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Moose

Flash Memory or Hardrive???

24 posts in this topic

Hey all,

Been a while since I've posted been busy with the family and everything else.

My question is which would be better for long term storage of images. Flash drive has no moving parts to fail and plugs into usb. Hardrive has more storage but I'm not sure if I need that much room. I am transfering my personal images from CDs.

Just looking for some input.

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Yes....Flash Drive for sure on reliability.

That plus some CD and DVD backups would work.

Anything really important multiple back-ups in multiple locations, home, work, safety deposit box!

Flash Drives are getting bigger and cheaper so if you don't have a ton of stuff to back up that should work. Hard Drives have a much higher failure rate but a much better space to dollar ratio.

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From what I've read, flash memory isn't something you want to rely on for long term storage.

I could be wrong though.

I think magnetic tape is actually the most reliable.

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i have always used flash drives never have had a problem i have a couple of differnt sizes and i have one for each type of use like one for pictures and one for music etc...

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I would not use flash. I don't like DVD for long term either. Not so much from the short life of many disks but also drives being able to read them.

Hard drives are probably the best option. Drives are cheap making it easy to create redundant backups. My storage drives are only turned on when I transfer files to them. External enclosures so you can swap out the drives as they fill up and store them. The failure rate on a drive is pretty low these days.

Most every one of the high volume photographers I am familiar with use hard drives.

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I've had plenty of flash drives go bad for no reason at all, I personally wouldn't trust them.

I would probably look for a DVD solution, DVD Ram discs would probably be my choice if your drive can run them, otherwise regular DVD's would work for home use.

Mike

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Flash drives cannot be trusted at all. You would think they would be fairly foolproof since they do not have any mechanical parts as you mentioned, but they can fail just as easy.

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I would burn them to multiple DVDs (4.3 gigabytes for single layer discs, about 6 CDs), plus store them on an external hard drive. Do not leave the external hard drive plugged into either the wall or your computer between backups, as it would be susceptible to power surges and/or viruses.

I would not trust a flash drive further than I could throw it. They're convenient but not robust for long term storage.

There's another option, but it depends on how stingy you are with your data...most online companies (microsoft, google, etc) offer storage of files. Microsoft has a service through their site "live dot com", called "skydrive". It lets you store up to 25 gigabytes of stuff. Now, the problem that I have with this is that it might be fine and dandy for my pics, but certainly not for my documents. I don't think there's a way to encrypt the data, so people at microsoft could probably see it (at the very minimum), and depending on how tight there security is, probably other people as well. I would not trust it for life and death things, or financial documents, but since your post was made specifically about photos, I figured I'd bring it up. Google has a similar service coming out someday, but it's been in the works forever, who knows when it will come out.

One more option, which might be nice considering that you asked specifically for photo storate, is a photo album service, like picassa (google), photobucket, etc. These let you arrange your photos into albums, etc. on the web. They are usually unlimited (or virtually so), and almost always free. Again, some offer more or fewer protection options than others, but I don't think any of these free ones offer encryption or sweet things like that for complete privacy.

I couldn't post links to any of these services, but if you're good with a search engine, you will have no problems finding them.

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We have all heard the flash drive horror stories. But personally I have ten or so flash drives and not one has failed.

Now let me count the number of Hard Drive failures or anomaly's I have encounterd......ooops my calculator just broke.

I think things are reversing big time todays Hard Drives are basically junk IMO and are manufactured to FAIL thus increasing sales. Flash Drives have become much more reliable these days.

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I will put in my 2 cents worth and say, Hard Drive and DVD. Multiples of each in different locations. I just lost a primary HD due to failure and lost a few good images along with my email adress book, and my 2007 tax returns. Almost everyting else was backed up. I am currently building a RAID array for my computers to prevent loss again. A RAID is 2 duplicate drives. Computer automatically keeps and duplicate on each drive. One drive fails, the other is still there. Almost fail safe. My other drive failed when my UPS battery Backup failed and surged out my computer.

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We have all heard the flash drive horror stories. But personally I have ten or so flash drives and not one has failed.

Now let me count the number of Hard Drive failures or anomaly's I have encounterd......ooops my calculator just broke.

I think things are reversing big time todays Hard Drives are basically junk IMO and are manufactured to FAIL thus increasing sales. Flash Drives have become much more reliable these days.

Multiple disc back ups for sure!

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We have all heard the flash drive horror stories. But personally I have ten or so flash drives and not one has failed.

Now let me count the number of Hard Drive failures or anomaly's I have encounterd......ooops my calculator just broke.

When you compare typical hard drive use to typical flash drive use, you usually are not comparing apples to apples.

Hard drives that fail are usually system drives or boot drives. These drives are ripe for failure given the sheer number of reads and writes happening per second, multiplied by all day or all week or all year or whatever. Remember, most Windows installations are set up by default to "index" the drive and other "optimization" things that can give the drive almost continuous accesses for many hours on end (at least read access).

Contrast that to a typical use case we're talking about here, with an external drive where the thing is plugged in, tens or hundreds, or even thousands of files are written or updated, and then thing is unplugged again. Using a hard drive for archival is a whole different ballgame than using a hard drive as a system drive or as a database server storage media or anything else requiring "realtime" read and write access to the files on the drive.

I do think I can say that it's a fact - flash media is NOT as reliable as magnetic media (hard drives). Case in point - there is a big push by most of the laptop manufacturers to get people to buy "high performance" solid state drives...basically big expensive flash drives...think on the order of 64 gigabytes for several hundred dollars more than the 250 gigabyte hard drive they would normally offer. I read somewhere that the failure rate on the 64 gigabyte solid state drive from Dell was somewhere in the 20+ percent range, with another 20+ percent of people returning them for performance reasons. That's 2 in 5 of the drives going back to Dell and people asking for "regular" hard drives. Again, this is with people using them as a system drive, so it's not really pertinent to the discussion we're having here regarding backups, but I merely bring it up to show my point, that if comparing apples to apples, hard drives are more reliable.

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I am currently building a RAID array for my computers to prevent loss again. A RAID is 2 duplicate drives. Computer automatically keeps and duplicate on each drive. One drive fails, the other is still there. Almost fail safe. My other drive failed when my UPS battery Backup failed and surged out my computer.

Paul,

Don't get too comfortable with your RAID. It's good, but it's vary far from fail safe. The problem with RAID is that, even though you have multiple copies of the data, your multiple copies still have common pieces - usually a common motherboard, CPU, power supply, operating system, data bus (SATA or IDE), etc. A malfunction of any of these common components can easily destroy the data on BOTH drives at the same time.

If you get lucky, a power surge like you mentioned could take out just one of your drives...but the odds are very good that it could take out both. A newly acquired virus in your OS could take out one of the drives, but it would most likely take out both. A malfunctioning RAID controller (SATA or IDE) or RAID driver would almost certainly corrupt the data it is writing to both of your drives. A motherboard or CPU malfunction would almost certainly hose up both drives.

My point is that a backup written to DVD or an external (disconnected) drive could not possibly be affected by something like a power surge, a new virus acquisition, or something similar, as long as the external drive wasn't plugged in when the "data loss event" occurred. The safest is a read-only medium like DVD, because even an external hard drive might be affected by some things like a virus the next time it is plugged in for a backup.

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aanderud is 100% correct. Not all flash drives are created equal either, in fact the best one out there is only rated for up to 10 years data survivability. Cost ratio on flash is not even close to hard drives.

What would a 1TB hard drive cost? About $100 these days. You can't even touch a flash drive with that capacity at those prices.

Paul do remember as well RAID is NOT a backup solution but a data "integrity" / "performance" issue. If your RAID gets broken you could in theory in some circumstances lose ALL the data in the RAID configuration. Array controllers and other related hardware are known to break!

I would not confuse RAID with backup. Bottom line is the most cost effective, easiest to deal with solution today is a hard drive. This of course is an individual decision by each person, you may do what ever you feel comfortable with and decide how much your photos are worth to you.

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Remember when we used to all use shoe boxes and photo albums to store our prints. LOL

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Back up hard drives on and off site... no other option makes much sense to me at this point. I don't know anybody who is serious into this that backs up their images any other way than on backup hard drives. You may want to look into Acronis True Image backup system. Thats my .02 worth. smile

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Stumbled on this the other day as well. I've had the same issue!

Homemade DVD's going going gone!

Data backup is an on-going process of constantly updating your media to whatever the current technology is. SATA drives in 10 years likely will not be usable either. Technology....ain't it grand!

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Great info guys. Looks like it will be a hard drive. I've really got to get my images off disks. Most of it is family stuff but there are a lot of images that I really don't want to loose. When I store the hard drive does it need to be layed flat or can I put it on its side like in a book shelf?

How do the drives store the info? If I switch computers will the information be usable as new operating systems and processer come about? Will I be able to access the information? How about swiching between a Mac and a Windows machine? I think I started with ME then switched to XP now going to Vista.

Also how secure are off sight online storage sites? I currently use Flikr and Winkflash I know flikr lets me chose who sees the images but has anyone ever had one of these sites dissapear from the internet? I know when Yahoo image site went away there was plenty of notice but is this the norm or just because it was Yahoo?

Thanks again for the info!!!

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Another option is "Carbonite"

It's basically an online backup site that will backup anything and everything on your harddrive.

It's like $50 a year though.

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Another option is "Carbonite"

It's basically an online backup site that will backup anything and everything on your harddrive.

But, what if they go out of business? Personally, I don't trust anyone but myself, and then not always. wink

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I'm sure if a place like that went out of business, you would at least have fair warning to download your content back to a local HDD.

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Actually Digital Railroad one of the largest photo on-line services (mainly sports images) shut down with less than 24 hours notice to retrieve images from their servers. Lots of images were lost mad On-line is just another component in a good back up strategy.

Hard drive position will not matter. PC to PC should not cause any access issues. Mac to PC is another matter. There is software that will allow file format compatibility.

As you upgrade systems you will also update your backup, move to different drives etc which should update compatibility. Nothing is forever in the computer world.

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Mac to PC is another matter. There is software that will allow file format compatibility.

If you let windows do its default thing you might have to worry about compatibility. If you pick a standard interface like USB, and a standard file system like FAT32 (windows will format as NTFS by default, be sure to pick FAT32), you should be OK with almost every OS.

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