Optical media continues to win over end users

Consumers and businesses alike have far more data storage options than in years past. From the cloud to solid state drives, there's likely a medium that will meet the specific needs of an individual or organization. With so many available potential solutions, however, it's important that users consider the various attributes of each before investing in a particular storage device. The most high-tech and advanced options on the market may not be the most optimal solutions for a given situation. For instance, optical media – despite being used for decades – can easily outshine newer storage formats in many cases.

Some industry observers have been predicting the death of optical media for years, given the increasing popularity of alternatives like the cloud and streaming media. As Columbia Daily Tribune contributor Scott May noted, people continue to use CDs, DVDs and – in particular – Blu-ray discs for their various data, video and music needs. Software developers have taken note of optical media's perennial relevance, releasing high-powered programs designed to wring the most value out of storage discs. The development community's continued support for this medium demonstrates its lasting power.

"Despite the popularity of online multimedia streaming to devices such as smartphones, tablets and Internet-ready televisions, the age of the optical disc is not quite over," May wrote.

Connected alternatives present major concerns
Blu-ray and other forms of optical media landed one of their biggest blows against streaming media and Internet-based resources when Microsoft was forced to take back its vow to launch a disc-less video game system. The tech giant received an outpouring of criticism from gamers who were not ready to give up on physical media and held some major concerns about the performance of an Internet-only platform. When the Xbox One was ultimately released in November 2013, it came equipped with an disc drive, and its games were released on Blu-ray media.

IT News Africa contributor Ruben Naicker explained that optical media such as Blu-ray continues to provide a great deal of value to the average user. The format presents a happy middle ground between technological sophistication and widespread availability, making it an ideal solution in many instances.

"While it is true that Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and flash drives are a lot cheaper than they used to be, for mass reproduction and dissemination of information, optical media, specifically CDs and DVDs, remain very popular," Naicker stated.

Naicker noted that despite the cloud's growing popularity, it has not completely saturated every market. Because the cloud remains a foreign concept to many users, it does not always present the most efficient way to distribute content to every relevant party. Meanwhile, many people have a Blu-ray drive installed on their work and personal computers, simplifying the delivery of materials to a large number of individuals who may not otherwise have access to a hosted service.

Echoing the concerns of countless Xbox users, Naicker also questioned the reliability of streaming media as a wholesale alternative to optical media. Due to the widespread popularity of streaming services and websites such as Netflix and YouTube, some industry observers have predicted that disc-based formats would fall out of favor among consumers. However, the rampant performance issues associated with streaming services, including those related to limited bandwidth and outages, have raised legitimate fears that this format lacks the capacity to fully meet quality standards. Blu-ray discs, on the other hand, offer the same consistent, high-definition playback every time they are used.

Blu-ray soldiers on as an archiving medium
Perhaps the most useful application for Blu-ray and other optical media formats is data storage and archiving. Standard data security best practices suggest that individuals keep backups on hand in the event that critical files are either lost or corrupted. These events are a nuisance for consumers, but they present a much greater threat to small business owners. Information such as sales records, financial statements and client profiles can be lost in an instant, significantly impairing normal business operations. By saving copies of this content on a physical drive, organizations can quickly and easily restore it without skipping a beat.

"[D]ata protection best practice recommends keeping more than one backup of critical information, and many small businesses and even home users still use optical media for this purpose," Naicker wrote.

Traditional disk-based hard drives may not be ideal data archiving solutions. As Naicker noted, purchasing multiple devices is a very expensive proposition, and the stored information cannot be readily shared with all relevant parties. Blu-ray discs address these concerns by offering an easy and cost-effective method of archiving and sharing critical company records.

Blu-ray beats out HDDs in another critical area of performance: durability. The magnetic plates and read/write heads within HDDs are extremely fragile and vulnerable to impact or other trauma. If these internal components are damaged, the information stored on a drive could be lost forever. Meanwhile, Blu-ray discs are sturdy and – more importantly – easy to replicate. If users are concerned about losing or breaking a disc and potentially losing its data, they can simply create multiple copies. This offers a level of security that traditional, disk-based devices cannot begin to approach.

Although streaming media and hosted solutions are quickly picking up steam with consumers and business users, optical media still holds a crucial position in various markets. Beyond media playback, Blu-ray has solidified itself as a major force within the data archiving sector, offering a reliable, repeatable and cost-effective method of storing important information for later use. For consumers and small businesses that want put their data loss fears to bed, a Blu-ray data archiving solution may be the answer.

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Scientists use Blu-ray discs to find microorganisms

For years, consumers have used Blu-ray discs to watch their favorite movies in high-quality video transfer and play the latest and most advanced video games. Recently, numerous alternative applications for the format have emerged, re-energizing interest in Blu-ray. For instance, Facebook has pursued a data archiving solution that is supported entirely by thousands of Blu-ray discs. Given the durability, cost-effectiveness and high-performance of Blu-ray, it's no wonder that organizations from disparate fields have found new ways to take advantage of this technology. Researchers at Spain's Polytechnic University of Valencia have discovered an entirely unique application for Blu-ray discs that could change the way that certain types of biomatter are collected and analyzed.

According to Plataforma SINC, those researchers found that optical media – and Blu-ray discs, in particular – can be leveraged to detect various types of life-forms and substances in their lab samples. A study published in the scientific journal "Biosensors and Bioelectronics" casts more light on the process, noting that Blu-ray offers a more cost-effective alternative to traditional methods of data collection. The surface of a disc acts as an analysis platform upon which lab workers can conduct tests. Afterward, they use a Blu-ray player's laser reader to spot different forms of bacteria and other materials in the sample, including toxins, allergens and tumoral biomarkers.

Blu-ray structure supports lab analysis needs
The process involves placing microarray and two-dimensional array samples on the discs. Because Blu-ray discs feature hydrophobic surfaces, tiny protein-based samples can be locked into place like beads of water on a waxy leaf. Researchers found that using Blu-ray media in this matter achieved results similar to what could be gained through standard procedures. One of the primary benefits of this method is the ability to quickly and easily eliminate samples from scientific consideration before lab workers put more time and effort into conducting further analysis.

Researchers stated that there are numerous applications for this technology such as identifying potentially harmful bacteria located in breast milk or determining the concentration levels of toxins in drinking water. The university's team has already achieved some encouraging results utilizing Blu-ray discs to detect pathogenic bacteria in their materials. Using Blu-ray in this fashion, scientists can leverage a low-cost method to analyze large volumes of samples.

Sergi Morais, the research team's associate principal investigator, provided further details on the study to optics.org. He explained that other practical applications for this technology include ascertaining the health and well-being of livestock and enhancing in vitro tests for allergens. Morais also noted that this method does not require a great deal of additional equipment beyond a Blu-ray player and discs, making the process all the more cost-effective. Because many organizations have difficulty acquiring public funding for the technology's applicable fields, Morais and his team hope that their breakthrough can facilitate this kind of research.

"Our team has been working with this type of technology for 10 years," Morais told optics.org. "We started working with regular CDs then DVDs. Then we realized that Blu-ray was even more sensitive than the previous formats."

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Golf Channel turns to optical disc-based archive system

In the face of mounting speculation that it would be usurped by streaming media and cloud storage outlets, Blu-ray media has reestablished itself as a major format by focusing on data archiving solutions. Facebook led the charge earlier this year when it announced an ongoing project to develop an archiving platform based on Blu-ray discs. Now, other organizations are beginning to take notice of this growing trend and investigate the benefits of optical media as a format for large-scale data storage.

Regardless of their industry or sector, businesses across the globe are faced with an irrefutable fact: The amount of data they collect, store and leverage is increasing at a monumental rate. According to a December 2012 IDC study, the amount of digital data in existence will increase by a factor of 300 between 2005 and 2020, reaching 40 trillion gigabytes. Worldwide, data volumes will approximately double every two years for at least the next six years.

This unparalleled increase in information has already placed a great deal of strain on organization's storage systems. Traditional disk-based mediums lack the scalability needed to keep pace with the rise in data. Furthermore, HDDs are notoriously faulty products, prone to damage and operational disruptions. For archiving means, this sensitivity and fragility has created a great deal of concern for business leaders who need to retain their important records for the long haul. Facebook vice president Frank Frankovsky explained to Ars Technica that in order to account for the possibility of hardware failure, organizations would need to invest in backups for their backups or other supplementary tools, potentially wasting a great deal of revenue in the process.

"You need to have a relatively aggressive erasure encoding environment where you have a lot more physical spinning disks, so you can sustain multiple failures and be able to recreate the file in any situation," he said, according to the source.

Golf Channel makes the jump to Blu-ray
Blu-ray discs and other optical media offer the right combination of scalability, durability and cost-effectiveness to present an ideal solution for businesses' data archiving needs. Since Facebook broke ground on its project, other organizations have followed suit. According to TV Technology, Golf Channel recently announced that it planned to adopt an automated, optical disc-based archival system. As a media operation, Golf Channel has a considerable demand for data archiving tools. With high-definition video becoming the standard for television transmissions, broadcasters are only going to see their storage needs increase in the coming years. A single snippet of video could represent several gigabytes of data that must be archived for later use. This is particularly true for sports broadcasters as old telecasts of football games, golf tournaments and other events will draw a great deal of interest for years to come.

For the past eight years, Golf Channel used a linear tape-open system for its archiving needs. However, magnetic tape did not provide the functionality and performance needed to ensure reliable and streamlined data archiving. Ultimately, the organization found itself going through several iterations of LTO technology to keep pace with its changing demands.

"During that time, we realized that LTO was not the ideal solution," said Ken Botelho, senior director of engineering for Golf Channel. "Mylar tape stretches and LTO lacks backward compatibility. We ended up changing through various LTO formats, from LTO 2 to LTO 5."

The source explained that Blu-ray discs provide numerous benefits over tape-based archiving products. For instance, they are not as susceptible to the quality-diminishing effects of exposure to moisture, humidity, ultraviolet radiation, corrosive gases and magnetism. Furthermore, LTO tapes are only designed for approximately 250 read/write cycles, limiting their long-term viability. Some Blu-ray discs have been rated for more than one million passes. This functionality allows users to confidently access information whenever needed without having to worry that they are eroding the device's operability in the process. For an organization like Golf Channel that will likely have to dive into their video archives on a regular basis, this durability provides considerable advantages over tape-based alternatives.

Amazon may be eyeing Blu-ray system
Golf Channel is just the latest organization to turn to Blu-ray for its archiving needs. Industry analyst Robin Harris suggested that Amazon's long-rumored Glacier archiving service will likely run on high-performance Blu-ray discs. He reasoned that a tape- or disk-based system would not be able to account for the company's massive storage needs. Only optical media could get the job done effectively and without breaking the bank.

What makes Amazon's case so interesting is that if Harris' insights prove to be true, the company is using optical media to support cloud storage tools. Many industry observers once speculated that the cloud and other Internet-based tools would render storage discs obsolete. With Blu-ray becoming a viable solution for data storage and archiving, the hosted services that were once believed to eliminate optical media now rely on it to function themselves. Blu-ray will continue to be a major force within this sector, providing large and small organizations alike with the durability and scalability needed to securely store files for later use.

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Blu-ray solidifies data archiving role

Blu-ray is currently in the midst of a rejuvenation of sorts as organizations increasingly reconsider the format's applications. For some time now, supposed media format experts have claimed that optical discs were outdated and would be phased out in the coming years. These opinions have largely been informed by the rise of streaming media and connected services. Netflix, Hulu and similar online services capable of delivering content without the use of physical media have been seen by some as the future standard for home entertainment – the traditional application for Blu-ray media.

Internet-based content delivery has yet to achieve the same level of reliability and performance offered by Blu-ray discs, however. Limited bandwidth can easily prevent consumers from receiving video that features crystal-clear and highly detailed playback. Blu-ray, meanwhile, provides the same consistent, crisp image quality that has wowed consumers and solidified the format's place at the top of the home entertainment sector.

Businesses look to Blu-ray for archiving
Blu-ray has moved far beyond that narrow focus in recent years, incorporating additional features that offer more enterprise-focused benefits. Most notably, Blu-ray has carved out a position as a cost-effective, scalable and reliable data archiving solution. Some of the tech industry's biggest players have turned to optical media to handle some of their storage needs. Facebook caused waves when it announced its in-development archiving platform that utilizes thousands of Blu-ray discs to quickly and effortlessly scale up storage space.

According to ZDNet contributor Robin Harris, it appears that Facebook is not the only esteemed company to recognize Blu-ray's value as a data archiving tool. Full details regarding Amazon's data backup service, Glacier, have yet to be revealed, but industry observers believe it will be based on optical discs. Although end users will access information through the cloud, that data needs to be stored on a physical drive on Amazon's end. Conventional wisdom would have dictated that the company would use traditional hard drives for these tasks, but that does not appear to be the case.

Harris explained that if proven to be true, Amazon's decision to go with optical discs makes a great deal of sense for a variety of reasons. One of the major benefits to Blu-ray media is its longevity. The fragile internal moving parts that keep hard disk drives running have a finite shelf life that may end sooner than users think. According to Harris, HDDs as well as tape-based devices may need to be replaced within five years of installation, making them poor choices for an archiving solution. Meanwhile, Blu-ray discs that are designed for archiving purposes can continue operating for 50 years or longer. That vastly superior life span will translate into lower operational costs since companies will not need to migrate their archives multiple times during the course of a single decade. Furthermore, that longevity and durability will decrease the likelihood that important information will be lost due to a malfunctioning archive unit that has outlived its usefulness.

From a purely cost-based perspective, Blu-ray wins out as well. Individual discs are inexpensive and plentiful, making inevitable archiving expansions a breeze. Tape- or disk-based alternatives may require far more costly upgrades whenever changes need to be made to the archiving system.

One factor that business leaders may overlook when choosing their data archiving solutions is if the format will meet their legal requirements. According to Harris, rewritable nature of HDDs and tape can create some legal concerns. Because archive-based Blu-ray discs can be write-once, they can better address the legal needs of an organization.

New Blu-ray format embraced by archiving industry
Blu-ray's recent resurgence as a viable data archiving solution has been partially spurred by the emergence of higher-capacity discs. Sony and Panasonic have created a new Blu-ray format specifically designed for backing up large volumes of information. The lowest capacity iteration offers 300GB worth of storage space, while the high-end models offer 1TB. Engineers have pushed the capacity of Blu-ray by creating double-sided discs that feature three layers, allowing for more data to be written.

As EE Times Europe contributor Nick Flaherty noted, this new iteration of Blu-ray media has distinguished itself from its predecessors by effectively ending a format war before it has even begun. In previous generations of storage technology, vying platforms typically competed to gain market share and position themselves at the top. Even the ubiquitous Blu-ray went through such a period, going head-to-head with HD-DVD. This is the first time in decades that a new disc format has been accepted as the industry standard without needing to launch a single salvo.

These higher-capacity discs will prove to be extremely useful for data center operations that require a new approach to their archiving methods. Flaherty explained that switching to a data backup solution built upon Blu-ray archive discs will significantly benefit data centers, including reducing the amount of energy used to write, store and access information that has been traditionally kept on inefficient hard drives.

Blu-ray discs' appeal as data archiving solutions is not limited to enterprises or data centers, however. The format's cost-effectiveness make it a viable platform for smaller organizations as well. With the help of a Blu-ray burner, businesses can carry out a simple yet comprehensive archiving process without breaking a sweat.

"In the era of 6TB hard drives we tend to forget that many businesses don't need petabytes of archive capacity," Harris wrote. "If 50TB of local archive capacity works for you today, with the promise of much higher capacities coming soon, then optical may be your solution."

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Security concerns surrounding cloud storage persist

Data security remains a critical concern for consumers and business users alike. Cybercriminals have shown time and again that they are willing to target anyone and crack any system to get their hands on sensitive information. Data such as Social Security numbers and financial records can be easily leveraged by hackers for profit.

These issues have permeated various types of networks, but public cloud servers may be especially at risk. When users place their sensitive information and files in the hands of a third party, they lose the ability to control and monitor that data. There's no guarantee that cloud vendors are adhering to cybersecurity best practices, increasing the potential for a devastating attack to cut off customers from their documents.

According to InformationWeek, the Cloud Security Alliance recently issued a list of the most pressing threats to the integrity of hosted services, with data breaches taking the top spot. The report's authors stated that for all of its benefits, cloud computing still posed questions regarding the security and integrity of information stored on its servers. In addition, they questioned whether the cloud could ever become 100 percent secure.

Data loss sat just behind data breach in the number two spot on the list, demonstrating that concerns of this nature extend beyond unauthorized access. Losing sensitive or one-of-a-kind documents because of an issue with a cloud service can be devastating for the end user. Although data loss may be most readily associated with malfunctioning or damaged hardware, the threat is just as pressing for hosted information. In 2011, the popular public cloud outlet, Amazon Web Services, experienced a massive service disruption due to human error, resulting in data loss for some users. The CSA report noted that there are many circumstances in which hosted information can be lost permanently.

"Any accidental deletion by the cloud service provider, or worse, a physical catastrophe such as a fire or earthquake, could lead to the permanent loss of customers' data unless the provider takes adequate measures to backup data," the report stated. "Furthermore, the burden of avoiding data loss does not fall solely on the provider's shoulders. If a customer encrypts his or her data before uploading it to the cloud, but loses the encryption key, the data will be lost as well."

Back up cloud storage tools
Given the many concerns surrounding the integrity of data stored in the cloud, it's advisable that consumers back up any important files they may have through a more reliable and less vulnerable product. Physical data archiving solutions can provide a great deal of support to individuals who use the cloud as their primary form of storage. In particular, Blu-ray media offers a secure and reliable platform to back up important documents and files. Unlike many other archiving methods, Blu-ray discs are not vulnerable to infection or data corruption, ensuring the information stored on them remains intact.

Cloud storage vendors have long dealt with concerns regarding the long-term availability of user information. There have been numerous instances of providers closing up shop with little to no forewarning, leaving their customers out in the cold. The durability of Blu-ray media gives individuals peace of mind knowing that their important files will be available whenever they are needed. The reliability and ease-of-use make Blu-ray the perfect platform for archiving data on a consumer level.

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Blu-ray discs reduce data center cold storage costs

The cloud and streaming services have raised questions about the viability of disc-based media, but those concerns appear to have been brought up prematurely. The past year was filled with high-profile outages for some of the industry's foremost cloud storage providers, and Blu-ray discs continue to showcase higher quality playback features than Netflix and other Internet-based services. The lack of reliable and high-performance alternatives have ensured that Blu-ray remains a viable format for a variety of applications. Recently, Blu-ray discs have even emerged as a high-quality solution to some of the data center industry's most pressing concerns.

IDG News Service reported that Facebook has begun exploring utilizing Blu-ray media as a means to store data for its data centers. These facilities are tasked with shouldering major workloads on a significant basis due to the ever-growing popularity of the social media network. According to Facebook's most recent figures, the number of daily active users for December 2013 stood at 757 million, an increase of 22 percent over the same period  from the previous year. Meanwhile, there were approximately 1.23 billion individuals on the site for that entire month, representing a 16 percent increase year-over-year. More so than many other organizations, Facebook places a great deal of strain on its data centers. If these facilities were to encounter performance issues, the fallout could be extremely detrimental to the company's bottom line, as regular users may lose faith in the quality of its product and services.

Addressing high operational costs
In addition to reliability needs, Facebook and other heavy data center users require components that can help reduce operational costs. Data centers consistently consume a great deal of energy, driving up expenses for facility owners. According to The New York Times, digital warehouses used approximately 30 billion watts of electricity as of September 2012 – enough to match the production of 30 nuclear power plants. If left unchecked, these costs could skyrocket, eating into revenue streams for many businesses.

Facebook officials have experienced a great deal of success by using low-cost Blu-ray discs for their archiving and long-term storage needs. Data center operators often refer to this as cold storage, in which information is recorded and stored but only rarely accessed. For Facebook, this data may include user photos and other media that it may be asked to reproduce for members if their originals are lost, corrupted or otherwise compromised. Given the number of individuals with Facebook profiles on the planet, that is a lot of data that needs to be stored – and membership is always on the rise.

While traditional methods of cold storage have leaned on hard disk drives, officials from the company stated that Blu-ray offers a more cost-effective solution. Although this project is still in development, Facebook researchers have reportedly witnessed energy consumption levels drop by 80 percent, while overall costs were cut in half. According to Jason Taylor, Facebook's director of infrastructure, Blu-ray is also preferable to HDDs because of the format's scalability.

Energy-reduction, scalability benefits of Blu-ray
Ars Technica explained that one of the major benefits to Facebook's Blu-ray project is that energy is only used when the system is actively working. Data center operations are rife with inefficiencies that waste electricity and drive up costs. Many facility managers feel that there is no way to avoid these expenses as data centers need to be online at all times, requiring all components to be up and running night and day. However, when the Blu-ray system is not needed, it consumes a fraction of the energy that an alternative mode would.

Facebook's director of hardware engineering Giovanni Coglitore praised the format's durability and scalability in a recent video demo. For organizations that oversee complex data center environments and must manage numerous components and complex networks, replacing faulty devices or making an expansion can be difficult. The simplicity of Blu-ray adequately addresses these concerns, however.

"Each disc is certified for 50 years of operation; you can actually get some discs that are certified for 1,000 years of reliability," Coglitore said. "Because the media is separate from the drives, if you ever have a drive issue, you simply replace the drive, and you won't have to replace the data within a disc. From a reliability and operational standpoint it's quite elegant and efficient."

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Sony, Panasonic unveil 1TB Blu-ray disc

The cloud has garnered a lot of attention in recent years as the ostensible data storage format of the future, but those claims often overlook the technological limitations that prevent it from being a long-term solution. The concern for data storage longevity came into sharp focus when Facebook – the tech-savvy, social media giant – recently unveiled a prototype archiving system built upon Blu-ray discs. One might think that Facebook officials would embrace cloud-based methods of storage to compile the organization's large amount of profile information. However, the social media provider opted to utilize the Blu-ray format instead due to its cost-effectiveness, durability and reliability.

A misperception lingers among both novice end users and veteran IT workers that virtualized and cloud-based systems feature near infinite capacity capabilities. This could not be further from the truth. Servers can be taxed and pushed to their limit, placing a cap on how much data can be stored through a given cloud provider without paying a high premium. Furthermore, the potential for these servers to go offline at a moment's notice should give potential users pause, as there is no guarantee that information stored through the cloud will be accessible when needed.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray features an unparalleled scalability for data archiving, allowing individuals to back up as much as they wish at a moment's notice. Facebook, for instance, uses approximately 10,000 discs to hold a petabyte of data with its prototype cold storage system, according to Ars Technica.

"I think that the media suppliers, especially after all of the community excitement around it with Open Compute, they see a huge opportunity here," said Facebook vice president Frank Frankovsky. "Economies of scale could take over really quickly, and they could start producing those discs for the Open Compute community at much lower cost than they do today because, believe it or not, this is one of those areas where really high-capacity Blu-ray discs are in relatively low demand on the consumer side and in relatively high demand on the data center side."

Blu-ray moves forward as data archiving solution
The increasing demand for high-capacity Blu-ray storage was further reflected in Sony and Panasonic's joint unveiling of a forthcoming disc capable of holding as much as 1TB of data. As Geek.com noted, most consumer Blu-ray models come in 25GB or 50GB varieties, while the largest available tops out at 128GB. A bump to 1TB would provide a great deal more space for users to back up their various crucial documents and files. Sony and Panasonic have made it clear that this format is intended for long-term storage, referring to the new product as "Archival Disc." The summer 2015 arrival of this new tool should be met with considerable interest from the archiving sector.

With Facebook, Sony and Panasonic all throwing their support behind Blu-ray, it's clear that this format will remain an attractive and viable option as a data archiving solution for consumers and business users alike. For those individuals who want to begin backing up their important and irreplaceable documents right away, DIGISTOR has the high-quality media, hardware and software needed to reliably archive their files.

DIGISTOR's Blu-ray data archiving solutions cover every asset users will need to begin backing up their information without delay, including discs, burners and required programs. By combining these tools, individuals can quickly, conveniently and – most importantly – accurately copy their priceless photos, videos, music or personal documents without worrying about the longevity of their archiving platform. DIGISTOR's Blu-ray discs are built for the long haul, ensuring that data remains available for years to come. Furthermore, because this technology features unparalleled scalability at a cost-effective rate, users can copy as much information as they need without breaking a sweat. This allows customers to enjoy a level of redundancy that will virtually eliminate the possibility of lost or corrupted data.

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How to playback Blu-ray movies on a computer

Consumers today expect far more functionality from their electronics than previous generations. Some exceptions aside, the public generally frowns upon proprietary software and hardware that is only compatible with select devices. This extends to video media formats such as Blu-ray discs. Thankfully, Blu-ray has proven itself to be an extremely versatile medium, capable of offering video playback on a wide range of hardware. For individuals who do not have a dedicated Blu-ray player but want an easy way to enjoy the high-quality performance and image clarity this format offers, their current desktop or laptop offers a viable solution. Many consumer PCs now feature Blu-ray compatibility out of the box, but even those that don't can be tweaked to provide that functionality. People may be surprised to find that with a tiny bit of effort, their computers can offer the same high-quality video playback as a stand-alone Blu-ray player.

Getting Blu-ray playback on a PC
PC users should first check to see if their computers already have the option to play Blu-ray discs. If not, there are several software options available for PC users such as: PowerDVD, TotalMedia Theatre, WinDVD Pro, Leawo DVD Fab and MacGo. At DIGISTOR, we generally recommend ArcSoft TotalMedia Extreme 2, which offers full featured Blu-ray playback as well as a complete suite for authoring, editing and capturing high-definition video. This software runs on the most widely used PC operating systems including Windows XP, 7 and 8 and comes bundled with several DIGISTOR external and internal Blu-ray drives.

Setting up a Mac for Blu-ray use
Those who rely on a Mac as their primary computer may be presented with more obstacles to Blu-ray playback, but these can be overcome. Currently Apple's Mac OS does not support Blu-ray media, so users will need to find a software package that will address this issue. Macgo is one such application, offering a simple way to achieve Blu-ray playback on a Mac as long as the computer has a compatible Blu-ray drive. To complete the process, Mac users can install a high-quality external Blu-ray burner from DIGISTOR. This will allow them to watch high-definition videos on their machines while also offering a reliable method to backup some of their most priceless files.

Other considerations to keep in mind
It's critical that PC users ensure their monitor and computer are compatible with high-definition copyright protection standards. Many Blu-ray playback solutions require such compatibility to properly stream video. Without HDCP-ready hardware, consumers may be unable to watch Blu-ray movies on their computers. This consideration should be extended to the machine's graphics card as well. Many brand name models come equipped with HDCP compatibility out of the box, but this may not be true for stand-alone products. Individuals who have opted to build their own computers piecemeal should check to be sure their graphics card is in accordance with HDCP guidelines.

Another issue consumers should be aware of when pursuing Blu-ray playback on their computers is if they have the proper built-in connections. To properly stream high-definition video, PC owners will need to have the right ports to connect their devices, including DVI or HDMI. Once consumers have properly configured their machines and obtained the right accessories, they can begin enjoying the benefits of quality Blu-ray playback.

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3 ways to ensure Blu-ray disc longevity

One of the major benefits of Blu-ray as a data archiving solution is the format's durability. Traditional hard disk drives are prone to hardware failure as their components inevitably diminish over time. In addition, the technology's read/write heads are delicate by nature, creating considerable concerns regarding the long-term performance of these devices. Even a simple jostling could be enough to break an HDD's internal parts and lose one-of-a-kind documents and data forever. Blu-ray discs, meanwhile, are much sturdier, ensuring that this information will be available for years to come. Consumers and small business owners who choose to leverage Blu-ray for their data archiving solutions can take steps to enhance the longevity of their discs.

Only use high-quality media
Not all Blu-ray discs share the same level of quality and performance. The type of recording layer material and data signal polarity used on a particular disc will have a considerable effect on its usefulness as a storage device. Low-to-High Blu-ray media, for instance, uses an organic dye-pigment that features higher reflectivity than standard discs. Some organizations view LTH as a low-cost option for Blu-ray, as the format shares its manufacturing process with those used to print older media such as CDs. The upfront cost savings presented by LTH will evaporate over time as the format does not offer the same level of compatibility with newer devices as higher quality Blu-ray discs. Furthermore, the organic dye used in LTH media is much more sensitive to light, increasing the likelihood of users encountering errors when attempting to copy files to or access data from a disc.

Quality brands such as DIGISTOR and Panasonic exclusively offer High-to-Low media to provide much better performance and durability with their Blu-ray products. Unlike LTH media, HTL discs use inorganic alloy or composite material that features a much higher resistance to ultraviolet light, significantly slowing the aging process. Because HTL is the recognized standard for high-quality Blu-ray playback, it is compatible with a wide variety of internal and external Blu-ray burners and players.

Start with a clean burn
Some consumers and business users may make the assumption that – all things being considered – there isn't much difference between various Blu-ray burners. This couldn't be further from the truth. Low-quality hardware will not burn data to a disc with the precision offered by a better product. By ensuring that their hardware is making clean burns from the outset, individuals can increase the lifespan of their Blu-ray discs. That's why it is imperative prospective Blu-ray adopters only purchase burners that have been extensively vetted by other users and have a documented history of meeting user expectations.

DIGISTOR's hardware only uses the highest-quality Blu-ray burning laser components from top-of-the-line and trusted manufacturers like Panasonic. By ensuring that these products are built from the ground up with the best hardware available, DIGISTOR can offer a high-quality solution that will remain compatible with the latest developments in Blu-ray technology, offering reliable data storage for years to come.

Take care with storage
HTL Blu-ray discs are durable by their nature, but users can increase their longevity by following storage best practices. For instance, placing these assets in a cool, dry environment that's free of caustic contaminants will enhance their resiliency. As a data archiving solution, Blu-ray is nearly unmatched in terms of durability, offering UV light and scratch resistant features. However, like any sensitive storage option, Blu-ray discs should be handled with care to maximize their lifespan.

By following these three guidelines, users can ensure that they get the most value from their archived data on Blu-ray media as well as reduce the possibility of losing important files or documents due to hardware degradation. When handled appropriately, Blu-ray offers one of the most reliable archiving formats available to consumers and small businesses.

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Choosing between tapes, SSD and Blu-ray storage capabilities

For some time, organizations and other storage users have argued over the best way to back up files and how to preserve data for long-term archival and restoration needs. As the technology shifts, the debate also has adjusted to discuss the benefits and limitations of each option as well as the security and reliability that the systems can offer. However, for storage that will last well into the future, tapes, SSD drives and Blu-ray media remain the top contenders able to provide the capacity and functionality that users will require. While these possibilities keep adjusting to current trends, businesses must consider how to use the hardware effectively and what system would provide the most benefits.

Tapes have been used for numerous years in the face of increasing scrutiny regarding their effectiveness, but there are still many organizations that are utilizing this storage method because it's what they are familiar with. However, tapes are quickly becoming outdated with the advancing capabilities of SSDs and Blu-ray devices. StorageCraft technical marketing manager Steven Snyder noted that some of today's SSDs have more capacity than other disk drives and tape solutions while also being smaller in physical size. The fact that SSD drives also don't have power requirements and moving parts like legacy drives also makes them a valuable asset to companies. The significant speed increases of SSDs make them an overall better, cost-effective choice for the organization and will provide more benefits for users in the long run.

"I realize that there are still advantages with tape when it comes to large volume backups and the ability to physically move the backup media to an offsite location," Snyder wrote. "But even with these advantages it seems that backups to disk (and dare I say to the cloud?) have so many more advantages."

Transcending tape limitations
In many organizations, tapes have been exceedingly helpful for a number of years, but the hardware has long outlived its usefulness. Tapes have a significantly smaller space allocation for files than SSDs and Blu-ray discs and the process of backing up to tapes is more arduous. However, Blu-ray media has several advantages over the legacy equipment that will allow users to leverage the system for years in the future. In an interview with TechTarget, storage industry expert Ian Lock noted that one of the main disadvantages of tapes is the overall reliability as the hardware relies on many moving parts which can be affects by dust and other environmental factors. The tape drives are also considerably slower than Blu-ray discs as they take several minutes to load before data can be read from them. 

"Tape drives also start and stop a lot as the data stream from the backup server comes and goes," Lock said. "All this causes wear and tear in a typical tape-based backup environment and explains why reliability levels can seem to drop steeply in busy environments after three years."

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