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Long Term Storage: USB Flash Drives vs SD Card

hanatsuki 26 March 21, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I want to consolidate and digitize all my important files (ie taxes and such) and treasured family photos. This will be then stored away in a safe deposit box. Every couple years I will take it out and update it with the most current media. My question is which sort of storage media should I use that will still be readable if I don't touch it for say, 3-5 years. Most of the google results indicate that most flash media should last about 10 years, but that's with regular use. TIASmilie

38 Comments

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#2
SD card since then it has a physical lock

really, both will work just as well.. blu-rays might be a better choice depending on how much data you will be storing
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#3
external hdd with network port; in any case you are probably going to replace it with in 5-7 years.
it maybe difficult to find a SD reader with in 5-7 years
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#4
USB might be easier to plug directly into a future computer, but SD card readers will be also be common for many years.

I don't know about longterm reliability of USB drives vs SD cards. I'd expect basic devices of each are similar. I hope more expensive/better SD cards (like the Sandisk Extreme) would have longer lives than lesser devices, but you can't be sure.

In the end, I'd probably choose a USB drive or SD card from good brand, and I'd also burn a CD/DVD/BD every time you update the safety deposit box. No flash media is
100% reliable, and blank discs are cheap.

Quote from slapshot136 View Post :
SD card since then it has a physical lock
I think very few devices pay attention to the lock switch. Edit: I thought few devices paid attention, but I was wrong. Both the readers I just tried honor the write-lock. I dunno about other devices.
Last edited by redskull March 21, 2012 at 08:02 PM
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#5
Quote from redskull View Post :
I think very few devices pay attention to the lock switch.
it stops you from accidentally deleting files.. I don't think its possible to delete/modify a locked SD card
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#6
Quote from dude2000 View Post :
external hdd with network port; in any case you are probably going to replace it with in 5-7 years.
it maybe difficult to find a SD reader with in 5-7 years
Any switchover from SD or USB or Blu-Ray to the Next Big Thing will be gradual, giving you plenty of time to grab your SD card / USB stick / Blu-Ray disc out of the safety deposit box and transfer your stuff to new media. So, I wouldn't worry about "future proofing" as far as that goes. I'd be concerned with long-term reliability in storage, and USB, other flash media, or DVD / Blu-Ray will be plenty good enough for storage purposes.

For added security, make a couple copies - keep one in the safety deposit box, and one at home. That way, if one does go bad for some reason, you have a second copy. Give a third to a trusted friend or family member
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#7
Quote from dude2000 View Post :
external hdd with network port; in any case you are probably going to replace it with in 5-7 years.
it maybe difficult to find a SD reader with in 5-7 years
Hard drive bearings do not like to sit for years without being used. If you're concerned about finding a card reader, you could toss one in the safe deposit box.

@OP: I am not aware of any actual research that has been done on the difference in durability between flash drives and flash cards, but I don't know offhand of any specific reason it should be different. I would echo the above advice to also burn a CD/DVD (or 2 or 3), as insurance.
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#8
Don't rely on USB sticks or SD cards for long term storage!

Put your important files on DVD's or Blu-Ray. Keep the data read only.

Of course you can supplement this with USB or SD... but do yourself a favor and put the data on good old optical disks. They will be readable much longer and are immune to effects of EMP, solar flares and viruses or human fat finger mishaps.

Use good media like Taiyo-Yuden or Verbatim. Store them in a dark case standing up on edge in a safety deposit box (one set) and with an out of state trusted relative (second set) rotate the sets every six months or so. No labels on the disk itself only on the case.

Cracks me up how people think hard drives or flash drives are true backup!

Use something that will be readable decades from now and survive regional disasters and not rely on "technology".

DVD's will have readability for a Looooooooooooooong time since that what the Government uses for long term backups.
Last edited by boltman2007 March 21, 2012 at 09:45 PM
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#9
Carbonite or other backup method?
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#10
Thank you so much for all your input! I will definitely make permanent back ups with disc media.

My primary concern for flash media is that if the data was okay if it wasn't used for a while (vs in magnetic hard drives the data would get corrupted). Anywhoo, I guess it doesn't make a difference if it was sd or usb flash drives since neither have moving parts.
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#11
Quote from boltman2007 View Post :
Don't rely on USB sticks or SD cards for long term storage!

Put your important files on DVD's or Blu-Ray. Keep the data read only.
Problem with DVD's or BR is its not secure. If your data is very private in nature, and it sounds like it is with a Security Deposit box, having this disk in the wrong hands when it's out of the SD box, anyone could access it as there's no way to securely encrypt it.

Something like this: SanDisk Cruzer Titanium Plus [amazon.com] at least allows you Password protection and AES hardware encryption. Or you can also encrypt any Flash Drive with Bit Locker [microsoft.com] for more security.

But personally, I would put my data on the 'cloud' or something like MS SkyDrive [live.com] - where only you have access to it and you know it will last longer than any physical device and can access it anywhere - and share what you want
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#12
Yup, I'm with the cloud guys as well. SkyDrive, Carbonite, Google Docs... dump them up there & don't worry about them. Those sites are fully redundant & accessible from anywhere that you have an internet connection.
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#13
the sd card lock is only a physical lock.

also over time flash storage loses data. how long? no idea, but it's something to keep in mind.

your best bet is to do a rotating hardware update like you said in the op. though I would shorten it, and do regular verification.

and I'm not a fan of the cloud.
Last edited by fyu March 22, 2012 at 09:21 AM
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#14
I am surprised that no one has mentioned the 3-2-1 backup method at this point.

Minimum of 3 copies of data
At least 2 different forms of media (Hard drive, Flash, Cloud, Disk, tape, etc)
And one copy offsite.

I would also like to add that there is something to be said for automatic backup. It worries me when you say the safety deposit box copy will be updated only every few years. I would not call this true backup if your only backing up with an offsite copy every year or two. It is better than nothing but not a good overall strategy. Reality also says if you say you will do it every few years you will be lucky to get it updated once every 5 years. This is why I am a fan of automatic cloud backup in combination with a safety deposit box style strategy.

The decision of encryption of the safety deposit box copy should also be considered.
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#15
Quote from boboli View Post :
Problem with DVD's or BR is its not secure. If your data is very private in nature, and it sounds like it is with a Security Deposit box, having this disk in the wrong hands when it's out of the SD box, anyone could access it as there's no way to securely encrypt it.

Something like this: SanDisk Cruzer Titanium Plus [amazon.com] at least allows you Password protection and AES hardware encryption. Or you can also encrypt any Flash Drive with Bit Locker [microsoft.com] for more security.

But personally, I would put my data on the 'cloud' or something like MS SkyDrive [live.com] - where only you have access to it and you know it will last longer than any physical device and can access it anywhere - and share what you want
Problem with "the cloud" there are ZERO Guarantees that you WILL always be able to access your data. Very simply what happens if something does happen to the Internet? Could be a solar flair, virus or anything. Is your data safe or has it been wiped out too.

I myself like to know that I have PHYSICAL access to all my data without relying at all on "access" technology. We are living in a house of cards, we rely WAY TO MUCH on technology and feel its foolproof.

As for encryption...if the stuff is in a safety deposit box I'm not worried about it much.
Last edited by boltman2007 March 22, 2012 at 09:30 AM
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