SSD best long term static storage option currently?

So I’ll be honest, the last time I was hyper up to date on PC hardware was back in college 20 some years ago. For the last 5 years or so, if it’ll run DCS that’s about all I’ve been worried about. Having a side gig as a professional photographer, I’ve got lots of digital pictures. Lots, I mean LOTS, of pictures. The vast majority are going to sit in storage until I die as it’s very unlikely a client will ever want them. However I occasionally get a request to license 2-3 more images from a shoot several years age etc. Also doing a lot of sports stuff, there’s always a chance someone will make it big. For example if I’d started a few years sooner, I would have had a couple games of Drew Bree’s playing in high school. Not earth shattering stuff, but certainly worth a few hundred dollars (and of course I stopped shooting local HS football right before Nick Foles started playing).

What the heck is best long term storage media for digital images/files/etc these days? I would have said tape 15 years ago, but now I don’t know. SSD’s being a type of flash memory, would seem to be a reasonable option if left somewhere with good environmentals. At least sturdier than HDD’s.

The drivers are going to filled, and then stored. If I have to find an image, I have everything fairly well sorted, so at most I’d have to look through 1 drive, and it would be a minimal amount of data access. Not near anything that would wear out an SSD normally.

Anyone have any insight or suggestions?

HDDs at the moment still reign supreme for the balance of durability, price and storage space. If they are stored well, they should be just fine.

Large SSD’s will cost you a hefty sum of money still. The caveat is the write limit before they are toast, but you are proposing a write-once scenario so that’s not a big deal either. Prices are going down, but they are still far from parity.

Option three is to look into cloud storage - offset the cost of any devices, and the need to make sure they are cared for and stored well. The catch is typically going to be a monthly fee.

For a more concrete answer, it may be useful to provide us the size of storage of photos you currently have in Gigabytes (round up to the nearest GB). We could add a buffer for what you anticipate to need every year.


HDDs would be the way to go purely for the $/GB alone. You can get 12 to 16TB HDD space for the same amount of money you could get 500GB-2TB for, depending on what other attributes you’re looking for (I.E nVME M.2 SSD’s are faster but more expensive than SATA SSD’s).

External HDDs may be a nice option as you won’t need to open the case to acces your photos as long as you can live with the data transfer rate of USB, which is still pretty fast.

Interesting, I would have figured for long term storage the moving parts in an HDD would be an issue.

Data transfer rate isn’t an issue. This will be a copy them over once and be done type deal.

At the moment, I’m looking at around 690 gb or so. It’s just going to get worse as time goes on though. About 500 gb of that is just the last couple of years. Shooting full frame and .raw with a high MP camera eats storage space alive (and since most clients have ZERO idea about what that means, they demand I do it since they read it in an article from 2004 somewhere). At the rate things are going, I’d guess I’m going to start producing between 100-200gb per year the file sizes continue to go up the way they have been.

So what you can do is use 1TB HDD’s to cover about 5 years.

The rotational platters and the moving head in the HDD aren’t a concern when they are disconnected. HDDs are assembles in a clean room - they shouldn’t degrade much if at all if stored at room temperature with typical humidity. The only damage would be from excessive heat, moisture, cold, or shock (dropping).

I haven’t look at the archival use of SSDs, but I haven’t heard of businesses doing that yet. What I have read is HDD storage or even modern tape systems.

Has anyone ever done testing to see if a HDD that has been left sitting for a decade or so, still spins up fine? That would be my major concern. Though I suppose since it’s all electric it makes sense that it likely would.

Tape was my initial thought, but I having dealt with tape drives a decent bit in a previous life, I didn’t want to mess with the hassle if I didn’t need to.

I did a bit of a search and one site suggested spooling up the drives occasionally (annually) so they don’t seize up.

Hi Jenrick

First of all you have to acknowledge that a good backup is expensive in both time and money. So choose carefully what to back up.

Next you have to know that all storage can go bad on you - and you’re lucky if you even realize it at some point!

Here’s a good article I just found:

If you mean it

  • have 3 copies of your data on different mediums
  • have at least one copy off site
  • plan to maintain all copies on a regular basis (keep it safe, cool and dry and verify it’s integrity regularly to make sure you do not get fooled into a wrong sensation of security)

A good start can be a NAS and a cloud service. In addition you can also keep a hard drive in a drawer, or some Tape storage. Just make sure you still have an old PC around to read them in 20+ years :slight_smile:


I lost a lot of data on an external hdd my first 1Tb with all the kids photos from growing up. It just clicked and died one day. Whatever you go with make a backup

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Multiple backups is the only real way and there isn’t any storage that wont need a refresh at some point. Tape and DVDs were the longest (up to 10 years without refresh depending)

Ye old record player HDDs were generally not the best by themselves because the rate of failure is still quite high.

Today some pro advise today tends to go towards Cloud - but even here you may have to pay, there is no guarantee the company wont screw up the data or even be there in 10 years.

Here is a good piece on tape today

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Software is another important detail.

I was looking for well suited backup software for a long time. Then I realized that companies like Synology and Qnap sell NAS devices that come with pretty good software for Windows, Linux, Apple and even some mobile apps. It suits my requirements very well.

If you use it daily or weekly, it will work best. Nobody ever wakes up thinking „today I‘ll refresh all my 10 year old backups“. So I‘d not recommend going that way to start with.

Yeah, don’t most pros store to a NAS or DAS like a Synology or Drobo that writes to Adobe cloud, Glacier, or other archival solution? I’m not a pro, so just relying on iCloud and Google Photos. But I suppose if it was a source of income, would do the DAS thing.

We have a 2 disc Synology NAS box that has been running well over 10 years, using HDDs. I almost lost everything on it some 5 years ago after the rear fan stopped working and because I had not set up email alerts. It does run in RAID (0?) for data protection.

If I recall correctly, when the fan went out, one of the two drives failed so I got new ones and was able to retain everything.

I used to work in the HDD industry. There was a consensus that a stored inactive HDD could fail to work after many years, because… there is a lubrication film on each disc surface that could pool into a low spot and cause enough of a barrier such that it would run into the head. I would think that SSDs would be better.

But a cloud service is prolly the best, and the most expensive solution in the long run.

Good and valid inputs! More thoughts:
I recommend a system like a NAS, but not as the only copy of the data. A RAID setup will still happily replicate data errors. It will happily lose all discs at the same time. Fan failure has been mentioned, but there’s also power surges, floods, the user dropping it, mainboard (often capacitor) failure, silent RAM failure. So many possibilities to fail and either lose data or get into a situation of urgent data recovery.

For me a RAID will increase the chance that my data is ready to be accessed. It does not protect my data. I still have to take care of that myself. A NAS makes that task easy, but not fire and forget.

Coming back to the subject: Don’t SSDs need power to keep the data? I think I’ve read somewhere that the data can fade away after a couple of years unplugged. Not sure about that, though.
For sure SSDs are very expensive and when they fail, they do so immediately and with little warning. Might as well use a cloud service then :slight_smile:

I’ve been thinking of using my brothers NAS as a convenient off site storage in addition to mine. Cheaper than a paid cloud service and more trustworthy to me. Maybe some day.

Interesting, good to know. The zero moving parts of the SSD was what got me thinking they might be a good plan.