What is the best backup hard drive

Data archiving: these are the best methods

Jon L. Jacobi, Sabine Schischka

Do you want your data to be legible even decades from now? Then you need the right backup. We explain the right backup strategy.

EnlargeKeep your data safe.
© Bacho Photo @ Fotolia.com

Backups are undeniably necessary. However, the software and methods that are usually suggested are often unsuitable for preserving your data forever (or at least for a very long time). The really long-term "archiving" of your data requires a completely different approach.

We will first explain which storage media are suitable for both backups and archiving. Then we show the different methods of archiving. Last but not least, we go into media and play through the creation of a long-lasting backup.

external hard drives

The most common backup medium is an external hard drive. Compared to tape and optical media, it is fast and sufficiently reliable in the short term. If it is taken out of service and adequately stored, it could last a decade or two before the magnetic parts become unusable - and with them the stored data is also lost. If the hard drive continues to be used, its lifespan is reduced to just 3 to 5 years. In the long term, only the “hard drive on the shelf” is an option for archiving - but it also needs maintenance every now and then, so it is not the ideal choice. For security reasons, the data on the external hard drive should be refreshed or renewed every 2 to 3 years. There is special software for this, for example DiskFresh.

Advisory: How to Find the Perfect Hard Drive

The environment is also a key to a long life: heat, vibration, moisture and magnetic fields can massively reduce the lifespan of an external hard drive. As a mechanical drive, a hard drive is also prone to bumps and vibrations. No matter how carefully you store your disk, if it is dropped it is a case for professional data recovery.

Our advice: If you use hard disks for your data archive, always use a pair or, better still, a trio - each copy with one and the same data set. Write-protect them before you store them, and refresh the data every few years.

External SSDs

EnlargeSamsung's portable SSD T1 is super fast - but only lasts for barely a decade.

Samsung's portable SSD T1 is super fast - up to 350 MB per second faster than USB 3.0. But like any NAND-based storage, it is ideally suited for archiving for almost a decade. NAND technology is still relatively new, so nobody really knows how long an SSD can hold stored data when it is out of order on the shelf. In the best case, a life span of 10 years can be assumed - but if in doubt, it is better not to rely on it.

Our advice: If you use SSDs for archiving, renew the data annually and replace the disk completely every 10 years. The best thing to do is to bet on another horse ...

Magnetic tapes

Magnetic tapes are still being discussed for archiving company data. They are available with gigantic capacities - a new type of tape from Sony can hold up to 185 terabytes of data. Magnetic tapes are easy to store and easy to use, even in large quantities. On the other hand, ligaments can overstretch or break, or be erased by magnetic fields. They are also expensive and because the data is stored in sequences, the recovery process is very slow. The ligaments will also wear out over time.

Our advice: As a private user, you shouldn't use magnetic tapes - they are expensive and there are much simpler alternatives.

Optical media

EnlargeAccording to the manufacturer, Millennietta's M-Disk DVDs and Blu-rays should last 1,000 years.

If you only think of films or software when you think of optical media (CD / DVD / Blu-ray), they probably look very ancient as an archiving medium. But there are also optical disks that are undoubtedly the simplest and most robust archiving medium: once writable BD-R HTL (High To Low) can easily survive 100 to 150 years when stored in a mild climate.
Milleniatta's write-once M-Disc BD-R and DVD + R are even more stable - their lifespan is stated to be 10,000 years. Only the outer layers of polycarbonate reduce this lifespan to 1,000 years.

The discs are available in 25, 50 and 100GB (currently still very expensive). In the best case scenario, however, they can only be written to at a very slow 21 MB per second - that is, significantly slower than USB 3.0 hard drives or SSDs.

If you are concerned that optical media is about to become extinct, remember that at least in the data archiving sector, it has a strong position and is therefore a hedge.

Our advice: Despite the slow writing speed, optical media are ideal for archiving data.

Online storage

If you are a very trustworthy person, you can also rely on online storage for your data archiving. The process is very easy, convenient, and most importantly, inexpensive; because online providers such as Amazon, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive as well as MyTuxedo offer their services cheaply to free of charge.

But online storage also has its downsides. Even if you are repeatedly promised that your data is safely stored in the cloud, it is de facto on a third-party hard drive or on another storage medium. So they are only as secure as the respective service provider makes them.

Another minus point are the ongoing (mostly monthly) costs and in some cases transfer fees. The speed and availability of the data are also always dependent on your Internet connection (DSL often has very low upload speeds). If the selected service is unavailable, so are your data. There is also a certain residual risk in terms of privacy and security.

Our advice: If you want to rely on online storage, use this as a supplementary option to a local backup.

Data archiving methods