Backing Up

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Question: If I back up to CDs or DVDs, are my files safe?

The IT Guy says:
CDs and DVDs are a really convenient and inexpensive way to store data. CDs can be purchased in bulk for pennies per disk, and even DVDs now cost less than fifty cents apiece. You can store thousands of documents and digital pictures on them, which makes a great solution for easy backups.

However, this is not necessarily the safest form of storage. CDs and DVDs can start to degrade, particularly the cheaper brands. It's one thing to copy some files to a CD to send to a friend or hand out at a workshop, but if the idea is long-term archiving, then you need to follow some simple rules to protect your data:

  • Use better-quality media. Use name-brand CDs and DVDs, rather than in-store brands.
  • Don't write on the surface of the disk or put any kind of label on it. The surface is actually where the data is stored, so if your label or ink eats through the top surface (which they can do), it will eat your files, too. Instead, write on the clear section in the center of the disk. (Write small!)
  • Store the disk in a jewel case, rather than a paper or plastic sleeve. Keep it someplace where it won't get too hot.

This should keep your data fairly secure, but don't trust truly valuable information to a single source of backup. Keep a second copy in another location away from the computer, just in case there's a fire or other disaster that destroys both the computer and the CD/DVDs!

Next Tip: Finding Files

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