With the internet explosion, and growing IT (information technology) age, there is a great need to be able to store all personal as well as important information. We’re in a digital world that is rapidly progressing. We see photography growing into digital pictures. Music is going into mp3s and wavs. Video going into mpegs, avis, and rmvbs. Do you see the digital technology trend? It’s exploding, and shows no signs of stopping!

Basically, there are 3 main types of data storage devices that I will comment about:

1)Flash storage

2)Hard Drives (HDDs)

3)Optical Media (CDs, DVDs, BDs)

Flash Storage

Removable USB memory ‘jump drives’ and flash cards and drives. Up to 4 Gigabyte flash drives are now available from $100 to $300. Popular flash drives have 256MB, 512MB, and 1 Gig, starting at around $20. Looking at the price per Gigabyte, we see this method is the most expensive, about $10 per Gigabyte for the smaller drives, and up to $75 for the bigger 4 Gigabyte drives. People use them because they have fast transfer rate, and they are small and portable, a great way to transfer small files between computers. However, these are not failsafe…anyone who has used them knows that it’s a delicate device, and you must properly ‘eject’ the device from your computer, or else it could get damaged and your data will be forever gone. I have had a co worker who lost his data because his flash drive got ‘zapped’. Be careful! Most people may wear it around their neck with the enclosed neckband, but imagine this: What if you wore a wool sweater, and you walk alot on a carpeted floor? You’d get static electricity shock, which would ruin your flash drive. Because it contains delicate memory chips inside, one would have to exercise caution and not expose it to any electrical or magnetic fields or harsh vibrations or shock. In summary, flash storage is good for transferring small amounts of data between computers and digital cameras and other devices, but not a very secure way to store important data. The 2 Gigabyte capacity is small compared to the other storage devices.

Hard Drives

Forever dropping in price, but still expensive. The maximum capacities are around 250 Gigabytes right now, for about $129. This amounts to around $0.52 per Gigabyte cost. There are external USB/firewire drives that you can buy, which are a little more than $1 per Gigabyte. Well, we all know that Hard Drives have the biggest storage capacities. I used to be an engineer at hard drive companies, so I know how delicate the parts are inside a hard drive. You have disks(platters) spinning at thousands of RPMs and magnetic heads reading and recording your data onto the disks. Mechanically, it is a very complicated device and it is not uncommon for your hard drive to “crash” and lose all your information! I did some part time IT support and alot of problems were related to hard drives crashing (especially the higher capacity ones tend to crash more frequently). In summary, while hard drives provide the most capacity, they are actually fragile and not a reliable way to store important information. Their bulky size makes it inconvenient to transfer data between computers, the USB or firewire external drives enable you to swap it between computers without removing the case and fiddling with the IDE cable and power cable. Extra care must be taken with portable hard drives. I would carry them in insulated, static-dissipative bags and make sure it won’t be exposed to shocks or vibrations.

Optical Media

Since the 1990s, recordable CDs (the CD-R) and DVDs (DVD-R,+R) and RWs have hit the market. CD-Rs store 700MB, and DVDRs can store from 4.7GB to 8.5GB (the new Dual Layer DVD+R). We see when the CD and DVD burners first hit the market, they were like $300 for a drive…but now, the prices have really dropped, and you can buy a 16x DVD dual layer burner for about $40. This makes sense, because the burner can be used over and over to back up important information onto discs, and the cost of the burner itself will be negligible over its repeated usage. So we can look to the price of discs…CD-Rs are pretty much dirt cheap, sometimes you can get free spindles with rebates. I’ve seen them as low as $0.10 per disc, which is about $0.14 per Gigabyte cost. I just recently bought a 50 pack spindle of 16x DVD-Rs for $15. That amounts to $0.30 per disc, and only $0.06 per Gigabyte! The lowest cost! Optical media is the way of the future. In consumer electronics trends, we see DVD recorders replacing VHS VCRs. Even camcorders have mini-DVD discs to record onto instead of magnetic tapes. Remember when VHS beat out Beta format? Well, optical media will eventually beat out VHS! We’re seeing the beginning of the digital revolution.

4.7 Gigabyte DVDs should be enough for most data applications, video files are the biggest, and later this year, the Blu-Ray disc (BD) will be finally released. This will give optical media much more advancement, because for some data storage applications, 4.7 Gigabytes are not enough! BDs will store about 25GB per single layer disc, and 50GB per dual layer disc. The price per disc will most likely be a few times more than the 8.5GB DVD-DL discs that are out there (sale prices of $2 each). The DL disc amounts to around $0.23 per Gigabyte. I predict these prices will drop even more, once the Blu-Ray disc hits the stores. As far as prices, I don’t know how much recordable BDs will cost, but if you calculate the price per Gigabyte, I betcha they will still be alot cheaper than flash memory or hard drives. BD burners may be expensive at the beginning, but theoretically they use the same components as a CD or DVD burner, the main difference is that the laser is much narrower to permit a higher trackpitch. The price of these new BD burners will eventually drop, but I say DVD burners will probably be enough for the average consumer.

Another obvious advantage of using optical discs to store information is the versatility: nearly every computer system sold now has a standard CD/DVD burner drive. You can easily transport CDs and DVDs, due to their small and lightweight size, they can go through X-ray machines, dropped, even static shocks won’t damage a disc. The durability is outstanding, even NetFlix ships out DVDs in flimsy paper envelopes to their subscribers and uses the same envelope as a prepaid return envelope, because discs are so durable and cheap. Therefore, you will never have a disc getting “Zapped” or “crashing” and lose all your information, as you can with flash memory and hard drives. With unlimited amounts of discs you can burn, basically you can create many backups or archive all your digital pictures, movies, and important information onto the discs, make copies, and share them with friends or clients. Unlike magnetic media, the data encoded onto a CD is permanent, and should last a lifetime as long as you don’t expose it to harsh UV rays from the sun or high humidity. The durability is an advantage, but many consumers still have a subconscious mindset that it is dangerous to burn important information onto a CD or DVD. It’s like writing in ink, and can’t be erased…they don’t want personal data falling into the wrong hands. This is understandable and is a common reaction to new technologies. There are RW type discs that you can re-record (magneto-optical technology), but these are many times more expensive and have slower reading/writing speeds, and don’t retain data as well as the regular CD-R and DVDR.