsite). The other option to consider is something like Amazon Cloud Storage : https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/unlimited which is pretty reasonably priced. I'd recommend a combination of keeping an external hard drive offsite, along with cloud based backup.


There have been lots of these claims for 1000 year storage media, and in the end they are all pretty much BS. This one seems particularly laughable, since it's dependent on a DVD or Blu-ray. How many drives for those will be working in 1000 years? To help answer that question, just wonder what is the greatest problem you would have reading a 5.25 inch diskette you found in your parent's loft? Hint: it's not the coding, it's the drive.

The only safe mechanism is lots of copies, geographically separate, using bog standard formats, refreshed to new media at appropriate intervals, and migrated to new formats before it becomes absolutely necessary (but as seldom as possible... and keeping the originals as well).

I took a look at the M-Disk web site, and my impression is that is seems high on hype, and low on real technical information.

My next look was at the National Archives. They, and the Library of Congress, are a good resource. I found lots of information at Archives about file formats, high preferences for uncompressed and non-proprietary file formats. TIFF is preferred for most image storage.

There was not a lot that I could find about the storage medium, and I though that was interesting. It told me that they were concerned more with formats of digital data than the storage medium.

A 1000 year optical disk is not that useful if there's no device able to read it. Several once-common digital formats are hard to read these days. 80 column punched cards, 8 inch floppy. Hard to read, but not impossible. As interfaces for hard disks progress, the older versions get less accessible. How much longer will the "average" geek be able to read a SCSI hard disk?

Digital archiving needs to be a process, and that process requires maintenance and refresh.

The problem with these archival storage solutions isn't the medium, but the player. You'll need a player that works, a connector for the player that interfaces with your computer (remember scsi), as well as drivers for the computer and OS version that you are interfacing with. The player, connector and drivers all age much more rapidly than the media. Computer museums don't just archive the data, but also the means to read the data.

I was curious what the Library of Congress said about this issue (long term digital storage) and came across their preservation website:


Keep it in the cloud and ask the NSA if you need a copy.

Dear Mike,

A clarification. When I say a "considerable" time, I'm thinking at most 50 years. And probably less. Consider that 50 years ago was 1965. Consider the state of storage media then. Consider the hardware interfaces used. Consider the software that drove those interfaces.

How much of that is accessible today without expensive, specialized equipment?

What Mark said is true, but it applies to ALL digital storage media. Including hard drives. The interfaces change. Today you may not be able to get a SCSI interface for your computer. And pre-SCSI? Hoo boy.

What keep a medium viable is LOTS AND LOTS of institutional data in that medium. That's the only metric that matters. That still won't carry you more than a handful of decades.

So worrying about 1000-year media vs 100-year? That's just silly.

The real issue is that we don't know if we can trust ANY of that media to hit its claimed lifetime. So we figure longer is better for the safety margin.

'Cept that margin will be different for different media. It's like comparing apples and avocados... in terms of shelf life.

At some point the rate of technological change will slow down and the system will stabilize. We're not at that point. Not close.

pax / Ctein

I have had doubts about the durability of disks since my back operation.

Make archival, or close to it, prints of the keepers. Humans are born with print-compatible optical readers.

The M disk doesn't need to last 1,000 years, it just needs to out last the USB flash alternative. I find all this talk about not finding an optical drive in the near future outlandish. You can still by a 3.5" floppy drive new from Amazon. Those came out in what, the early 1980's? If your media is near obsolete, it is time to move it to a newer format. That should go without saying.

There is also software. In the mid-nineties I got a lot of photos burned to Kodak's Photo CD. I considered this safe, of course. But maybe 12 years later I tried to open these files in Photoshop, only to find it could not open them! The format was obsolete for real!

Fortunately a version of the shareware program GraphicConverter could open the files, and I converted them all to a more all-round used almost loss-less format.

The music on their video alone was enough to put me off this company. And the animation and graphics was so kitschy. Are they serious or trying to appeal to soccer moms? I sense the latter.

We were told CDs would last "forever".

A one thousand year archive for the wedding video and that important business document? Seriously!?

You know, what occurs to me (and I am interested in hearing more about M-Disks BTW), is that why would anyone bother changing from film?

Yeah, yeah, I get the whole "negs and prints won't last in a fire or flood either thing". But all the people on here telling me they make multiple copies and change drives every few years because the drives fail and DVD's have a 5 year life and all that other stuff, it's like, jeez, if you're a hobbyist or artist, why would you even bother?

I spent 40 years processing film, putting it in archival sleeves, and storing it in a fire-proof, water proof box, and then that's it. If I was NOT a professional, then why would I even worry about changing drives every few years or whatever. For the non-professionals on here jumping through all those hoops for digital storage: have you thought you might have another problem? ADHD? GAS?

If I never took another picture for money, I'd sell my digital stuff tomorrow and still shoot film and store it the way I store it. I might scan and do prints through the computer, but the original media would be film.

It seems like almost every aspect of digital, when you stand back and finally take a look at the long picture since the late 90's, is more troublesome than film ever was, except for rapid delivery. People are now just so locked into it, that they don't realize much was better, and most never even did anything in that era so they don't know.

Rolleiflex, tripod, light meter, tri-x, one roll processing tank, now cheap used enlarger if you want to go that way, otherwise scan, archival storage sheets, waterproof fireproof box, and you're done.

Any time a discussion turns to storage I refer to this link.


The comments to this entry are closed.