New Data Storage Tech Could Mean Never Saying Goodbye to Your Information

5D data storage provides lot more space for data

Key Takeaways

  • A new data storage technique could put up to 500 terabytes on a disc. 
  • Innovations in storage could power driverless cars and virtual reality experiences. 
  • Hard disc drives also are getting bigger and cheaper.
Closeup of a hard disk drive with binary code reflected on the disk.

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Get ready to store all your data at home. 

Researchers have created "5D" data storage technology that could allow 500 terabytes of data to be written to a CD-sized glass disc. It's part of a growing revolution in vast and inexpensive data storage methods using new technologies that could power everything from driverless cars to innovative virtual reality experiences. 

"Data is like the crude oil of old days," Hang Liu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"We can extract insights from the data as they are completely stored in the disk. Those insights are key factors not only for big industrial companies for making strategic plans, but [they] also concern everyone's daily life." 

Everything on a Disc

Storing data on a disc is one way to keep all your information at your fingertips. In a recent paper, scientists described a method for writing data encompassing two optical dimensions and three spatial dimensions. 

The new discs are made using high-speed lasers and are more than 10,000 times denser than Blu-ray. The approach can write at speeds of 1 million voxels per second, equivalent to recording about 230 kilobytes of data (more than 100 pages of text) per second.

The researchers used their new method to write 5 gigabytes of text data onto a silica glass disc about the size of a conventional compact disc with nearly 100% readout accuracy. Each voxel contained four bits of information, and every two voxels corresponded to a text character. With the writing density available from the method, the disc could hold 500 terabytes of data.

"With the current system, we have the ability to preserve terabytes of data, which could be used, for example, to preserve information from a person’s DNA," Peter G. Kazansky, leader of the research team, said in a news release.

Never Have to Delete

Hard disc drives are also getting bigger and cheaper, Jacky Lee, a marketing manager at consumer electronics company Toshiba, told Lifewire. For example, Toshiba used a type of microwave recording earlier this year to push HDD capacity to 18 terabytes in its Nearline hard disc drives

"The larger capacity allows consumers the ability to consolidate digital content from several devices into one HDD," Lee added. "This makes it easier to organize and back up valuable content."

Data is like the crude oil of old days.

Solid-state disks offer faster read and write speeds, larger capacities, and have smaller, lighter, thinner form factors, Allan Buxton, the director of forensics at data storage company SecureData, told Lifewire. On the other hand, hard disks still win on affordability, capacity, and even endurance. 

"Users appear torn between adopting cloud storage and maintaining personal repositories, with the latter likely to take immediate advantage of the ongoing advances in hard disk technology," Buxton said. 

Cloud storage providers also are moving to faster storage. The higher data rate improves overall storage performance, including storage arrays, and allows speedier drive rebuilds and greater storage system resilience, tech expert and IEEE fellow Tom Coughlin told Lifewire.

The larger HDDs will enable storing data at lower costs, encouraging keeping more higher resolution data and higher volumes of data. 

Another recent innovation is Microsoft's Project Silica, which uses ultrafast laser optics to store data. It provides a storage medium that can potentially last thousands of years without degradation.

The abstract image of inside of hard disk drive on the technician's desk and a computer motherboard as a component. the concept of data, hardware, and information technology.
TimeStopper / Getty Images

Having vast amounts of storage available could open up new possibilities for users. For example, Coughlin said applications could rely on a large amount of data to extract insights and make the best decisions, like driverless car learning from all the stored automobile information. Keeping more extensive datasets will also feed future artificial Intelligence training and result in better AI-enabled applications.

"Higher capacity, higher performance, lower-cost storage technologies of all sorts will encourage creating more immersive AR/VR experiences that will lead to more immersive entertainment, education, and new ways for people to interact remotely with others," he added.

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