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You Can’t Trust Most Fireproof Safes to Protect Your Data and Photos on CDs Or Flash Drives
What’s wrong with fireproof safes?
There’s nothing really wrong with a fireproof home safe. They are well designed to prevent paper products from reaching a temperature that would destroy or damage them. However, they will not prevent the destruction of computer data that you have saved on CDs, DVDs or even USB keys. They will also not protect photo slides and negatives.
The problem is that we may not understand the fireproofing or fire resistance ratings that are given to safes. There are three basic ratings for fireproof safes by Underwriters Laboratories. If a safe is rated for 1 hour, it must maintain internal temperatures below the specified rating for the entire hour.
UL 350 – Safe must maintain interior temperature below 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This is below the normal temperature for most paper products to burn, char, or become useless.
UL 150 is the classification for tapes, cartridges, microfiche and microfilm. In addition to keeping the interior at 150 degrees or less, the humidity should be below 85%.
UL 125 is the standard for floppy disks. In this case, the temperature cannot exceed 125°F and 80% humidity. Moisture and water damage are important if you intend to protect electronic devices such as USB drives.
Test your own data carriers
If you doubt whether you need a top-rated fireproof safe for home or office to protect your data, you can try this simple test.
Find a few photo negatives or slides and a print or two that you don’t care about. Get two old CDs or DVDs containing data. Put one of the CDs in a jewelry case.
Preheat your kitchen oven to 200 degrees and turn it off so the elements don’t turn on. The radiant heat could be more significant and melt the plastic even if the air temperature is only 200 degrees. Place both the CD in the case and the other CD on a sheet of paper and place them in your oven. Wait a few minutes and you can watch the CD in the jewelry case curl up. Obviously, the data will never be recovered. Carefully remove the other CD so as not to bend it. Once cooled, you can put it in your computer and see if the data is intact. Sometimes it will.
Now preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Don’t set it to 350 just in case your oven thermostat isn’t accurate. When the oven has reached the correct temperature, turn it off. Insert your photos, slides and negatives on a sheet of paper. Put your good CD back in the oven also on a sheet of paper.
You will notice that a negative will almost immediately curl up and be destroyed. Images will curl a little and likely be slightly discolored. The images will eventually flatten out again, but there will be no hope for slides or negatives.
The CD will remain flat but the data will be gone. You will probably be able to see bubbles in the plastic of the recording side of the CD.
Here are three alternatives if you want your data to be protected.
Get a fireproof media safe. It will protect your photos, slides, negatives, CDs and DVDs. As stated above, a UL 125 rated fireproof safe will protect your data from heat and humidity. While an ordinary household fireproof safe can protect data contents for a few minutes, the likelihood of data being safe for more than 15 minutes is extremely low.
Advantages of a fireproof media safe:
- The ability to quickly back up to a flash drive and immediately store your data each night after performing a backup.
- The data is available whether or not you have internet access.
- You don’t have to pay monthly or annual fees if you have your safe.
Disadvantage of a fireproof media safe:
- The biggest downside to a fireproof media safe is the initial cost. They are not cheap.
Use an online backup system. This is a very effective way to guarantee the security of your data. Well, as secure as you can expect when you use another company to hold your data. If you don’t have a lot of data, you can find free services on the web.
Benefits of using online backup:
- Your data is kept in a completely different place.
- In many cases, your data may be encrypted for added security.
- You may need to use special software. Software changes over time, as do encryption methods.
- You may find yourself converting your data or even moving it when a company goes bankrupt.
- There are annual fees when you have a lot of data and it will cost you more over time than a fireproof media safe.
- You cannot store some purchased software DVDs online. They often need the original DVD to reinstall the software.
- Uploading your nightly save to the Internet isn’t as quick as saving it to a USB drive.
Rent a safe from your local bank.
Advantages of a safe:
- You get maximum protection.
- You have offsite data protection.
Disadvantages of a safe:
- Limited access to your data. It’s not there when you need it, and you can’t secure it every night.
- The safes are really small. You can store a lot of data on DVD, but you cannot fit multiple slides and negatives into one.
- The costs of a safe vary greatly, but they will also cost more over time than a fireproof safe.
Assess your situation. If you don’t have a lot of data, online backup may be the best option. If you have a lot of data and have purchased many software packages, your best bet is a fireproof home or office media safe. Whatever you do, don’t get caught in a fire in your home and office and find out that you’ve lost your data.
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