Choice of DVD/CD backup media for long term storage

In this article I will consider the best options for backing up onto optical disc – CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray (BD).  There are of course other options for backing up important data, such as external hard drives, network drives, or online storage.  However, in some cases backing up to optical disc is preferred.

Why back up onto CD/DVD?

The main reasons for choosing to back up onto DVD are that they provide a compact storage medium for small to moderate quantities of data, and that separate sets of data (e.g. photos for a particular year) can be kept on separate
labelled discs to provide easy access to the data required.

There are various advantages and disadvantages in using optical discs as a backup medium:

(1) Permanence – Once written, the data cannot be modified, so there is no danger of accidental deletion (subject to some provisos which I will mention below)

(2) Durability – optical discs cannot mechanically fail like hard drives, and are in principle durable for many years.

(3) Incremental nature – ability to back up additional sets of data onto new optical discs to add to the collection which constitutes the back-up/archive.

So far, so good.  However, here at Cambridge Data Recovery, we often receive recovery requests for CDs and DVDs which have either degraded over the years.  Also, even with newly-created discs, we see cases where the disc does not in fact show the data it is supposed to contain.  In either of these cases there is no guarantee that the data can be recovered, as it depends on the exact nature of the problem. Recovery may be possible in these cases, but of course it is far better to attempt to prevent this problem from occurring in the first place.

Choice of optical discs

The first step is to choose the most appropriate discs to use for the backup.  There are several reputable brands such as Verbatim, JVC, Memorex, TDK etc.  In some cases you may find that a particular brand works well with your recorder, and that another brand works very reliably.  However, the main issue here is not merely to find a _compatible_ disc, but to find one that will last for many years, or decades.

Choice of brand – Taiyo Yuden

There is in fact some consensus that the best discs for archival backup are manufactured by the Japanese company Taiyo Yuden.  These are more expensive than some other discs, but only by perhaps 50%. Taiyo Yuden were involved in the original development of recordable CD, so have been in the business a long time.  Therefore, for archival
purposes, where data needs to be stored for 10 years or more, I would recommend using Taiyo Yuden media.  Taiyo Yuden have fairly recently bought a controlling interest in JVC media, so you can also buy JVC branded media which are manufactured by Taiyo Yuden – I will provide a link at the end of this article.

Choice of disc type – DVD+R

These days, virtually all DVD readers/writers can handle both DVD-R and DVD+R media, and there is no apparent difference when using the two types.  However, very different methods are used both for the error correction, and for the tracking on these discs.  DVD+R is significantly superior to DVD-R in both respects, and therefore more
likely to survive.  Therefore I would definitely recommend using DVD+R rather than DVD-R as a long-term storage solution.  CD-R are also potentially reliable long-term, but DVD+R have the edge owing to the higher capacity/cost ratio.  And DVD-RW or DVD+RW should definitely _not_ be used as these are designed to be re-written, and will not
last long-term.

Conclusion and Links

Any backup strategy needs to involve regular backups to hard drives or online backup.  But if you also need to archive onto optical discs, I recommend using Taiyo Yuden DVD+Rs, or Taiyo Yuden manufactured JVC DVD+Rs.

Taiyo Yuden DVD+R media on amazon UK:

JVC DVD+R spindle of 100 discs manufactured by Taiyo Yuden

Taiyo Yuden inkjet-printable DVD+R spindle of 100 discs