The Realities of Storage Media

Unhappy ResultsHow secure is your long term storage media?

According to the U.S. National Archives It isn't as secure as you may think.

Preservation specialists have been sounding the alarm as content preserved on film, magnetic media (digital and analog),and optical storage disk have begun to disintegrate along with the content preserved on these various fragile media forms. The U.S. National Records and Archives Administration, Britain's National Archives and a wide range of independent content preservation specialists from both academia and industry, are urging that content held in these forms be moved to a more stable storage platform, and as soon as possible.

TapeTape, optical disks and other modern media forms have proven to be relatively fragile and physically unstable over time. For example, the substrates binding magnetic tape inevitably depolymerize and stretch or become brittle. The lubricants embedded in tape surfaces evaporate or break down, destabilizing the coatings. Optical disk dyes fade or disperse. Data-holding magnetic particles begin to effect the charge in their neighbors.

The rate of this deterioration is hard to predict. In any case, the length of time one can confidently store content on any given piece of media is rarely more than a fraction of their manufacturer's "projected lifetimes."

(See our whitepaper, Why Your Digital Archive Should Never Depend on Storage Media).

Technical Obsolescence And Physical Risk

FloppyEven when digital media hasn't been physically compromised, technological change has compromised the functionality of data stored on older media forms. Today's systems cannot always read older data written on using older software recorded on yesterday's media formats. No formats or equipment are immune from this problem.

Replication and Documentation

Over the long term, content will have to be copied from one piece of media to another, or better yet, multiple copies should be made, as any given piece of media can deteriorate or generate errors unexpectedly. Replicated copies, held in geographically separate locations is critical to long-term data preservation, as is a means to test the copies against each other, and against various digitial signatures to ensure that they remain unaltered and authentic.

While replication is an essential component of document preservation, additional steps are needed to ensure that preserved data retains its value. Documentation and evidence of proper management is just as critical to retaining content value. There needs to be sufficient documentation to establish a file's origin, explain the technology that created it, describe its content, prove its authenticity and establish that it has been handled properly throughout its lifetime. The value of most electronic files will be lost if this documentation and evidence of proper handling is missing.


COLDSTOR Data recognizes that an archival system requires more than good media. It requires a partner capable of securing your data, replicating it for additional safety, authenticating its content and generating solid evidence of its proper handling over the long term. Gives us a call and find out how inexpensive a secure archiving service can be.