In a World of New Storage Options, Optical Discs Retain their Utility

The digital storage landscape has changed a lot over the last decade. It’s not just about hard drives getting larger and less expensive – it’s about cloud storage and data backup over the Internet – it’s about Flash drives and solid state storage – it’s about the increasing capacities of Blu-ray discs. The increasing number of storage options for individuals and organizations have added to the challenge of choosing the right storage option for the right purpose.

LightScribe-CD-R-MediaHowever, despite all of the newer storage options, Optical media – CD-R, DVD +/-R, and rewritable versions of CD and DVD recordable media are still being used for specific applications where the new technologies sometimes fall short. For example, CD media is still commonly used as a means of storage and data distribution. Why do individuals and organizations still choose CD media?

For one, the costs associated with using CD media are very low. There are two basic types of recordable CD media – CD-R (CD-Recordable) and CD-RW (CD-Recordable/Rewritable). In this blog, when we’re referring to recordable CDs, we are referring to both formats. The cost of blank CD-R media has dropped to pennies and drives are inexpensive. Also, a CD disc can be recorded in a few minutes.

Ubiquity of hardware is also a factor. CDs have been a standard for more than 20 years, so if your goal is to distribute audio files – perhaps the audio from a company meeting or some organizational training materials – a CD is ideal. Whether your employees listen in their cars, or on their computers, or even at home on a CD player, the ability to play an audio CD is almost universal. In many cases, audio players can also play MP3 or other compressed audio formats. Using these formats, you may be able to distribute dozens of hours of audio on a single CD-R disc.

Your data, of course, can also be recorded onto a CD. Most computers should have no problems reading a data CD. This advantage is slowly diminishing, however, since some newer netbook and notebook portable computers lack optical drives. Of course, external drives can always be used with these devices for reading and writing CDs and DVDs.

Finally, CDs can be made Read-Only, providing assurance to the creator of the disc that the data on the disc can’t be changed. Thus, if sensitive financial data is distributed internally within an organization, the organization can be assured that the data is received unaltered. Because they are lightweight and low cost, CDs are an ideal medium for widely distributing audio or data – they don’t cost much to mail, they’re easy to store, the data can’t be changed, and in the case of audio, it’s safe to assume that almost everyone can easily find a device to play them on.

The digital storage landscape has changed a lot over the last decade. It’s not just about hard drives getting larger and less expensive – it’s about cloud storage and data backup over the Internet – it’s about Flash drives and solid state storage – it’s about the increasing capacities of Blu-ray discs. The increasing number of storage options for individuals and organizations have added to the challenge of choosing the right storage option for the right purpose.

However, despite all of the newer storage options, Optical media – CD-R, DVD +/-R, and rewritable versions of CD and DVD recordable media are still being used for specific applications where the new technologies sometimes fall short. For example, CD media is still commonly used as a means of storage and data distribution. Why do individuals and organizations still choose CD media ?

For one, the costs associated with using CD media are very low. There are two basic types of recordable CD media – CD-R (CD-Recordable) and CD-RW (CD-Recordable/Rewritable). In this blog, when we’re referring to recordable CDs, we are referring to both formats. The cost of blank CD-R media has dropped to pennies and drives are inexpensive. Also, a CD disc can be recorded in a few minutes.

Ubiquity of hardware is also a factor. CDs have been a standard for more than 20 years, so if your goal is to distribute audio files – perhaps the audio from a company meeting or some organizational training materials – a CD is ideal. Whether your employees listen in their cars, or on their computers, or even at home on a CD player, the ability to play an audio CD is almost universal. In many cases, audio players can also play MP3 or other compressed audio formats. Using these formats, you may be able to distribute dozens of hours of audio on a single CD-R disc.

Your data, of course, can also be recorded onto a CD. Most computers should have no problems reading a data CD. This advantage is slowly diminishing, however, since some newer netbook and notebook portable computers lack optical drives . Of course, external drives can always be used with these devices for reading and writing CDs and DVDs.

Finally, CDs can be made Read-Only, providing assurance to the creator of the disc that the data on the disc can’t be changed. Thus, if sensitive financial data is distributed internally within an organization, the organization can be assured that the data is received unaltered . Because they are lightweight and low cost, CDs are an ideal medium for widely distributing audio or data – they don’t cost much to mail, they’re easy to store, the data can’t be changed, and in the case of audio, it’s safe to assume that almost everyone can easily find a device to play them on.


[MB1]This is the first of three parts. The first paragraph was about optical media (and you’ve included Blu-ray – an optical technology – along with what sound like alternatives.

[MB2]Do we really NOT want to describe these discs that are recorded with data or audio as CD-R?

[MB3]It ends here?

[MB4]Benefits of optical that you listed – durability, portability, and compact storage were to be noted in the final post, summarizing overall benefits of optical media.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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Posted in DVD CD Blu-ray Disc

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