CD Vendors: Once burnt, twice sure

Don't panic - your valuable data is safe on CD after all, according to recordable disk manufacturers.

Two CD makers have hit back at recent claims by storage experts that users of recordable disks are in danger of losing their information as the disks deteriorate.

Recordable disk vendors TDK and Memorex claim their disks are a reliable archival media that will stand the test of time (See story).

TDK says its products will last 70 years if cared for properly and Memorex is releasing a new range of 24-karat gold-based media that it claims will last over a lifetime, regardless of environmental conditions.

Dennis O'Sullivan, general manager for TDK sales and marketing, said the reliability of TDK media was determined through stringent in-house testing which included tests for acceleration, light fastness and weather resistance in a variety of environmental conditions.

"Throughout this testing, TDK discs have retained their stable characteristics even after one million or more runs," O'Sullivan said. "This gives us the confidence to attest that if stored in appropriate conditions, the media has a life expectancy of over 70 years."

However, the importance of maintaining controlled room temperature storage for all types of media is a required precaution listed on all TDK CD-R (recordable) media sold throughout the world.

Like many other vendors, O'Sullivan does not recommend RW (rewritable) discs for long-term archival use because rewritable discs use a phase-changing metal alloy film for recording data and aluminium for the reflective layer. The film, he said, was not as stable as the dye used in CD-R discs.

"Rewriting also affects the disc's life expectancy - so a disc written on once has a higher life expectancy than a disc that has undergone several erase-recording cycles," he said.

TDK Australia gives all customers who purchase the product within Australia a limited lifetime warranty. This means that TDK will replace the product if it is faulty due to reasons other than the customer's use or negligence. To not be deemed negligent, customers need to store the media in a controlled environment free of heat extremes, humidity, moisture and dust.

Other safety precautions that TDK recommends include that material should not be adhered to the label side of the disc, as this surface is often more sensitive to damage than the polycarbonate side. Likewise, removing a label or other material from the disc can damage the disc beyond repair. Even in short-term storage applications, TDK advises against the use of adhesive labels on recording media as they can create unbalanced disc spin, resulting in premature wear of the drive. The vendor also advises that CDs be marked only with a specially designed CD marker pen.

"You should always put the CD in its case, which is designed to prevent the disc from coming into direct contact with the inside. Once placed in its case, discs should be stored vertically, like a book on a shelf. Long term horizontal storage, especially if compounded by heat, can cause the disc to become permanently warped," O'Sullivan said.

"As a final safeguard, more than one copy of the disc should always be made in case of potential flaws in the original copy," he said. These safeguards may be less necessary though, with the release of Memorex's new range of CD and DVD media.

Memorex claims its Pro Gold Archival Media in CD-R and DVD-R formats, due out in April will, defy the common causes of media deterioration and last over a lifetime.

The vendor claims that a 24-karat gold reflective layer, high-performance dye and a scratch-resistant technology will give the new product up to six times longer life than traditional media. Memorex claims a CD archival life of up to 300 years and a DVD archival life of up to 100 years.

"Laboratory tests prove Memorex Pro Gold Media to be resistant to the effects of rapid, artificial ageing such as ultraviolet light, heat and humidity exposure thanks in part to gold's inert characteristics that prevent oxidation, a common cause of failure for most recordable media during long-term storage," the company says in a press release announcing the upcoming products.

Memorex Pro Gold CD-R discs are rated to record at 52x speed and have 700MB of data storage, equivalent to approximately 80 minutes of audio recording time. Memorex Pro Gold DVD-R discs record at 8x speed and hold 4.7GB of data, or about 120 minutes of video.

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