No permanent solution to storing your data

The Baltimore Sun

I know that DVD storage of photos and videos is not a truly permanent solution, and that some estimates of DVD life are as little as five years. Would an external hard drive serve as a more permanent storage medium? For how many years might one expect a hard drive to retain data if stored in a climate-controlled environment?

- Fred Lehrer

You're right, DVDs aren't a permanent solution. Trouble is, there really isn't one.

DVDs can last anywhere from a second to 100 years. And homemade DVDs generally don't last as long as commercial DVDs, such as movies.

Also keep in mind that any life-span figures you see are just averages. A hard disk's average life might be seven years, but that doesn't mean yours won't fail in two. The important thing to keep in mind is that your storage method will eventually fail.

So what to do? I keep important files on my main hard disk, then back that up to an external hard disk. In some cases (this started after I lost some family pictures that existed only as digital files), I made still a third backup on DVD. That's about as much insurance as you can have at this point, unless you also backed up data to an Internet storage site.

I would be so grateful if you could help me locate an adaptor or something for my new Samsung DVD recorder that would allow me to transfer all my precious family vacations and children's special memories recorded on 8 mm videocassettes to DVDs. We can't watch the tapes because the video camera is broken. I don't want to give the tapes to an outside company for fear of them getting lost, so I'd rather do it myself. I'm at a loss as to what to do, and I hope you can help!

- Kay Chapman

Kay, you've got your work cut out. For one thing, you'd have to have a way to play the videocassettes before you could transfer them. So you'd end up needing an 8 mm video camera, or something like the device listed at this Web link:

The process is described here:

It's doable, but you might want to reconsider your opposition to outsourcing the job. There is a cottage industry of firms that do this work now. Some are in metro Atlanta, which means you could hand-deliver the tapes and pick up the DVDs. Do some googling and call a couple. Give them a chance to ease your concerns. If you still feared the originals might be lost, you could probably make a deal to have the transfer done while you were there.

Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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