Microsoft's New Storage Method Protects Your Data For Centuries

Dhir Acharya - Nov 06, 2019


Microsoft's New Storage Method Protects Your Data For Centuries

Glass is the key here, it's almost indestructible. No matter if you put it in ovens, microwaves, water, your data remains unharmed.

At first, you may find this ridiculous, but you can now encode dozens of gigabytes of data on a glass hard drive that’s virtually indestructible with the shape and size of a drink coaster. This is a proof of concept Microsoft has just revealed, which is essentially a thin square piece of glass laser-etched with voxels (microscopic geometric shapes), containing 75.6 gigabytes of data, including the entire movie Superman from 1978. The idea of storing all the important data on glass is not only a stunt but also practical.

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Microsoft's Project Silica stores data on a small piece of glass

The new storage system is named Project Silica. The tech giant, partnering with Warner Bros., made the announcement this week. As Microsoft said in this press release, these coasters can help the major Hollywood movie studio transfer its archives from 35mm film, which is vulnerable, onto something that can last for centuries. Obviously, Project Silica offers methods that are not just cheaper but also more durable for storing large amounts of data.

Ant Rowston, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, stated that glass has an extremely long lifetime. His team tried baking the coaster using ultra-hot ovens, using steel wool to scratch it, putting it in the microwave, and submerging it in boiling water, but the data was not corrupted. But he added that a hammer can smash the glass, so it can break eventually.

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Glass is almost indestructible and can last for centuries

However, such a method of cold storage is promising. Cold storage is a term referring to the data storing process that you don’t have to access every day, every week, or every year and you can still preserve it for a really long time.

Traditional techniques for storing data such as compact disk, film, or tape, face deterioration over time. Meanwhile, data storage using servers and hard drives leaves the data exposed to deletion; and if you use cloud computing, users don’t likely get to control if the data gets removed or not.

Now, we can’t say anything about the future of Project Silica as there’s no telling how Microsoft will commercialize the technology.

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