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Solid State Data Retention

I can’t seem to get away from playing with my computers. Hardware as well as software. Computers are somewhat a curse for me as well as something on which I spend way too much time. Well… it is what it is. Better than some other addictions.

I just ordered a new /C: drive for “Old Ironsides”. That is my primary and oldest (in use) personal computer. I am planning to drop the “old” designation as the new drive is a 500GB SSD (solid state drive) and should give some improved startup and operational performance for the new “Ironsides”.

Ironsides has three 1TB magnetic hard drives (1 currently /C: ) and a 500GB magnetic drive. Three 1TB drives provide some safety over loading one big drive at the cost of more power consumption. I will decide what to do with the 500MB drive when I install the new SSD. I think there is an available data port, but the innards of Old Ironsides is jammed with cables.

Thoughts on SSD long term data storage

I did some investigation on SSD storage reliability. Two of the SS drives I considered had MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) ratings of 1,500,000 hours and 2,000,000 hours. The lesser one is 170 years of constant 24/7 operation. Either one is much more that I will ever need.

That led me to think of long-term archival storage. What I realize is there really is no perfect OFF LINE read/write digital storage media. A solid state devices when operating is very good storage. But not something you should load with data and put away in a drawer for 10 years. That includes USB drives, SD cards, and SSD drives. They all need consistent, not constant use to stay refreshed.

I have data stored on 100 year archival grade optical media (DVD) that SHOULD be put away in a drawer for longest life. But even that media is a crap shoot. Standard (cheap) dye-based CD and DVD can fail in a year.

I read somewhere recently that magnetic tape backup may still be one of the good long-term archival systems. I have not seen one of those drives in years. Probably because cloud data storage now dominates corporate backup and magnetic tape is a slow, sequential read/write backup system.

My point is, SSD is the current SOTA, State of The Art, for data storage. But SSD needs to be operational storage. It may not be the media one locks in a vault for 100 years.

A friend of mine just lost a few months of input to a spreadsheet he has maintained for several years. He had a backup so it wasn’t a total loss. It was a wake-up call for him to improve his short and long term redundancy.

Several active magnetic local drives on separate networked computers and at least one cloud-based storage system is what I do, and I think provides the best protection from loss of my critical data. Redundancy has always been the best solution for anything that is critical. Example – aircraft IC piston engines have dual ignition systems.

I remember the Superman Sci-Fi where he has all the (long-term accumulated ) knowledge of his home planet Krypton forever contained in the lattice structure of solid (silicon?) crystals in his Fortress of Solitude. We are not there yet. Maybe we are?

With SSD costs becoming bearable, magnetic and optical storage systems are seeing less favor. Today, all compact computing devices are 100% solid state. Large capacity (multi TB) magnetic drives continue in use , but I am sure they will soon fade in favor of low cost, reliable  SSD.

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