What about my home videos?

I was talking to a friend, Ed, who has captured hundreds of hours of his family and children on DVC video tape. He is in the process of copying those tapes to the computer and burning them to DVD's. Ed was asking about the appropriate hard disk technology for storing large video files. Large capacity hard disk drives are relatively inexpensive. But anytime I get into a discussion with someone about large capacities of disk storage, I have to bring up the issue of backing up the data.

At first I thought that Ed would consider his DVD's that he burned from the video data to be his backups, but he corrected me on that thought. The data that comes from the tape is about 15-20GB per hour of video. It is compressed, using losy compression when it is burned to a 4.7GB DVD. He want's to keep the original for long term storage. That's pretty good thinking and I would do the same thing. Ed plans to keep his tapes around for backup.

I have a problem with using any tape, or removeable media for that matter, for long-term backup purposes. The DVC tapes are supposed to last forever, but my problem is that it is unlikely that any of us will have any devices that will read those tapes in 10 years. If you have any of the old 8MM video tapes, or Betamax tapes then you know what I mean. So my advice to Ed, is that the tapes are fine for now, but you really need to come up with a better solution for the long haul, and you really need to keep a backup copy off site for safe-keeping.

Online backup is not yet practical for backing up huge amounts of data for home users. Current bandwidth availability in typical homes with DSL, or a cable modem, isn't enough for backing up hundreds of gigabytes of data. So this is one of the cases where I do recommend using an external hard drive to backup your data. Not all of your data, use online backup for your business files, photos, mp3's and everything else, but you are going to need a different solution for large video libraries. The best I can come up with now, is to copy your videos to an external hard drive and store it at a location other than your home.

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