Data degradation (often referred to as Bit Rot) can also be used to describe the phenomenon of storage media gradually decaying over the passage of time. The cause of data decay varies depending on the medium:
Solid-state media, such as EPROMs, flash memory and other solid-state drives, store data using electrical charges, which can slowly leak away due to imperfect insulation. The chip itself is not affected by this, so reprogramming it once per decade or so will prevent data decay. The biggest problem can be finding a clean copy of the master data from which the chip may be reprogrammed; frequently, by the time the user discovers the data decay, the master data may be lost.
Magnetic media, such as hard disk drives, floppy disks and magnetic tapes, may experience data decay as bits lose their magnetic orientation. Periodic refreshing by rewriting the data can alleviate this problem. Also, in warm and humid conditions these media, especially the ones poorly protected against aggressive air conditions, are prone to the decomposition of the very material they are fabricated from.
Optical media, such as CD-R, DVD-R and BD-R, may experience data decay from the breakdown of the material onto which the data is stored. This can be mitigated by storing discs in a dark, cool location with low humidity. "Archival quality" discs are also available, but do not necessarily provide a permanent solution to the onset of data decay or other types of data corruption beyond a certain amount of time. Some media (such as M-DISC) are designed to improve longevity over DVD-R and BD-R.
In a nutshell: make sure that you backup regularly!
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