Cold Storage Hard Drive Data Life Expectancy?

Discussion in 'SSDs & Data Storage' started by Hamakua, Jul 20, 2010.

  1. Hamakua

    Hamakua [H]Lite

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    I had a question, from what I understand of traditional spindle hard drives is that when one fails it's due to wear and tear. Does anyone have any information on how long stored data will keep on a modern day hard disk drive, but unplugged and kept only for backup purposes?

    Has there been any testing on degradation of the mechanisms inside an HD over a time where it's not subject to heat or is operational?

    Thanks
    -Hamakua
     
  2. Blue Fox

    Blue Fox [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I have fully functional 20 year old hard drives, so quite a while. It's somewhat luck though. I wouldn't depend on a single thing for backups.
     
  3. ethraax

    ethraax Limp Gawd

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    Let me get this straight: instead of dropping files onto a DVD and keeping it on a shelf somewhere, you want to drop files onto a HDD and keep it on a shelf somewhere? I guess you get higher storage density...
     
  4. jen4950

    jen4950 A Custom Title

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    You could say that- 4.7GB versus 2TB nowadays.
     
  5. drescherjm

    drescherjm [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I do not trust that more than a few years. Make sure you have 2 or 3 drives each containing the exact same content.
     
  6. Red Falcon

    Red Falcon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, this does not work this day and age.

    4.7GB was good 10 years ago, now though, you would have to burn hundreds of DVDs to back up one HDD. Even Bluray isn't a good solution b/c each disk takes about 45 min or more to burn.

    If long term storage for vital data is necessary, then tape backups or SANs are the only realistic solutions. For those who are $$$ conscious though, yeah, backing up to HDDs is the only other option.

    So what files are you talking about? I guess 1/10th of a persons music collection and some word docs would fit on a disc, maybe, lol.

    I do agree though, critical small files should be stored to burned media. If the files are video or high-end audio, or large data files, DVDs are not sufficient nor realistic storage.
     
  7. dustNbone

    dustNbone [H]ard|Gawd

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    A hard drive contains at least a couple of electric motors, and these suffer the most stress during spinup. The longer the moving parts of the motor stay stationary relative to each other, the more likely that the motor will "seize" upon being repowered. A hard drives weakness for archival storage is just that, it may not spin up when you need it to. Your data will likely still be intact, but will require repair by a data recovery service before you can access it. So basically your data is technically quite safe when stored on most any hard drive for a very long period of time, but getting it back might not be easy. I too have 20+ year old drive that will most likely work if I plugged them in, but 20 years ago hard drives were much more expensive than they are now, and failure rates on them in general were much lower from what I can see. In short, I wouldn't count on a modern consumer drive to spin up after several years of being idle the way that older ones do. If you really need to backup multiple TB of data, your options are pretty much tape (LTO or AIT) or multiple hard drives. One tape will be much more reliable statistically than a bunch of redundant hard drives though. But if it's just your movie collection or something, then HDs are probably a fairly solid option as long as you treat them well (mostly avoid subjecting them to extreme shock and strong magnetic fields). Heat shouldn't be an issue, within reason. Above freezing and below 120F or so.

    Dustin
     
  8. mtrupi

    mtrupi Gawd

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    Dustin, I think tape is probably a better choice for archival of data. As far as how long the data will last on the HDD platter I tried to look this up. The magnetic field decay follows the Arrhenius equation. I didn't verify it , but it looks to be in excess of 20 years for the field to decay about 20%.
     
  9. Red Falcon

    Red Falcon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    You're right, but every 10 years or so, the medium of the data should be changed for newer mediums. SATA and SCSI standards that are around now probably won't be around 10-15 years from now, and tape types and architectures tend to change/update every 10 years or so.

    There really is no true "long term storage" option available. USB 2.0 HDDs are convienient, but 10 years from now, USB 1.1 and 2.0 architectures may be long gone; this would mean the user would have to have the hardware just to access the data off of the old medium, let alone transfer it.

    In 1995, serial and parallel ports were all the rage for external components and storage, and USB 1.0 was still in the works. Now, I don't know any modern system this day and age that uses serial, parallel, or USB 1.0. If your data was stored on a device that utilized those mediums from back then, the best you can do is either find an adapter, or an older system which may have utilized those old standards with some of the newer ones to transfer the data from the old medium.

    Basically, what I'm trying to say is, data should be moved to a new medium about every 10 years, if not sooner. Not to mention the physical decay of the medium, such as mtrupi mentioned.
     
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  10. treadstone

    treadstone Gawd

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    Some 20 years ago I was involved in designing a large scale backup system (large for back then, today you get similar capacities in a single HDD!). The requirement was to try and bring archived recordings (covering 24h of every single day) dating back as far as 1950 online so that nobody had to physically go into the archive storage area that is temperature and humidity controlled. They had these massive vaults in the basement of the building. The recordings started out with mono tracks and eventually transitioned to multi tracks.

    We looked at different technologies for storing these vast amounts of recordings:

    Back then, CD-Rs were still in development and just about to be released. The cost of a recordable medium was astronomical especially considering the sheer amount of discs we would need. Another solution we looked at was a VHS tape type based digital storage system. HDDs were far to expensive and the capacities too small to even be considered.

    Neither of these technologies are 'ideal' for long term storage. CD-Rs (and DVD-Rs) are an organic based recording medium, even though they are not affected by magnetic fields like tapes or HDDs, they are VERY sensitive to light (in particular ultraviolet light). For archival storage purposes, they need to be kept in a dark and environment controlled room. But still, the organic layer will break down over time.
    Tapes are very sensitive to magnetic fields and require a different environment for long term storage. They are also prone to 'print through' issues. Basically depending on the quality of the tape and the thickness of the carrier material, the stored magnetic field on one layer can 'print through' to the layer above or below. Another problem is the compound used to keep the magnetic particle layer on the carrier, the compound can break down over time (usually affected by the environment) and cause the magnetic particles to be stripped off the carrier during playback of the tape!

    As a matter of fact, this was the main reason for this entire project to begin with. Some years when the budget was tight, they would purchase cheaper brands of tape. These tapes over the years started to break down and whenever they would pull a recording from the archives and play it back to get a particular section from the recording, they would have to play back the entire tape and re-record it on a new tape since the original tape was literally falling apart on the playback tape deck! The pickup head was stripping off the magnetic particles and the head ended up covered in it which caused other kinds of issues... Print through was also a big problem with some of the cheaper tapes (especially the extended run-time type tapes) since the carrier material was extremely thin.

    Red Falcon also touched on another important subject, the matter of accessibility down the road.Just because it is a popular interface right now doesn't mean it will be here down the road especially when you need to get access to your data!

    Swapping out the data onto a newer type of medium available/popular at that time is probably a good idea if your budget will allow this which will also help you to make sure that your data integrity is still ok.

    Unfortunately, I don't think there is a 'perfect' or one-covers-all type of long term storage solution. Every solution has it's pros and cons, you just need to figure out what you can live with and hope it will work out for you in the long run :)

    Just something to keep in mind. I hope this was helpful :)
     
  11. jen4950

    jen4950 A Custom Title

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    So tell us more of this story.

    What was the final solution?
     
  12. treadstone

    treadstone Gawd

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    Well, the end of the story is that after we did all of the work and research for the different implementations and technologies available at the time, completed the hardware design, built and tested a prototype of the hardware based sound encoding and compression system, database system and internet access system for remote users, etc., that the budget for this entire project got pulled due to the economy tanking at the time (this was in mid to late 1990). :(

    It was quite disappointing to see it all fall apart especially considering that at the time all of it was cutting edge technology. On the other hand, it was quite interesting to see and actually get access to (historical) archives that are strictly off limits for most but a few individuals. It was also interesting all of the knowledge, data and statistics we collected and gained on the longevity of backup mediums and practices, etc.

    A few years later we were approached again to have another go at it again, but at the time I was busy with other projects, so I had to decline to be part of this project. I'm not sure what or even IF they ever managed to actually implement an online type system. I'm sure or at least I hope they did as some of the tapes in the archive were dangerously close to being lost forever due to the advanced stages of deterioration...
     
  13. Hamakua

    Hamakua [H]Lite

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    Thanks for all the input. To address a few questions

    "What is this for"

    It was a general question. I run 2 seperate raid array's on my main rig, and while cleaning out some stuff I found some original files from like the mid 90's. I remember at one point in time I read something about the life expectancy of burnable DVDs and CDs. Generally for backup I have important files (usually personally created content, high man-hour projects) in at least 2, if not 3 locations, accross a few different storage technologies.

    Some in the thread touched upon it, but these days, the ubiquitous availability of high capacity and relatively cheap hard drives got me thinking that CD/DVD/BlueRay have hit a plateau. I don't mind paying extra per gig to just be able to plug a drive in, quick format, copy whatever I need over, then store it somewhere.

    I wondered if there were any definitive sources on non-powered HD longevity. I was thinking more along the lines of how much moisture is trapped in the casing from the cleanroom/factory and how long if ever, it would take to corrode. I am sure if any corrosion were to happen, engineers might have set the drives up so it happens to something unimportant, and would "soak up" any moisture or foreign gasses.

    It was more of a hypothetical itch I needed to scratch. The thread has been very helpful.
     
  14. ghost6303

    ghost6303 2[H]4U

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    hard drives do have vent holes on them, they are not sealed. the vents are covered by a very fine filter. its so that air in the drive can expand as they heat up and not try to force its way out somewhere else. those are the holes that say "do not cover this hole" on the outside of a drive.
    i dont know if there would be much data on that because i dont think hard drives have been around long enough for us to see the point in which they degrade from sitting on a shelf.

    i dont agree with this. failure rates were lower because the number of drives manufactured and in service was dramatically lower, and they were produced in much much smaller quantities. when you produce something in a small quantity, your quality control is inherently better. also when your hard drive has 100 sectors instead of 80,000; you have less that can go bad.

    hard drives were not used the same way as we use them now. how many people left their computer on 24/7 in 1993? how many do now? RAM also cost $4k for a 700 kilobyte stick back in the day, too. but does that mean its better then a stick of modern RAM? just because something is more expensive does not mean its always going to be more reliable or better. comparing a hard drive from the late 80's to a hard drive from today is apples to oranges.

    the reason a bearing would seize would be either corrosion or excessive wear. if the drive is sitting on the shelf, there is no wear. if you have a vacuum food sealer, buy a $5 tub of silica desiccant and put a tablespoon in with your hard drive and vacuum seal it. that takes care of any corrosion. that is still probably overkill. an antistatic bag inside a ziplock bag with some desiccant is probably more then enough. if you take some simple steps, there is no reason a hard drive shouldnt last 20+ years in storage. it will certainly outlast the interface it uses.

    i have a 540 megabyte hard drive with windows 3.1 on it in a texas instruments 386 that is almost as old as i am, it still fires up. it sits in my closet, in the computer case, with a lot of dust, not in any special type of storage. i think the MFG date was 1991.
     
  15. lightp2

    lightp2 Gawd

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    Just a small observation

    1. While mechanical HDDs need to deal with multiple moving parts, do take note that even tape drive it self also need to deal with moving parts.

    2. We understand general expectation about mechanical Hard Disks. However, I am not aware of large scale reliability statistic of the physical tape drive itself. In most environment, the drive is very much more expensive. several years back I checked for tape drive option and many only one or max 3 years warranty. (sorry I could not recall exact info, I could be wrong, honestly) (I also searched newegg for this post today)

    So for consumer, this is a partial situation as well. The data on tape is perfectly fine. However, if your tape drive faulted, it could be equally expensive as well. The entry level 160GB-DLT to start is USD500 I found at newegg,need to add data tapes as well.
     
  16. Metaluna

    Metaluna Limp Gawd

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    If you've ever followed some of the CDR/DVDR enthusiast websites, you would not find this strange. What passes for writable DVD media these days is mostly garbage that I wouldn't trust to store this weeks grocery list let alone valuable data for more than a few months. There used to be several high quality manufacturers out there (Mitsui, Kodak, Taiyo Yuden) but due to race-to-the-bottom price pressure they have all either exited the market or aren't quite as good as they used to be (Taiyo Yuden, TDK, Verbatim, etc.), at least not consistently.
     
  17. drescherjm

    drescherjm [H]ardForum Junkie

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    In the last 15 years I have learned that tape drives are no more reliable than a hard drive. Tapes however are very much more reliable than hard drives. I always buy 2 tape drives at work when migrating to a new tape technology. Although I do not like hard drive backups I also realize that for a home user a tape drive is not a good option mostly because of the high price of the tape drive itself.

    Although at home I have a VXA-1 drive (I paid over $600 for) that I have had little usage (none in the last 5 years) for a different reason the tapes became too darn expensive compared to other media > $1 / GB.

    At work tape prices with LTO tapes are much cheaper @ $25 for a 200GB LTO2 but then the drive was over $2000 (or $5000 for a 2 drive 24 slot archive) when purchased in 2006. 4 years later I have 100 of these tapes that I rotate in and out of the 24 drive archive.
     
  18. drescherjm

    drescherjm [H]ardForum Junkie

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    CD/DVD media is okay for a few years when using write once media as long as you keep the media out of the heat and sun. Longer periods or higher temps the media degrades and becomes unreadable.