Optical Drives: The Pros And Cons Of Optical Disk Storage

by : Christine Harrell

Optical drives and optical juke boxes are the newest type of data storage solution, utilizing CDs and CDR's to store informational data. Many believe that optical drives and optical jukeboxes will be the replacement technology of magnetic tape drives while others are skeptical of the technology as a viable solution for data storage. In this article we'll discuss the pros and cons of optical drives and optical jukeboxes as a data storage solution.

Longevity: optical disk vs. tape
Data on optical disks is read via a laser as opposed to tape media which must touch the read/write component directly. This means optical disks endure less wear and tear during the read/write process. However, the construction of the optical disk, with its soft exposed plastic media layer, makes optical disks more prone to damage during storage and handling. Tape media on the other hand is completely encased until inside the read/write devise.

All data storage devices have a shelf life. Each type of media has a different shelf life, after which the data should be recopied onto new media. The opinion on the shelf life of optical disks varies greatly depending on who's offering the option. Some say that the data on optical disks is only good for 3 years before it should be recopied, others say 100. Most experts warn that the drive of optical disks is very short, and to limit potential data loss disks should be recopied every 5 years or so. The opinion on shelf life for tape media is just as varied, though most experts agree that tape media should be recopied every 25-30 years.

Random data access comparison: optical disk vs. tape & hard disk
One main disadvantage with optical drives is that they are slower than magnetic tape in terms of random data access. Optical heads are heavy, about 100 grams, making them slow to retrieve data. Also contributing to the slower random data access is the fact that the disks themselves are removable.

Unlike hard disks that are fixed in place, optical disks become loose and shaky beyond a certain number of RPMs. If data access isn't a part of your daily data storage solution, then this limitation of optical drives shouldn't cause a problem. However, those that have a need to constantly call on stored data may need a data storage solution with faster random data access time.

There is no universal "right" type of data storage solution for every business. Depending on their specific data needs, each type of business is suited for a different type of solution. Optical drives, optical jukeboxes, magnetic tape media, or hard disk storage each have a different set of pros and cons and each is ideal for one business while wrong for another. For those unsure about which type of data storage to choose, value-added resellers that offer a wide range of brands and products are a good resource for free, professional consultation.