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Tutorial Doctor

Hard Copy or Soft Copy?


24 posts in this topic

Security has become a bigger issue in technology lately (has always been an issue), and I just read an article glorifying the abandonment of physical media storage. It sorta made me upset, because I don't like the way things are being pushed to soft copy only.

 

You have hard-drives, but they fail

You have the cloud, but I don't trust "their cloud (I prefer the My Cloud hard-drive by Western Digital if any). 

Servers fail.

You have digital copies, but where do you store them? On a hard-drive?

 

I actually prefer CD or DVD over all of the above options. The worse that could happen is that they crack or you loose them, but with 2 backup CDs that hasn't been an issue for me (for important stuff). I have DVDs a decade old that I didn't have to worry about loosing the data with. 

 

It's sorta the same reason I don't like paying for a promise. Nor do I like paying for a guarantee that isn't legally binding. 

 

A big issue with storing data on paper was the fact that when it comes to large amounts of data, paper is insufficient. 

 

But security wise, and backup wise, I think it is more efficient. 

 

I always say that we pay too much for convenience. And I like to use old reliable methods more often than newer un-reliable methods. Most of the time I prefer the wisdom of the "hard but sure" way than the foolishness of the "new way."

 

There are times when I use the convenient way for it's convenience alone in a specific case.

 

This whole IRS fiasco, these site hacks and account stealing etc at "convenience" stores. It all doesn't make sense. When the power is out, people don't know what to do, and what if the internet went out? Would we have systems in place to continue to function?

 

Can cashiers add without a computer? Surely can't swipe your card under that magnetic block if the POS system is down.

 

Yes, I still desire a home phone. No, I don't have a contract phone, nor a cable bill, nor a television. Yes, I do have internet (my means of gathering information while I can). I have abandoned the library for the convenience of the internet

 

If Steam, PSN, XBOX live go down, and they are pushing this interconnected game play, you are going to have a bunch of upset people. They hardly make any 2 player Co-op games anymore (LAN party friendly games). 

 

Maybe this is why I have seen people buy safes? 

 

And yet, it seems there is a push for digital currency? The day they get rid of cash, is the day the beginning of the end of the world is certain.

 

Sounds like a good video game. I should release it on Steam. 

 

Should we be so reliant on computers? 

 

P.S. If you say Soft Copy, please explain why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just store my important data copied on multiple places. I've got code that is on both github, assembla + my hard drive.

 

If it is something really important (a result from a scan of my body for example) I would store it on the cloud on my hard drive and on a physical disc.

I actually prefer CD or DVD over all of the above options

of course this is not always applicable.

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Wait, what do you mean by hard copy and soft copy here? Local copy vs. server copy?

 

Personally I prefer to keep copies of my stuff in my own drives, I don't trust any service with my back-ups. I have uploaded back-ups to servers before (since there's always a risk of your local copies getting destroyed in a fire or something), but those were servers I had control over (e.g. my hosting), not some random "cloud" service. For the most part I just use my pendrives though.

 


If Steam, PSN, XBOX live go down, and they are pushing this interconnected game play, you are going to have a bunch of upset people.

I think the biggest issue here is DRM =P Those services are designed specifically to lock you out when you don't use them. This is directly at odds against long-term preservation.

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If ink didn't cost do much, I'd probably print more. There is a lot of room for innovation in technology, and it seems mostly in the "accessories for smartphones" arena. But I'm not down with the "track everything I do" innovations.

I might need to buy that Z-ink printer. For got all about that until now.

https://www.zink.com

I hear GitHub is good for version control. But if I were running a major business, there is no real alternate solution for storage, other than servers. Of course, we could do paper, but environmentalist are loving the digital age so much. I'd probably get the red sticker (not green enough).
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I like both.

 

There's one massive problem with hard-copy-only: paper burns.  I work in an office where one group of people have paper-only files going back donkey's yearsIf there is a fire they are screwed.  All those records are gone.  If they had an electronic version of them, and and assuming it was reasonably designed, it would be searchable, it would be backed-up, it could be brought back on a DR site.  As things stand they get none of that.

 

Despite that a paper copy is sometimes convenient (it's at least easier for me to read: the first thing I do when I get an important email that I need to pay attention to is print it).  But the electronic copy is important.

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@hedgehog (can't quote on this ipad)

A hard copy would be like paper, a book, even a cave drawing.

The "Dead-tree" format.

It says on Wikipedia that there is a saying that you can't "Grep dead trees," and I totally agree here as I have been working with regular expressions lately, and for searching for specific information In a large amount of data, computers are very good.

But one thing, you can't hack a dead-tree.

And dead trees don't crash (Wordplay).

For this reason I tend to keep a copy of my password on paper (I learned the hard way).

I do have a soft copy too, but the day the computer crashes, I have it backed up.

An idea I am getting all of a sudden is some type of backup code. A bar code of some sort with data that, when scanned represents a large amount of data.

QR codes are sorta like this. That way information can be saved to a hard copy and a soft copy at the same time.

Of course, ideas like this scare me.
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Over the years I have lost so must data to hard drive failures it's unreal.

 

I hate using "remote hosting and data storage" ( what techies call "the cloud" now-a-days ) due to the fact that I have no clue how secure their servers are - or how trust worthy their employees are.

  I keep backups on thumb drives, CDs, and paper. My important documents are stored in a fireproof safe.

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I know back in the day, a company that I worked for, that handled transactions for most banks in the country, of course had massive computer systems where all data was stored on redundant arrays of hard drives.  They had at least two physical locations where they stored data online like this.  Then there was a backup rotation of all that data so that you had full set of everything on at least three different physical locations offline.  Additionally there were daily jobs to make micro film cards with every transaction that were made in original for storing locally and a number of copies that were sent to every bank.

 

If that is something for paranoia?  ;)

 

Regarding backups, I think that if you want to be fairly safe, make multiple copies of your data that you store on different physical locations.  Never trust only one backup strategy.

 

1. Cloud storage may disappear or fail.

2. DVD and CD ROM may have a much shorter life span than you think.  The layer that stores data is photo sensitive, so imagine what light can do to them over time.  Also the coating on the top of such medium may not be so good, so you never know if the top layer will wear because of humidity etc, causing damage to the data.

3. Magnetic storage, that is hard drives, tapes, zip disks, floppies, etc, will slowly fade.

4. SSD drives will lose its memory over time.

5. Tape reels have a lot of other problems in addition, like inter-magnetic fields that over time makes the data fade, and the glue that is used to fix the magnetic particles may fuse together to a lump you can't pry apart again.  Typically really old broadcasting reels that haven't seen the light of day in 50 years and such.

6. Standards change.  One day you will have a nice HD, but no equipment to connect the drive, or impossible to get a new CD player to read your data, etc.

 

Basically you are out of luck, really, unless you regularly refresh your media.

 

So make off site and off line copies, and make sure you renew the copies (to a new medium) from time to time.  Too many years, and the data are gone.  How many of those old old floppies from the past is still working?  10 years ago?  Probably okish.  20 years?  Starting to get hard to retrieve the data now.  30 years?  My old C64-floppies doesn't work any more...

 

Edit:  Backup is costly, so how valuable is your data really?  It may be a good idea to think about what kind of data you want to secure.  Also I am getting older.  (Not that old, really... not yet...)  That makes me start to think about who am I storing these data for?  Nobody will be interested in what I have on my hard drives when I am gone...  I sure don't need them then.  

Edited by aregee
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I hate using "remote hosting and data storage" ( what techies call "the cloud" now-a-days ) due to the fact that I have no clue how secure their servers are - or how trust worthy their employees are.

 

You do know you can encrypt your files and fingerprint them, right? This is a solved problem - it doesn't matter how trustworthy the host is, just that it works properly and retrieves all your bits when you ask it to (which is of course a concern, making it useful only as secondary or even tertiary backup storage, but completely unrelated to security). It's really not hard.

 

In any case, data backup or archival is not a two-step process. Data, like everything else, needs to be cared for in order to survive. Fail to keep your backups to date and face the consequences (which are to try and recover your files once an accident occurs and finding that every single one of your backup sites has failed or is otherwise unrecoverable, either because of old age or because it never really worked in the first place but you never bothered to try recovering your files periodically).

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I honestly feel like storing all my data on DVDs would be a mite bit crazy.  That's over 200 4.8GB DVDs just to store a terabyte of data.  That's 7 pounds of pure DVDs, almost a foot high (based on some random website).  They just don't have the density for viable large-scale backup.  Even at smaller scales, flash drives are more efficient in my book.

 

If you're serious about backing up all your stuff, the best solution is to have multiple vectors.  Personally, I've never had a hard drive fail, but since that is a real threat, a RAID system of some kind coupled with a remote backup of some sort (cloud or another RAIDed machine) should be all you need.  The odds of both your local store AND remote store simultaneously dying in a horrible accident are about as high as the odds of a tornado hitting your papers anyway.  Unless a massive EMP destroys everyone's electronics, in which case your tax records are no longer terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

 

Because the zombies are coming.

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Well, M-Disc is out as bluray for about 2-3 months now. That's 50 GB on double-layer with a promised 1,000 years of lifetime. A practical problem will be (for me at least) that it will be hard to sue them in 500 years if it turns out that the medium doesn't last the promised 1,000 years.

 

Of course they're not precisely cheap, either, single layer currently going for 8€ the piece, which is more expensive than a 32GB USB stick. It's a start, though.

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I honestly feel like storing all my data on DVDs would be a mite bit crazy.  That's over 200 4.8GB DVDs just to store a terabyte of data.  That's 7 pounds of pure DVDs, almost a foot high (based on some random website).  They just don't have the density for viable large-scale backup.  Even at smaller scales, flash drives are more efficient in my book.

 Thumb drives come in sizes up to 256 GB now-a-days.

 Heck, a micro SD card can go over 64 GB .

 

 RAID 5 is a good backup system, but all those SSD hard drives can get very expensive.

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Hmm, that M-disc sounds interesting. 50GB sounds good to me, and only been out for a few months? Looks like this post is right in time.

 

I am thinking though, since computers are coming without disc drives, how would I write to the disc?

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I honestly feel like storing all my data on DVDs would be a mite bit crazy.  That's over 200 4.8GB DVDs just to store a terabyte of data.  That's 7 pounds of pure DVDs, almost a foot high (based on some random website).  They just don't have the density for viable large-scale backup.  Even at smaller scales, flash drives are more efficient in my book.

 Thumb drives come in sizes up to 256 GB now-a-days.

 Heck, a micro SD card can go over 64 GB .

 

 RAID 5 is a good backup system, but all those SSD hard drives can get very expensive.

 

 

RAID shouldn't be viewed as a "backup" mechanism.  It's for redundancy, which is a bit different.  It's handy in concert with other redundant systems overall as a backup solution however, which is why I mentioned it.

 

Why the heck would you use SSDs though?  Just use regular HDDs.  Hell, as a non-expert, I have to question whether RAID 5 even makes sense at all for SSDs.  Do they even have the same failure patterns?

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Why the heck would you use SSDs though?  Just use regular HDDs.  Hell, as a non-expert, I have to question whether RAID 5 even makes sense at all for SSDs.  Do they even have the same failure patterns?

 

 1: SSD is not prone to as many failures as HDD

2: SSD is a lot faster than HDD

3: RAID speeds up disc reading/writing

 

Semi relevant video from 2009

[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96dWOEa4Djs[/media]

Edited by Shippou
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I am thinking though, since computers are coming without disc drives, how would I write to the disc?

I use a Panasonic 70€ USB writer. Note that not all writers can do M-Disc (needs some kind of high-power laser).

RAID on SSD

Well maybe if you have 10G or 40G ethernet. My 4-disk RAID5 runs at maximum theoretical throughput over gigabit ethernet, give or take a dozen kb/s (actually twice that, since both clients and NAS are wired to the router with two NICs, and use link aggregation, completely saturating two cables). Writing to the RAID doesn't get to saturate the cable, but I doubt SSDs would help much there.

 

RAID is awesome since if a sector goes poof on a disk, it isn't gone, and if a whole disk poofs, it still works. In theory, that is... if the RAID is able to heal after you replaced a disk without getting another sector or drive failure (which, unluckily, is not at all impossible).

You had better had no power failure during that time or a really good UPS, too. Healing the RAID after adding/replacing a disk takes around 2 hours (assuming 1TB disks, double that for an array of 2TB disks, etc). That is a quite long time during which you're "vulnerable".

 

But RAID won't protect you from the whole box being destroyed by a thunderstorm (the UPS is supposed to catch that, but who can tell for sure!) or by theft or such, and it won't protect you from being an idiot and deleting a file which you only realize being important the next day.

 

A backup will protect against that (preferrably on a write-once medium).

Edited by samoth
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Here is my experience. In 2011, there was a major earthquake in Christchurch. My company was relatively lucky. Our office building was damaged beyond repair, but we were allowed in very briefly to get our computers out. We had a stict backup regime on portable hdds taken offsite every day... to someone's house which also suffered major damage. Luckily we were able to retrieve the disks, put the office together in my bosses garage and work remotely for a year while we got back on our feet.

But the FIRST thing I did when we started setting up again was to configure our source control to drop the last good build to Dropbox at every release. That way, even if we had another big shake and it took out everything, at the very least our core IP was safe.
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1: SSD is not prone to as many failures as HDD
2: SSD is a lot faster than HDD
3: RAID speeds up disc reading/writing

#1 depends, some SSD drives have faulty firmware that will render the drive unusable much faster than for a hard disk (they basically just stop working for no reason).

 

Of course that one is simple, just avoid SSDs that have faulty firmware. Is there any general guide regarding which SSD drives tend to be faulty? I imagine that'd be useful (and yeah, I'm curious about that) Also I wonder how common is faulty firmware these days.

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Oddly enough the only drives I've actually had issues with so far have been solid states. My first SSD died after about three month's of usage, and I have a Compact Flash card that for some reason dropped its main table on me randomly once (And forced a long annoying data recovery process to get the photos back), and I've been rather iffy about that one since.

 

Given the price, hard drives seem like the best choice to me. For the cost of storing something on a single SSD, you can store them on multiple hard drives, and in multiple locations.

 

 

One of the biggest things that people overlook when it comes to the risk of data loss, is the risk of a logical failure, rather than physical failure. This is why RAID of any kind is and of itself [b]NOT[/b] a backup tool. Either malicious software, or just dumb accidents, and a badly configured 'redundancy' system can trash your data just as easily as a drive head crashing will, but in a far worse way. You may not [i]notice[/i] that your data is gone, and then happily merge those changes across a poorly designed backup system to multiple drives and locations, and then have no clue that you've just happily destroyed your own data.

 

I had this problem the other week with some photos. My usual work flow is that photos go on a portable drive after they're captured, have their initial pass of processing/culling done, and then get synced to the home system backup disks on my main computer. The problem was that I got busy after volunteering to shoot an event, and the initial processing was delayed a few days. In that time the photo disk had been attached to my main computer, which I've also been using with a few friends for a research project. Part of that project involves another external drive which we use as a dump-disk for half processed data. We frequently format this drive when we start a new pass on the experiment (Mostly because we have yet to get around to writing in error handling for a full disk on writing...) but that time the project disk was actually upstairs, as I had been poking at some data on my laptop. My friend, who was logging in remotely to the machine, asked on Skype if I was alright with him formatting the project disk and running a new test case. I told him to go ahead and didn't think about it. Awhile later I was sitting at my kitchen table and noticed the project disk...

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I've had bad luck with SSDs as well.  I've had two (from different manufacturers) die in as many years. Both were fine one day, and gone the next.

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Well, M-Disc is out as bluray for about 2-3 months now. That's 50 GB on double-layer with a promised 1,000 years of lifetime. A practical problem will be (for me at least) that it will be hard to sue them in 500 years if it turns out that the medium doesn't last the promised 1,000 years.

Wow, I did not know about this. Actually I don't care about my data in 1000 years, even if it survives that long nobody is gonna be able to read it then. If it survives 100 years, or even just 50, it would be fine by me.
The wikipedia page has a link to an experimental evaluation of the DVD variant, which looks promising.
http://www.esystor.com/images/China_Lake_Full_Report.pdf Edited by Ohforf sake
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Oddly enough the only drives I've actually had issues with so far have been solid states. My first SSD died after about three month's of usage, and I have a Compact Flash card that for some reason dropped its main table on me randomly once (And forced a long annoying data recovery process to get the photos back), and I've been rather iffy about that one since.


I've had bad luck with SSDs as well. I've had two (from different manufacturers) die in as many years. Both were fine one day, and gone the next.

This is why I asked about faulty SSD firmwares, there was a period where most SSDs would fail suddenly for no reason because the firmware would glitch up and render the drive unusable.

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I use cloud accounts that are synced locally. But I also do prefer backups that I control too - this was CDs/DVDs in the past, now it's mostly a USB stick, but I sometimes do a DVD (which has the advantage you can have a whole series of copies, which can be good if you lose a file but don't notice for months/years afterwards - this did happen to me once, but I found it on an old backup DVD).

I do get annoyed by people thinking that only storing on the cloud is a backup (e.g., Google's advertising from ChromeOS, saying you don't need to back them up - you do).

And for anyone thinking that surely nothing would ever go wrong with data on Google cloud, here is a recent real world example: my ISP, Virgin Media, told customers with 7 days' notice that if they used a Virgin Media email as a login for a Google account, they had to change it to another address, or be locked out of their accounts. Even more worryingly, this seems to be due to Google themselves (supposedly because VM's email is run by Google, and it's no longer compatible with Google accounts). Users who missed the email, were out of the country without Internet access, dismissed it as a scam (reasonable, given how it was worded), had it caught in their spam folder etc, wouldn't even have a chance to do this.

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That's the type of stuff that worries me.

And on the note of Chrome OS, NOPE!

That is like worse case scenario. It's almost useless when you can use a tablet for that type of thing.

I use a laptop for offline stuff, so to have a laptop taking up extra desk space (or lap space) when all it can do is browse the internet, I just don't get it. Surely not going to be rendering a Pixar movie on Chrome OS, or developing the latest Metal Gear Soilid.

That goes back to the issue with cloud backup. Who is going to back up all of the assets to make the latest Transformers movie on a cloud service? If that service goes down, somebody is loosing their job ASAP, and talk about the money lost!
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I honestly feel like storing all my data on DVDs would be a mite bit crazy.  That's over 200 4.8GB DVDs just to store a terabyte of data.  That's 7 pounds of pure DVDs, almost a foot high (based on some random website).  They just don't have the density for viable large-scale backup.  Even at smaller scales, flash drives are more efficient in my book.

 

If you're serious about backing up all your stuff, the best solution is to have multiple vectors.  Personally, I've never had a hard drive fail, but since that is a real threat, a RAID system of some kind coupled with a remote backup of some sort (cloud or another RAIDed machine) should be all you need.  The odds of both your local store AND remote store simultaneously dying in a horrible accident are about as high as the odds of a tornado hitting your papers anyway.  Unless a massive EMP destroys everyone's electronics, in which case your tax records are no longer terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

 

Because the zombies are coming.

 

In the 90's I had hard drives that just outlasted their usefulness, but in the beginning of the 2000's, I had so much hard drive failures that I started questioning how viable hard drives would be, with the failure rate I experienced back then.  One of the drives was even subject to a massive class action lawsuit in USA because of its massive failure rate.  I was fortunate though...  The hard drives started 'clicking', while the whole system stalled as a pre-warning that it was going to die really soon.  That enabled me to copy all the data off the drive before I stopped using the defective drive.  I also had a drive that died, but if I cooled it down a bit, it lasted long enough that I could start it up for a little while.

 

Oh, and about SSD's that LennyLen is talking about, one colleague of mine had a drive that stopped working in aeroplanes, and ended up with a nice 'sector 0 not found message', losing all his data.  I am not sure if he decided to send the drive for recovery or not, but losing data is a really bad feeling, even if the data is not really that important.

 

 

Edit: (Added this here since I discovered that I had the last post anyway, despite GameDev telling me there were new posts here.)

I do get annoyed by people thinking that only storing on the cloud is a backup (e.g., Google's advertising from ChromeOS, saying you don't need to back them up - you do).
 

 

That is a bit ironic, since if you ask anyone on the Google Drive team, they will clearly tell you that Google Drive is NOT a backup service.  In fact Google won't take any responsibility for any data you lose in the cloud, for whatever reason, stating that it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you have enough redundancy on your data.

 

If you think about it, it is pretty obvious that you have to take care of your own backup strategy, not rely solely on one single backup strategy.

Edited by aregee
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