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Another way to archive your images?

September 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Any one whose known me any time, or who has suffered through this blog would know I’m big on preserving and cataloging images. In my humble opinion, a photograph that is lost needn't have been made in the first place. 

In the film days, we tried to store negatives in a variety of ways, and to protect them from light, moisture, fungus and insects, prints were kept in anything from acid-free albums to shoe boxes – with varying degrees of success.

Then digital came along, and we all gave a sigh of relief. That was, until we realised how many files we were producing – and then understood that hard drives don't actually last forever. We needed backup! 

My solution is a local "Time Machine" drive connected to my Mac plus backup in the cloud, but depending on where you live, cloud storage may not be an option. (Australia’s internet speeds are on average, 44th in the world, so uploading a session, especially with recent high resolution SLRs isn’t quick!)

Until now, those who relied on CDs and DVDs for backup were pityingly told that they were wasting their time. Depending on quality, an optical disc would last for months or perhaps a few years. And that was true. That is, until now.

US firm Millenniata Inc has produced a technology, which under ideal circumstances will last 1,000 years. According to their web site:
… the M-DISC™ DVD … is the world’s first archival disc to last up to 1,000 years. The M-DISC engraves data into a patented rock-like layer that is resistant to extreme conditions of light, temperature and humidity – outlasting all other archival optical discs on the market.

Sounds good, so what are the catches? Well, I suspect there are some:

  • Only drives with the M-Disc logo can burn these discs, although these are readily available and most if not all drives should be able to read them.
  • In Australia at least, the discs aren't available everywhere, but they're readily available on-line.
  • Discs are more expensive than conventional discs: In Australia, DVDs are around AUD4.00 each and blu-rays about AUD7.00. (CDs aren't available.)
  • As with anything man-made, there's no guarantee against manufacturing errors. Though as always, you get what you pay for, and in this regard, I would imagine that the companies licensing this technology would be serious about their manufacturing processes. Hence, I think we can expect very few dud M-Discs.
  • Clumsy handling could lead to scratches and wrecked discs, although Verbatim discs claim to have "hardcoat scratch guard protection against scratches, fingerprints, dust, oil and water”. Other manufacturers may offer something similar.
  • As with any technology (other than an archive-quality print), there's no protection against technological obsolescence. One day, our optical drives will go the way of the 5.25 inch floppy!
  • It's not much protection against theft, fire or absent-mindedness, which is one of the reasons I have backup in the cloud.

So we may have an easy solution for backups for a decade or so, but only time will tell. 

In the meanwhile, M-Discs seem to have some useful applications. They may be a godsend for those of us wanting to share family history photos reliably – or needing to get a set of wedding images to the happy couple which should last beyond their second anniversary.

Shane Baker


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