Traditional data storage media, optical discs, USB flash drives and even external hard drives, which have always been suspect in terms of their longevity, now have a rival that claims to last 1,000 years. With M-Disk drives and storage media, developed by American company Millenniata, the data is as good as being etched in stone, the company claims.

The drive and the storage media, which is now sold in India — the drive for Rs. 2,000 and the special disks for Rs. 200 apiece — have been licensed by Millenniata to LG Electronics.

The earliest optical discs, which appeared in the 1980s, were primarily used for storing audio data. These were based on organic dyes, which were prone to degradation.

Although improvements, mostly through the use of stabilisers, increased their durability, they still remained vulnerable to degradation because of exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Later, the DVDs that came along could store more data, but the recordable surface of the disks was prone to oxidation.

Rewritable disks, which had thinner layers on which data is recorded, fared worse in terms of their ability to retain recorded data.

The breakthrough

Millenniata’s breakthrough, the company claims, rests on a complete break in the usage of the chemicals that go onto the surface of not only the disks, but also the drives that ‘read’ and ‘write’ on them. Instead of using organic dyes and other compounds for the disk, it uses inorganic and metallic elements for the “data layer”, the company claims.

The problem of oxidation, which is the key process that causes degradation and hence, data loss, has thus been solved, the company claims.

Compatibility

Sanjoy Bhattacharya, IT head, LG India, told The Hindu that although the disks are compatible with existing DVD drives, they cannot be recorded using drives other than the M-Drive.

“Of course, the M-Disk is at least 100 times costlier than normal CDs, but it serves the special purpose of keeping data safe for a very long time,” he said.

The drives — both external and internal drives are available — can also be used to read and write conventional CDs, but without the advantage of keeping data almost forever, Mr. Bhattacharya added.

The drives, which were tested by The Hindu, proved as effective as other external and internal drives. Recording speeds were also comparable to competition.

However, the build quality of the external drive did not inspire confidence. Fragile and looking a touch tacky, it threatened to survive for only a fraction of the promised lifespan.