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Archiving data: storage prices in 2013 and 2020 (posted 2020-04-19)

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog post about archiving. In it, I compared the costs per terabyte (and the weight per terabyte) of several ways to store data for archival purposes. When I read Beyond Time Machine: 5 Archiving over at The Eclectic Light Company blog, I realized that it’s time revisit this topic. This is the list of storage options with the price per gigabyte in euros, back in 2013 and now in 2020:    
  €/TB 2013  €/TB 2020  Sweet spot
2.5" USB HDD60234 - 10 TB
3.5" internal HDD35324 - 8 TB
USB flash370195128 - 256 GB
SD card520320128 GB
Internal SSD 1251 TB

And just to see how ridiculous things can get, if you buy an Apple computer, SSD upgrades can cost as much as € 1000 per terabyte (€ 250 to go from 256 to 512 GB).

The sweet spot is the size where the cost per terabyte is the lowest. If you go smaller or larger, you pay more for the same amount of storage. I got the 2020 prices by looking at Obviously, prices vary, sometimes significantly. I chose the lowest prices, except if only a couple of no-brand options were the cheapest. Note that inflation was around 7% between 2013 and 2020.

What’s interesting here:

2.5" USB HDDs are by far the cheapest way to archive your data. They’re also convenient: they’re small in size, and unlike 3.5" USB HDDs (which are extinct now, I think) they are bus powered so no issues with power supplies. Yes, copying terabytes worth of data to a USB HDD takes a lot of time. But you can do that overnight. With BD-Rs you need to put in a new one for every 25 to 100 GB.

I can still read most (but not all!) of the DVDs I burned 15 years ago without trouble, but I wouldn’t bet any money that a 15-year-old USB HDD will still work. You really have to keep your archived data on at least two of those and then replace them every three years or so, copying your data from the old one to a new one. (Or, more likely in my case: from my NAS to a new HDD.) But that’s a lot more doable than duplicating BD-Rs. Also, any computer can read USB HDDs, while for DVDs and blu-rays you need a drive, and those are much less common than they used to be, and that trend is sure to continue.

by .

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