At least one expert has severe doubts about the stability and longevity of optical CDs and DVDs. Kurt Gerecke, a physicist and storage expert at IBM Deutschland, says that magnetic tapes are more reliable forms of storage for digital media.
The problem, according to Gerecke, is that once the CD or DVD is used, the recording surface begins to degrade and can result in data “shifting” and, therefore, becoming unreadable.
“Unlike pressed original CDs, burned CDs have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD,” Gerecke says. “There are a few things you can do to extend the life of a burned CD, like keeping the disc in a cool, dark space, but not a whole lot more.”
Magnetic tapes, on the other hand, can last anywhere from 30 to 100 years. Even if magnetic tapes are also subject to degradation, they’re still the superior storage media,” Gerecke says.
Still, that’s a far time longer than the two to five years for a burnable CD. And consumers who want to save pictures, videos, and songs for a lifetime will want to make choices that maximize their storage longevity.
Other experts assert, and Gerecke agrees, though, that one storage method is never the answer all of the time. Continual backups are always a good idea, and this includes not only computer files used on a daily basis but also files intended to be saved for many years.