Reduce cost or improve data quality?

The dramatic increase in CD and DVD media demand — 500 per cent this year and similar forecasts for 2005 — plus competitive pressures to squeeze out every cost possible and improve profit margins has given rise to many Taiwanese media manufacturers to move media manufacturing to mainland China. To

reduce the cost of increasing capacity many of these firms have relocated their old manufacturing lines and hired staff to learn on the job. In no small degree this flood of low-cost, no-name media has given rise to consumer concern over the data life of the discs. General estimates have the life span at 100 years but some think the new crop of second tier or no-name brand media could be much shorter (like 20-30 years) or as little as 2 to 3 times longer than film based media.

Biggest problem occurs when discs produced using older equipment and processes that are out of tolerance is that the media fails when you try to use it. Fortunately most of these will fail when you first try to burn them (record on them). But there is a likelihood that the disc will complete a burn and the media will not play. The pain of taking your photo or video memories and putting them on a CD or DVD and then deleting them from your camera or computer only to find that the copy is corrupted is too much to risk.

Brand name firms such as Verbatim guard their reputation for quality and durability by using only advanced recording dye and techniques such as Ultra-Precise Molding (UPM) technology to produce today’s high speed discs. The stability of the recording dye is critical because heat, humidity, oxygen and UV light can degrade dye. In addition, Verbatim research has shown there is a strong correlation between the production and bonding processes and DVD disc quality.

With UPM, the deflection or tilt of the substrate is minimized so the media spins smoothly at high speeds, regardless of the type of drive. Stable rotation at high-speeds is critical to eliminate the possibility of data errors during the read/write processes.

For data and personal memories that are important people should buy quality media. Then before you delete the source files take the optical media (DVD or CD) and put it in something that will play it (DVD player, another computer etc.) and see if it actually works and if your treasures are really on the disc. Put any critical files on two disks and physically separate them. (If you have a fireproof safe or safety deposit box this would be a good place to put any disks containing files you absolutely must have. Little sentry fireproof safes are inexpensive and if you can put the disks on a flat surface in the safe and put the safe in the lowest and coolest part of the house you will have a level of protection greater than most.

Remember you can’t rely on hard drives, they have a relatively high failure rate (against that of CDs) and should you lose a drive you will likely lose anything that isn’t backed up someplace else.

Buy smart, test what you record, and then protect the critical discs as well as you can.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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