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How Long Does Digital Storage Last?

Any computer scientist will tell you to backup your data, but do you know how long it will stay in place?

Back up your data. Even the most casual IT user has heard this advice. And it’s great advice. If your data is stored in only one location, then a computer crash, building fire, or other damaging event could destroy your files. That, in turn, could cost you a lot of money and even put you in legal jeopardy, if you or your business is required by law to keep certain records available.

To prevent data loss, most of us use various forms of data storage, including hard drives (internal and external), optical discs (CDs and DVDs), solid-state drives (flash drives, etc.), and/or the cloud. But we shouldn’t just save it and forget it. Because, the reality is, no form of data storage is certain to last forever.


So, how long can data last in storage? That depends, as there are a number of ways you can lose data. The most common include:

  • File format inaccessibility: caused when a file is saved in a format that stops being supported by newer software.
  • Storage obsolescence: caused when the storage format itself stops being supported in new technology (e.g., floppy discs).
  • Storage failure: caused when a hard disc fails or when the memory cells of a solid-state drive lose their charge and become corrupted.
  • Security breaches: caused by hackers who intentionally corrupt data or make it inaccessible.

The longer data is stored, the more likely it is to experience one or more of the above problems. That’s why, to ensure you never lose data, you have to remain proactive. For example, you should save data in a variety of locations and resave your data regularly to avoid problems associated with aging storage devices and technological obsolescence.

To learn more about the various methods of modern data storage, the risks to them, and the ways you can mitigate those risks, earning a degree might be a great choice. If you want to help your organization put together a data storage strategy—and help with other issues involving IT maintenance and security—consider our MS in Data Science program, which can equip you with the technical skills you need to succeed in the IT field while providing you with a strong understanding of key managerial and organizational concepts.

Walden is an accredited university that offers a master’s degree in Data Science. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,