What’s The Best Long-Term Data Storage?

When it comes to long-term data storage, there are many good options to consider. This includes archival-grade optic discs, external hard drives, SSDs, cloud storage, and flash drives. Each has its unique benefits and drawbacks.

We all have those moments and memories that we want to hold onto forever. This could be family photos, a wedding video, or any number of other things. But to store these for years, decades, or longer, what are the best storage methods?

There are many out there, and it can be hard to know which are worth considering. Keep reading to learn more about some of the best choices for storing data and keeping it safe for years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • There are several types of long-term data storage that are popular including optical discs, external hard drives, SSDs, cloud storage, and flash drives.
  • While the method of storage is important, you also want to remember storage best practices like keeping them in a safe place, making backups, and being careful when moving or transporting the data.
  • The cost of long-term data storage depends on the method you choose and more importantly, how much you need to store. The more data you need to store, and the larger the files are, the more expensive it will generally be.

1. Archival-Grade Optic Discs

Archival-grade optic discs (such as M-DISC) are a popular choice, and for good reason. They were designed with long-term storage in mind from the start. These may look similar to a regular CD or DVD, but feature a data layer made of materials that are resistant to degrading.

Instead of using a dye layer to burn in data like traditional discs, these archival-grade discs etch data into a layer similar to rock that won’t suffer the same fading and/or data rot that normal discs will over time.

Manufacturers of these kinds of discs have claimed that they can last hundreds of years or longer, but it is of course impossible to test this as the technology hasn’t been around nearly that long.

2. External Hard Drives

Another option is to store your data on external hard drives. Mechanical drives such as hard disk drives (HDDs) have been used in computers, game consoles, and other devices for years and are a practical and solid choice to consider.

These external drives can be purchased in a variety of places in many different sizes. They are relatively affordable, simple to use and fast. Loading up data onto one is quick and easy, and many are portable enough to put in a bag or box and move with, though some are larger.

However, these drives can degrade over time and may only be suitable for storing a few years in total. As a result, make sure to replace the drives and copy your data to a new one every few years to ensure you don’t lose everything.

3. SSDs

In addition to traditional HDDs, there are solid-state drives (SSDs) that are worth considering. While an HDD uses spinning discs to read/write data, SSDs use flash memory chips. SSDs are quicker than HDDs and generally more reliable as there are no moving parts to worry about.

Unfortunately, they are expensive and like with HDDs, these won’t last forever (but generally a few years more than HDDs), so make sure to change your data over to another drive every now and then to be safe.

Both HDDs and SSDs are good choices, but do require some work to ensure your data can be kept for decades.

Related: HDD vs SSD: Which One is Better for Data Storage

4. Cloud Storage

Another increasingly popular choice is cloud storage. Whether it is Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other provider, cloud storage is a simple, affordabl, and convenient way to store data.

Data is stored remotely in the “cloud” and can be accessed from anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection.

This is secure and there is little chance of your data being destroyed like it could with a physical storage type. Also, many cloud remote storage systems are monitored for suspicious activity.

However, there are no guarantees about how long companies will offer these services, so you may need to switch providers if some decide to stop offering cloud storage over the years or decades.

Also, some people are uncomfortable putting their precious data in the hands of a third party to keep it safe.

5. Flash Drives

Flash storage is another option to think about. USB drives are very portable and affordable for almost any budget, and most of us are very familiar with how they work. Simply plug them into a device, drag files to them, eject them, and you’re good to go.

However, they generally are limited in terms of size and capacity compared to other options. These also weren’t designed with long-term storage in mind. They can work in a pinch, but should generally be combined with another storage method for an optimal storage strategy.

Best Practices for Keeping Data Safe Long-term

While the way you choose to store your data is important, so is how you protect and preserve it over the years. Keep physical storage in a safe place that is cool and dark in most cases. Also, keep it up off the ground so it doesn’t get dirty and is protected in case the room floods.

Be careful moving it, as well. It doesn’t take a lot for a disc to get scratched or a drive to get damaged, so move items gently, package them securely, and do everything you can not to drop them.

While some of these tips and best practices may not matter to you if you decide to go with an option like cloud storage, it is still important to be aware of them just in case.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep backups. Having multiple copies made ensures that if something happens to one, you don’t lose everything. You could have multiple copies using the same storage method, or even switch it up.

Make an effort to keep up to date on the changes when it comes to technology and data storage, too.

New storage methods could come out in the future that are much better and/or more affordable than what we have today. There is also the chance that the methods we use now may not be as effective in the future.

For example, if you have all of your data on M-DISCs, but there is no way to play/read the discs in 50 years because they are so outdated, then you might be out of luck. Always be aware of new trends and adjust your storage as needed to keep the data safe.


Here are a few other questions you might have about long-term data storage, along with their answers.

How much does long-term data storage cost?

The cost of data storage in the long term depends on the method you choose, as well as how much data you have to store. The more data you want to save for the future, the more space you will need to pay to hold it properly.

What kinds of data are worth keeping in long-term data storage?

This differs for everyone, as essentially any kind of data can be kept and preserved for the future. Common types of data that are stored long-term include things like family photos and videos, as well as crucial documents or files.

Final Thoughts

Keeping important data like family photos and videos around for future generations is important and to do that, you need the proper data storage solutions. I hope this guide has been able to help you learn about some of the best long-term data storage options.

Which do you feel is the best long-term data storage option to keep precious memories safe? Let me know in a comment below.

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