Demystifying optical media

While storage devices such as flash drives and portable hard disks have grown in popularity, there is still a huge market for optical media storage.

January 13, 2014

By Ruben Naicker, Verbatim Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

While storage devices such as flash drives and portable hard disks have grown in popularity, there is still a huge market for optical media storage such as CDs, DVDs and the latest format Blu-ray Discs, particularly when it comes to music, movies and the mass distribution of information. Optical media is highly affordable, easy to create and duplicate, and an ideal alternative for transporting and sharing information. However, with the sheer variety of different optical media available, selecting the right one for the job can prove tricky. You need to know your +R from your –R, your Blu-ray from your dual-layer, and your rewriteable from your printable to navigate the world of optical storage media.

Compact Discs (CDs)

These are the oldest of the available digital optical media formats, with audio CDs becoming widely available in the 1980’s. They were originally developed for sound recordings and music and were later adapted for data storage. CD R discs offer write-once audio and data storage, while CD RW is a rewritable format, which means the data on the disc can be erased and written over for multiple uses. CDs can hold just over 700 Megabytes (MB) of data, which in today’s data driven world have made them all but obsolete, since hard drives far exceed this capacity and music is now easily downloaded and shared in digital format. CDs are now mainly used as an inexpensive way of distributing information such as brochures, lectures, notes and slides, and also for recording downloaded music onto a format that is able to play in cars. Most computers come standard with a DVD reader/writer, which is also able to burn and read CDs.

Digital Video Discs (DVDs)

DVDs today are typically DVD+R discs, whereas the DVD-R is an older standard that has been phased out due to limited compatibility. DVD+R is a write-once optical storage disc that offers 4.7 Gigabytes (GB) of storage space. They are generally used for non-volatile data storage as well as for video applications. DVD+R discs can only be written once, after which the data cannot be changed. DVD-RW is a rewritable DVD that can be erased and rewritten up to 1000 times. A DVD reader and writer is standard equipment on most computers today, which makes the DVD a useful medium for distributing fairly large amounts of information or video in an affordable way.

Dual-Layer DVDs

Dual-layer DVDs are double sided DVDs that in effect offer twice as much storage capacity as a standard DVD+R disc, with up to 8.5GB of capacity. In all other respects, a dual-layer DVD is identical, and can be read and written on a standard DVD player and burner, with no special equipment required.

Blu-ray Discs (BD)

Blu-ray is the latest optical disc format technology, developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of High Definition (HD) video, as well as storing large amounts of data. A single layer Blu-ray can hold up to 25GB of data, and dual layer formats can hold up to 50GB. Blu-ray is mainly used in the video space, as it is capable of delivering very high quality pictures. Blu-ray requires a special player to read, and a special writer to burn discs, and is therefore not commonly used for data storage on computers. Blu-ray players, however, are backward compatible with DVDs and CDs. Several types of Blu-ray discs are available. The BD-R is a standard write-once disc for use in Blu-ray players supporting 6x BD-R format. The BD-RE is a rewritable version of this, where data can be erased and rewritten up to 1000 times per disc. BD-R SL discs are standard write-once discs that have a printable surface compatible with specialist printers, making them perfect for video production companies and marketing collateral.

Optical media – the perfect option for affordable duplication and data storage

Hard drives, Solid State Drives (SSDs) and flash drives may have gotten cheaper, and digital music may have seen a decline in the CD space, but the reality is that optical media still plays a vital role. For affordable mass production of information, transfer and playback of media on devices in the home and the car, and compact durable storage of information, the range of optical media is ideal. Choosing the right medium will ensure that these benefits are maximised and video, content and data can be stored, shared and retrieved for years to come.