Backup and Archival of Your Memories and Data – Are You Doing it Properly?

Kodak Archival Sleeves protect optical media against light and heat.

Kodak and Verbatim both offer archival media but a lot of customers have become frustrated with the quality of build of jewel cases like the ones that Kodak and Verbatim use to ship their recordable CDs and DVDs, unfortunately in this day and age manufacturers have tried everything to keep costs down and that includes the reduction in the quality of the cases. This week, I received our first shipment of the new Kodak Archival Disc Sleeves. These thin plastic pouches have been silverised with a metal coating and protect against damaging light and heat – the packaging states they are a ‘metalised nano coated’ wallet and protect against light and heat and are environmentally friendly.

There are two factors to consider when you are looking into the archival life of recordable media and in particular DVD, CD and Blu-ray discs – their shelf life and their longevity after recording. Who would want to record a disc and then pop it safely into a case only to come back to it a couple of years later to get some precious photos or a backup only to find there were disc read errors due to media degradation – no one, and in a lot of situations this would be more than a disaster, having said that I still have CD’s that I burned more than 10 years ago and are still fine – they were not even specifically archival media and not stored in any particularly special environment!. Disc shelf life is something you have little control over but the volumes of discs sold these days means that every disc you buy should be reasonably ‘fresh’ so to speak.

Burning discs for archival backup purposes is a different matter from recording for presentation or short term data transfer between locations. The most common use of DVD-R currently is for archiving of audio and video clips, photos, images, etc, this means that you want to be absolutely sure the files can be read or played back in a number of years time without the media returning data reading errors.

Believe it or not but the actual life span of a recorded piece of media whether that be a CD, DVD or Blu-ray discs depends on storage quality, if humidity and particularly temperature are not within manufacturers specifications media will deteriorate and data will be lost as the recordable layer on these types of disc is normally an organic dye. However, the guidelines for tolerance on these specifications are fairly forgiving as far as CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs are concerned. Heat as infrared and light as UV light are proven to have the most serious effect on disc degradation, the simplest explanation is to look at how a photograph will deteriorate if left in the sun on a window sill – much the same can and will happen to your burned discs if left to suffer from these two factors.

This is for example why museums choose to store their exhibits inside cardboard boxes often in temperature and humidity controlled environments, so short of wrapping up your recorded discs in blackout materials and putting them in the loft inside a vivarium at a constant temperature you are looking for a different solution to protect your discs! The new Kodak sleeves are made of a plastic type synthetic material that has been coated with metal, on the packaging it is described as a ‘metalised nano coating’ and it looks like the sleeves have been sputtered with aluminium or some other silver coloured metal. This gives a sleeve or wallet that you can’t see through it’s this coating that keeps heat out as well as damaging UV light.

So the results of my findings having tested these new wallets from Kodak – The Kodak Archival disc wallets – I am sure that they are going to be a very good addition to the archival strategy for those consumers and users that have sensitive and precious data backed up onto DVD, CD and Blu-ray – they effectively block the light from reaching the discs recorded layer and are extremely thin but durable. The wallets can also be labelled or written on with a permanent marker, all round an excellent product and at around £6 for 50 well worth the price to ensure the future of your data, video or photos.

The long term archival strategy is something all of us should consider but to be honest most do not, so next time you have some precious data on a disc think carefully how you will store it just in case you want to get at it not just in a few weeks time but perhaps several years later. Hard drive storage isn’t the best solution to long term data backup, they are notorious for failing at the very moment you want that essential photo or video – and guess what, you forgot to back it all up to disc! People have said that DVDR and CD are on their way out, but in this day and age of everything coming in more and more larger chunks of data and quicker download speeds are we moving to a throw away culture in that people consume their download ‘fix’ and immediately delete it or are there always going to be bits you want to keep? Well I say those precious memories need to be kept separate away from your PC, media station or mobile device (all of which can and will go wrong at some stage or be lost stolen or damaged) and the current best choice to achieve that is to back it up onto DVD, CD or Bluray disc and get into the habit of storing these discs in your own archive system, all you need is a disc wallet and some of the Kodak disc sleeves and your memories are safe and sound for your future generations to look at and smile!

Simon Young –