Petabyte hard drives

In the article Petabyte Disk Drives in Seven Years–What Does That Mean for You?, Dr. Joseph Mercola talks about the prospects of having hard drives big enough to fit an entire lifetime’s worth of documents, books, photos, music and video. (Via The Shifted Librarian)

Great idea, but after last year’s Dead Disk Incident I don’t even trust current hard disk technology to keep my personal data safe. What was it Mr Scott said on Star Trek III? “The more they overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” I worry that smaller, finer, nano-scale components means that there’s more chance of something breaking. If a petabyte disk can detect magnetic fields a thousand times weaker than current drive technology, does that mean that the disk is a thousand times more susceptible to magnetic interference or other disruptive effects? How long do the magnetic regions (i.e. your data) remain stable before they decay and blur into a uniform, blank slate?

I think it’s useless to harp on about all the wonders this kind of storage technology will bring, without also wondering about the dangers of committing our entire lives to purely digital media. The main danger lies on having so much valuable data (remember: we may be talking here about all of the photographs you’ve ever taken, all of the emails you’ve ever sent or received) in one place. Bad idea. Really bad. It’s not a question of whether your hard drive will fail, it’s a question of when.

If you have any kind of attachment to your data at all, you ought to have backups. But backing up a petabyte drive (1,000,000 GB) onto DVDs (4.5GB capacity, or even 27GB with future Blu-ray technology) is the equivalent of backing up a 50GB drive to floppy disks. Even moving it all over a Gigabit ethernet connection to a remote server would take about three months.

Personally, I’d much rather see some big advances in data reliability engineering, or in personal backup solutions. Entrusting your precious data to a single hard disk without backup is like driving a car without a seatbelt. Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose.

3 Replies to “Petabyte hard drives”

  1. I would have thought the obvious way to back up a petabyte hard drive would be using another petabyte hard drive. How many would you need? At least initially, and by the time you’ve really filled it up, they should be even cheaper.

  2. Seems to remind me of the days when people would never trust their important data to one of those new-fangled high density 3.5 disks

  3. Back-up solutions will no doubt keep pace (always slightly too expensive for the average home user to effeciently keep backups without multiple media ;-).

    And again, fundamentally, when we have our peta-byte hard-drives, there is nothing to stop us having an array of them. One thing we have all learned is that this stuff gets cheap.

    I still remember aged 15 selling my first 8MB. 8!!! Wow we said, we’ll NEVER fill that up!

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