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Backups: DVDs or flash drives?
Old 11-15-2007, 01:14 PM   #1
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Backups: DVDs or flash drives?

Costco has been selling 4 GB flash drives for $30 and I've even seen other stores advertise 8 GB flash drives for $99. As the holiday prices drop, it quickly becomes affordable to use them as backups.

Our home PC's "MyDocuments" folder is under 8 GB, half images & music and the other half Quicken files, spreadsheets, & word-processing documents. All our backups fit on two DVDs or two 4 GB flash drives.

Which lasts longer-- flash drives or DVDs? I know that flash drives have a limited number of read/write cycles, but I wonder if they'll still last longer than dye-sublimation DVDs. I burn each weekly backup into a fresh DVD and I'd replace a flash drive's backup file each time I wrote to it. Even at 100 read/write cycles I'd still get two years out of a flash drive, at which point their successors would have 10x the capacity for 1/100th the price.

How does temperature affect flash drives? I store our backups in our Fridgezilla, the most fire-proof structure in the house, at 36 degrees F. The DVDs work fine (after I let them warm up & dry out) but I don't know how the cold/condensation affects flash drives.

I also backup the entire MyDocuments folder to an ancient EIDE external hard drive with a USB adaptor. It's slow & clunky, but maybe that's a better solution than either DVDs or flash drives. However I'm not so confident that I should store a HD in a fridge.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:34 PM   #2
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I think the nee flash drives are way cooland I have had stuff on them for years with no problems accessing.

Flash.....uh-huh.....he's save every one of us!!!
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:43 PM   #3
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CD/DVD backups last longer but they are a real pain if you have a lot of items to back up. I've had 2 external hard drives and I'm on my third now. They are great but then the ones I've had (2 different brands) crashed and I lost everything on them. I've had a couple of flash drives too but they didn't last either.

I now use both an external drive and an online backup service - DataDepositBox.com. I could probably just use the online backup service but I like to be extra safe. It's great because now I don't have to worry about losing everything if my drive and computer both crash or there is a fire, robbery, virus, etc. What's great too is that with the online storage place everything is completely automated. Every time a new file is added or changed it automatically backs it up for you and you don't have to remember to do it.

The ony negative is that it took a while for the initial backup to complete. I have about 20 gb of stuff and it took a couple of days for everything to get backed up but since then it's been great. I feel a lot more secure knowing if something happens to my computer and/or drive the documents are off site and protected.

It's more expensive than a drive - the place I use charges $2/gb/month - but I just feel safer having a backup to my backup.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:47 PM   #4
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dvd last longer and flash drive is more convenient.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:50 PM   #5
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Ironkey

Nords - remember they're called "flash" drives for a reason...you can lose everything in a 'FLASH'. A DVD is good if stored well, but you have to update to new disks. Some folks i know use a ruggedized external HD for storage of important items - (LaCie - Rugged All-Terrain Hard Disk - FireWire 800, FireWire 400 & Hi-Speed USB 2.0).

Personally, I like my IRONKEYS (https://www.ironkey.com/)...Much like what I had with the old job, just civie'd up a bit - works great.

regards, 1-0

From their website...
"The IronKey, designed to be the world’s most secure flash drive, protects your data, online passwords, and Internet privacy. Now you can safely carry your digital life with you wherever you go—with confidence and peace of mind. While it uses advanced security technologies previously only available to government agents and other secret operatives,
it is simple to use and requires only a password to unlock it.
-Secure Flash Drive & Internet Protection

>>Military-Grade Encryption - The IronKey Cryptochip protects your
data to the same level as the government’s most classified information.
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restore your online passwords from your encrypted online backup.
>>Stealth Browsing Technology - Surf the Web safely and privately
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>>Waterproof & Tamperproof - The IronKey was designed to survive
the extremes and exceeds military specifications for water resistance.

Who Buys It? and Why?
College students who want to carry their music and photos with them and work on their term papers, use IM, and check email from various public computers.
Business people who need to securely carry sensitive information with them on the road and want to check email by using the hotel’s Internet connection.
Any Internet user who has difficulty remembering all his online passwords and wants to securely and automatically log into his online financial accounts.
Any computer user who wants to backup important or sensitive files, either online or to another computer, and wants the backups to be encrypted."
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Old 11-15-2007, 02:16 PM   #6
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I prefer DVDs - you get the benefits of being able to go back to any point in time (as long as you keep the dvds) over multiple backups. If your flash drive only holds one backup, you're screwed if you realize a month later that you've corrupted an important file. Plus, if one dvd dies, it's probably not too bad to restore from the previous week's backup.
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:02 PM   #7
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I have a Simple Share external drive. I back up my Quicken religiously. I also copy all of my digital photos to it.
But for the rest of the computer I just use the Windows XP back-up utility. Is there a better program out there that is not too expensive. I lost a hard drive once and lost all sorts of stuff. That's when I got the Simple Share after replacing the hard drive in my computer.
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:15 PM   #8
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A friend recommended this outfit: http://www.carbonite.com/
For $49/year they will back up everything on your PC including config files, etc.
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:23 PM   #9
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DVDs are my choice, here's why: they only cost 20 cents each, so you save each backup you make. You not only have multiple redundant backups, but you can restore a file that you had weeks ago, but had deleted just prior to the most recent backup.

Each weekly backup DVD is dated and goes on a spindle with the others. As long as a file existed on some Friday morning in the past, I can restore it.
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:28 PM   #10
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A friend recommended this outfit: http://www.carbonite.com/
For $49/year they will back up everything on your PC including config files, etc.
So how secure is this site? I listened to part of their tutorial and the guy speaking British English with a German accent didn't give me warm fuzzies.

BTW, I just looked at it some more, and it is a backup rather than a storage service. That is, it will backup what's on your computer, but you can't store what you have on other drives, cd's, etc. And once a file is deleted from your computer, it's also deleted from carbonite, at least that's how I understand it.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:20 PM   #11
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I do my daily backup onto a flash drive, my full backups (every month or so) onto DVDs.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:27 PM   #12
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i'm not sure how to factor this into decision making but i would try to keep in mind that as technology changes which of today's mediums might easiest convert to tomorrow's and then go with that.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:32 PM   #13
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Well, it's all about defense in depth, right? I do regular backups on my two flash drives, periodic fulls onto DVD's, and run a batch to copy critical files over the network to each other's workstations. DW would KILL me if we lost any photos of the kid. Fear is a motivator.

Ditto T-Bone Al's comments. DVD's are so cheap now.
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:10 PM   #14
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Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but some cheaper dvd/cd media might be unreadable in as little as 1 year and a whole bunch of it may not be readable within 5-7. Music and movies can tolerate a skip here and there but not data.

Among the worst things you can do to a disk is expose it to extremes of heat and cold, and the worst is transitions from cold to hot or vice versa, which may worsen any layer separation and allow oxidation of the media layers. In other words, putting them in the fridge is no bueno.

Its sort of a hotly contested topic, but I've spent good money and cheap money on cd's and dvd's and had plenty of them turn into coasters pretty quick. I've got a couple that are 3-4 years old and still working fine, but I wouldnt trust important files to a single generation backup on a dvd.

If it helps, I'd trust a mechanical hard drive over a burned dvd.

Flash memory's "limits" dont really apply anymore. Early products had a 100,000 write cycle limit but with modern load leveling, error correction and remapping a flash memory product can be written to continuously at full rate for more than 50 years before it would fail. Thats worst case. I remember someone telling me once that some radiations can shorten flash life, but you'd have to work in a laboratory or medical facility and expose the flash chip to it directly and even then you're looking at years. Fer cryin' out loud they're making hard drives out of flash these days and vista will use a flash drive as a temporary intermediate storage area to slightly speed up system performance.

A lot of flash chips fail from physical connection problems from being handled...squeezed, bent, etc or suffer a failure due to problems during the manufacturing process. In the absence of that, its unlikely that a decent quality flash device will fail as long as its held within its environmental constraints, which are pretty broad.

I guess the good news is that no matter what you use, except for photos, videos and music, it'll probably be pretty disinteresting to you before the media dies.

The most important thing is to actually backup your stuff and to use a tool/method that produces something you can use. I have three external hard drive enclosures, two were "free after rebate" and one cost me $25. I put three super inexpensive disk drives in them.

Fast, highly available, will work on any machine with a USB port, long mtbf.

But no, I would not put it in a fridge. The only thing I'd put in the fridge is beer. The condensation issue alone would concern me for any media or electronics device.
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:17 PM   #15
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Daily backups to an internal hard drive, monthly backups to a USB hard drive, and off-site backups consist of another USB hard drive in a safety deposit box that gets swapped with the monthly backup whenever I feel like it (maybe every 3-6 months).

Like CFB I've learned the hard way that recorded CDs and DVDs can degrade very quickly. Hard drives are cheap, spacious, fast, and in a pinch you can ship them off to a data recovery service. When a flash memory chip goes bad, your data is just gone.
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:21 AM   #16
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A few have covered it but I will say it again. Off site backup, at least once in awhile is important and way offsite is better. Fire and floods can be pretty wide spread in some areas.

I have one of my older computer setup as a file/printer/scanner server (Two 250GB drives). I do over the net backups to the server on a regular bases. I try for weekly and extras if a lot has changed. That backup is always available. That same server has an external 500GB drive that is only powered up for backups. Selectively parts of the server is backed up to the off line drive (multiple backups of images). So important files are now in at least two places and some 3. I then do DVD backups of photos, MP3s and important documents roughly every 3 months. Those are stored in a fire safe in the basement. Every 6-12 months a set of those DVDs are taken to my off site location 500 miles away in another state. I use to keep them in a file drawer at work (20 miles away) before I FIREd.

I'm not anal about backups but close.

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Old 11-16-2007, 03:33 PM   #17
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I've thought that I should periodically make a copy of the really important data and store it in my safe deposit box. A DVD wouldn't fit, but a thumb drive would. This would be a second off-site backup to a primary backup in my home that would be refreshed more often.

Now all I have to do is actually follow through.
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Old 11-16-2007, 06:11 PM   #18
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A DVD wouldn't fit,
Are you sure? A DVD with a case won't fit in our box, but a DVD with a case will. I'll bet the box sizes are standard.
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Old 11-16-2007, 06:38 PM   #19
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I would get an external enclosures.

I currently have a Raid 1 setup on my machine (250GB). On top of that I have 2 external hard drives (250GB each). 1 gets backed up daily, and the other gets backed up once each month. The once a month HD is stored off site in a secure location.
This way I would have to have 4 hard drives fail to lose all my information.

I also encrypt my hard drives so no one can steal them and use them without decrypting them. I use Winmagic Securdoc to encrypt my hard drives.

I don’t think its extreme as it is all automated except for once a month taking the hard drive off site.
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Old 11-16-2007, 08:07 PM   #20
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I would get an external enclosures.

I currently have a Raid 1 setup on my machine (250GB). On top of that I have 2 external hard drives (250GB each). 1 gets backed up daily, and the other gets backed up once each month. The once a month HD is stored off site in a secure location.
This way I would have to have 4 hard drives fail to lose all my information.

I also encrypt my hard drives so no one can steal them and use them without decrypting them. I use Winmagic Securdoc to encrypt my hard drives.

I don’t think its extreme as it is all automated except for once a month taking the hard drive off site.
Holy S***!! You sound like a data center. You must have spent a life in IT??
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