Tape might not be dead, but it’s certainly on the digital chopping block. Along with it, I certainly assumed that the optical disk was uttering its final prayers as well, but that might not be entirely true.
Recently Sony and Panasonic announced that they intend to work together to create brand new optical disks, which will aid businesses with their long term archiving and digital data storage needs. This new generation of optical disks might actually help disks become a more feasible storage media, but will it make more sense than a hard disk drive?
The two companies anticipate that they’ll be able to develop an optical disk that can record at least 300 GB by the end of 2015.
While this sounds great, it might not be practical. With flash drive storage reaching up to 128 GB for around a hundred dollars and external hard disk drive storage of several terabytes being available for a couple hundred (not to mention the numerous options for cloud storage), this outmoded technology can do little to keep up. Plus, who knows how much storage space for flash and hard disk drives will be available for even lower prices in two years?
There are, however, a few advantages for optical disks: they last longer than hard disk drives, and according to the Sony/Panasonic press release, are very resistant to dust, water, and changes in humidity and temperature. Optical disks also supposedly allow for inter-generational compatibility between different formats (if you still even have a disk drive, some new computers don’t). Given their durability and lifespan, optical disks may be fairly useful for archival copies, but in the next two years hard disk drives and flash memory drives may be even more durable and long-lasting, not to mention less expensive (again, I haven’t touched on the cloud options). Of course, if these new high-capacity optical disks are around ten bucks, the low cost could be a major advantage as well.
There is one thing that’s pretty certain. Assuming these disks are as durable as they claim, and the overall lifespan is long enough, they will have a lot of advantages over tape given that they’re fast and can randomly access information rather than having to do everything sequentially. Worst case scenario is we get rid of those pesky tapes once and for all.
Want more about hard drives? Check out this piece on solid state drives vs. hard disk drives.