Are CDs dependable enough to back up your important data?
About 15 years ago, most people were using floppies to store their important files. Floppy disks were often prone to failure, so nobody could really trust them enough to back up their data safely, but they were doing it anyway. I remember that each time I had to get one out of the closet to recover an important file, I always crossed my fingers and prayed real hard so that the disk would still be in working condition.
A few years later, CDs started to appear on the market, and all PCs were delivered equipped with a CD reader. Burners were really expensive back then, but everybody thought that at least, the disks were more dependable then floppy are, and they are, up to a certain point. A few months back, I was browsing through some of my old CDs, and ended up on something I had burned 5 years ago. Guess what? The media was unreadable.
It seems that unlike original CDs, burned CDs have a pretty short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD.
This compuworld article resumes the situation very well.
"The problem is material degradation. Optical discs commonly used for burning, such as CD-R and CD-RW, have a recording surface consisting of a layer of dye that can be modified by heat to store data. The degradation process can result in the data "shifting" on the surface and thus becoming unreadable to the laser beam."
If CDs are still not dependable enough for you, your only solution now would be to store that data on magnetic tapes, which have a life span of 30 to 100 years. Unfortunatly, backup solutions which uses magnetic tapes are a bit complicated for ordinary folks. Where does that leave you, Mr. and Mrs. Everybody ?