David Pogue apparently had some problems recovering data from some DVDs he burned a few years ago and is all up in arms at the apparently short life span of DVD+Rs and DVD-Rs,
Jeez Louise. A conference organizer asked if I could put together a DVD loop of my funniest Web videos, to play in the registration area while attendees stand in line. No problem, I thought: I’ve got all of the original iMovie projects backed up on DVD, in clear cases, neatly arrayed in a drawer next to my desk. (My hard drive wasn’t big enough to hold those 50 videos a year.)
Guess what? On the Mac I use for video editing, most of the DVD’s were unreadable. They’re less than four years old!
Tried them on another machine. About half of them were readable.
Tried them on a MacBook that I’d been sent to review. Incredibly, mercifully, they all came through fine. I was able to rescue all those original iMovie projects and copy them onto new, bigger, cheaper hard drives.
Pogue concludes from this that burnable DVDs are excessively fragile, but based on what he describes it sounds like either a) the problem was with the DVD burner(s) or b) he’s not storing them properly.
Let me provide a different perspective. In my basement I have about 8,000 DVDs burned over the last 5-6 years. For media, I’ve always picked up whatever was on sale at Best Buy or Office Depot. I file the DVDs into soft cases designed to hold 100 CDs/DVDs, put those cases in large plastic bins, and then file the bins on some shelves in the basement I bought for just that purpose.
After reading Pogue’s piece I grabbed a couple dozen DVDs at random from across projects and times and copied the contents back to a hard drive on PC I borrowed. I didn’t have a single problem copying data from any of the DVDs.
Which is not to say I trust DVD as the only or even primary solution for long term backup. In fact, the issue that is quickly approaching with DVD burning is that the cost of magnetic media is quickly falling to the point where it will soon be cheaper to store data on a hard drive than on a DVD.
Today, Amazon.Com will sell you a 1.5 terabyte hard drive for $130 or less than 9 cents per gigabyte. At that price, optical media is close to not being cost effective when you factor in the inconvenience of burning, storing and managing all of those DVDs.