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Back up your data - Optical Discs


Purchasing a computer that will be maintenance free is one attribute that is hard to identify. Reliability statistics for PC manufacturers can help select which computers might be trouble free. Even if you build your own PC and carefully select hardware components of the highest quality, it is likely that at some point in time you will experience a hardware failure. It needn't be a hard disk failure that will cause data loss. Buying sub-standard Power Supply Units can be a false economy, as their failure can also lead to the premature demise of a hard disk. Even with extremely reliable hardware, users are still prone to data loss from such events as software crashes, filesystem / database corruption arising from a power outage, or a natural disaster.

If you don't value your information, data loss may only be a minor inconvenience. However, for the vast majority of users, permanent data loss may result in financial loss, emotional distress (such as the loss of photographs with sentimental value), bidding farewell to irreplaceable documents, and the demise of your video and audio collection.

There are many different ways to make backups. To a large extent the backup solution used depends on what you are backing up. In this article we explore the key methods which are ideally suited for the home user.

Of course, adopting the forthcoming Google Chrome operating system will redefine our backup needs. Your Chrome computer will not need a hard drive, as all your data will be stored on the cloud, and available to access over the web.

Optical discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray)

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are an economical and versatile method to back up, transport and distribute files. Single layer discs offer 700MB, 4.7GB, and 25GB capacity respectively. There are also dual layer media available for DVDs and Blu-ray formats which double capacity. Even with large capacities, write times are quick. For example, the Pioneer BDR-205 offers 12x Blu-ray write speeds, and whilst there isn't media designed to write at that speed, it only takes approximately 10 minutes to fill up a 25GB BD-R disc.

These days optical media is also keenly priced. CD media can be purchased for less than 10p each, whereas single layer DVDs and Blu-rays can cost as low as 20p and 1.50 respectively when purchased in spindle packs. Two UK retailers which we highly recommend for blank media are SVP and, the latter offering free postage which makes it ideal when you only need to purchase a few discs. Further, as their business is located in the Channel Islands there is no VAT (sales tax) payable for items under 18.

Besides the price attractivenes of optical discs, an additional attribute is that they are highly portable. One factor to bear in mind in any backup strategy is to ensure that your data is held at a different location, to prevent data loss in the event of say fire or flooding.

BD-R is an example of optical media where data cannot be erased, although you can write to the disk at more than one session. This type of media is therefore more suitable for archiving files, where it is unlikely that the data will need to be modified at a later date. For example, a photography collection is likely to fall into this category.

However, rewriteable CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray media are also available, where data can be recorded and erased multiple times. Whilst they are more expensive than their write once counterparts, they are more suitable for backups. However, given the relatively small capacity, optical media is not recommended for backing up a complete system. Nevertheless, rewriteable DVDs make an inexpensive medium for multiple temporary recordings, and are popular for their convenience and cheapness as a medium for time-shifting TV programmes.

There is a good selection of software available for Linux which enables a CD/DVD/Blu-ray burner to backup and archive files. Two applications which particularly stand out are K3b and Nero, the former of which is released under a freely distributable license, the latter is proprietary software priced at 17.99 (.99). Both applications provide an attractive user interface for backing up files to CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs, and are strongly recommended.

Read more > >

Jump ahead:

1. Introduction - Optical Discs (current page)
2. External Hard Disks (next page)
3. Network Storage
4. Online Backup Services
5. Tape Drives
6. Solid State Storage

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Last Updated Sunday, December 13 2009 @ 10:23 AM EST

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