Safe, Long Term storage for Digital Video

I am looking for a long-term method for saving home video.

My client would like to save their home digital video files from video cameras safely for a very, very long time.  They would like their family history kept securely.

Some videos were taken and saved on digital video tape, which I know will degrade after  'x' amount of years.
Others were recorded directly onto mini-DVD's

I've had enough DVD's stop working on me to not trust them as a sole method.

I've thought of the following:

1.  Transfer all taped and mini-DVD video to a RAID.   Level 1 at least, because I don't trust any hard drive.  I've seen several level 5 RAIDs that offer constant testing of the media, with alerts automatically emailed should defects be discovered.

2.  Archive all the files onto DVD's using a backup program.  Making 2 sets, and keeping sets one set on the shelf, one in a safe deposit box.  (Time consuming, and the pain-in-the-neck factor might keep them from doing it promptly)  Also - what is the practical storage life for this type of data?

3. Get a second raid, have it connected to the cable modem at a relative's house.
Set up a VPN connection between the main house and the second house, and set up synchronization software that will automatically duplicate the video files as they are added or edited.

The downside of this method is that the hard drives in the Raid will eventually need maintenance.  But since their computers will always need maintenance, this will be just one more thing to maintain, just like the the rest of the appliances in a home.

I am assuming that this will be a lot cheaper than online storage such as Iron Mountain.  

Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

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for me, your first option is best but i will still try to convince you to have a copy on hard drive for quick access.  :)
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
"... your first option is best but i will still try to convince you to have a copy on hard drive ..." ==>  A RAID array IS a hard drive :-)

If you use high-quality blanks (e.g. Taiyo-Yuden) DVD's have a VERY long life expectancy ... at least 25 years and some estimates are as long as 100 years.   Interestingly, recordable discs actually have a longer life than commercially manufactured discs [but re-writeable discs have the shortest life of all --> so do NOT use R/W media].

I basically agree with the strategy you've outlined for your client's home ... although to some extent what makes sense depends on the total size of the anticipated video storage.   With modern 1TB drives, you could make an easily portable 1TB RAID-1 box with this enclosure [ ] and a pair of 1TB drives [ ].   Assuming 1TB is a large enough drive [This will hold 212 completely full DVD's] then this would be an easily portable fault-tolerant storage device.   It also supports both USB and eSATA interfaces, so if speed is an issue (I doubt it is for this application) you could connect it via eSATA.

... but I don't agree with the second RAID at a relative's house via VPN.   Too many potential problems => unless this is on a dedicated, always-on PC with a UPS, and the relative is a moderately knowledgeable user who will reset it whenever there's a cable modem issue; etc. the overhead to keep that link up, coupled with the price of the additional computer doesn't seem like a good choice.   I'd either use an online backup service (Iron Mountain, Mozy, etc.);  a RAID-based NAS [ ] that's kept at a relatively far distance in the home from the main PC [two PC's at opposite ends of the home aren't both likely to be destroyed in a typical fire, for example => and the offsite DVD backups will provide some protection against this];  or simply a second portable box like the one I noted above and just let the user be responsible for storing it away from the main system.

... and I'd be CERTAIN that ALL of the PC's (and the NAS if that's used) were on good UPS units => a UPS-protected PC has FAR fewer problems, since it's never exposed to unplanned power outages or power spikes.

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what i mean is on a regular formatted hard drive not raid  :-) LOL
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
computerlarry => Any other questions?   One additional thought r.e. the RAID level:  If you're going to use a dedicated RAID controller to build the array, you may want to consider one that supports RAID-6.   With fault tolerance for 2 drive failures, this is exceptionally unlikely to ever lose any data ... it's a much better solution than either RAID-1 or RAID-5.   Especially if you have a 2nd system (NAS, USB-based RAID array, etc.) that also has the same data.
Gerald ConnollyCommented:
I guess it depends on how long you want to keep these files. In general you need to make multiple copies and store them separate locations If this material is precious to you, think through the disaster scenario's for each site and could those disasters be linked? (Hurricane's, Tsunami and Earthquakes can affect a very large area!)
<10 Years
You could probably get away with DVD's - just make sure you make multiple copies for each site.  Its quite likely that not only will the discs still be viable especially if stored correctly, you will be able to find something that will read todays DVD's in 10 years time. Its less likely that a hard drive will still be viable and finding something to hook it upto may be particularly difficult!
>10 Years
I think you really only have two choices here:
Tape - something like an LTO-3/LTO-4 using a new tape and stored correctly are supposedly going to be viable for 30 years, although finding something to read them on after 30 years might be difficult.
Service Provider - something like Iron Mountain, but use more than one and think about their viability.

In all cases the only way to truly make sure your files are still viable after an extended period is to do regular refreshes of the hardware they are stored on, and maybe refreshes/conversion of the file format as well. Certainly going down the service provider route will insulate you from the nausea of hardware refresh but it will be up to you to keep an eye on what is required on file formats.

My suggestion is convert your files to some open format and use a Service Provider, refresh/convert file formats every 5 years or so

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