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Preserve your digital contents for (almost) eternity

By Jean-Claude Elias - Jun 15,2017 - Last updated at Jun 15,2017

Don’t you sometime wake up at night fearing that your entire collection of family photos that you keep on your laptop’s hard disk is lost forever? It could be anything: a damaged hard disk, an encrypting virus, or simply a human error such as unintended deletion, to name a few of the many reasons that could lead to data loss disaster. 

There is a solution and it is an almost perfect one. It has been around for nearly seven years and it is rather strange that it has not become more commonly used to date. It is the M-Disc, also referred to as the Millenniata.

The best and the longest possible preservation of digital contents is not a subject to take lightly. It is all the more important that every bit of information is being digitised today, multimedia and audio-visual contents more particularly.

In typical conditions magnetic hard disks keep data for 5 to 10 years. Optical discs such as CDs, DVDs or BluRay that you create at home would fare a little better and preserve data for 10 to 20 years, provided they are stored very well, protected from excessive light and harsh environmental conditions. Optical discs that you write once (without the possibility for erasure afterwards) ensure protection against virus attacks and accidental deletion. They are somehow safer than magnetic hard disks.

Experience has shown, however, that even optical discs are often mistreated, poorly stored and handled, and end up being unreadable after only a few years.

The M-Disc, or Millenniata is a special kind of optical disc, looking a lot like a BluRay disc, and it is known to keep data for several hundred years, up to 1,000 according to its makers. The secret is in the “recording” or writing process.

Unlike standard CDs, DVDs and BluRay that you would “burn” or dye to save data on them, M-Discs work with a process that is closer to the industry made CDs where data is actually “engraved” and therefore not subject to alteration by ambient light and other environmental factors.

According to Verbatim, one of leading manufacturers of consumer optical discs, including M-Discs: “… information is engraved into a patented, inorganic recording layer resistant to light, temperature and humidity. Based on ISO/IEC 16963 testing, M-Disc media has a projected lifetime of several hundred years…”.

The M-DISC is the product of Millenniata, a company founded by Brigham Young University scientists Lunt, Linford, O’Connell and Hansen in 2010 in Utah.

There are several ways to protect your precious data without M-Discs. Making multiple copies and storing them in different places is one of them. It is, however, time-consuming and tedious. An optical media like the M-Disc constitutes a much better solution. Plus the fact that blank media with up to 100GB of storage capacity are available on the market. This is substantial storage space, by any measure.

The units, the equipment to record and create M-Discs are also easily available. Korean giant LG, for one, sells an excellent reader/writer/recorder that is external, connects to your computer simply via USB and can read and write all formats of optical discs, from CD all the way up to M-Disc. It would cost $120 to $180. It is very little money, considering the truly exceptional shelf life it ensures for your data, and the unprecedented peace of mind that goes with it.

The blank recordable media costs about $30 each, for the 100GB model. A quick market survey showed that whereas the reader/writer/recorder was sold in Jordan, the recordable media was not! All vendors contacted said there was no demand for the product in the country. People would buy the versatile equipment but would use it with traditional CDs, DVDs and BluRay discs only, not with M-Discs.

 

Being able to store important data and knowing that it is safe and available for a few hundred years, for the generations to come, is invaluable. Perhaps the consumer is not worried about eternity after all.

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