I’ve talked at length on this blog about the need to run frequent backups, but I haven’t spoken much about making archival copies of data on DVD. For most people, backing up to an external hard drive (or two) as well as to a (trusted) online source is a pretty adequate way to safeguard your data. But for those of us who like to take it a step further, archiving your data to DVD is another way to stay protected.
As long as your data is less that 4.7GB (the size of a standard DVD) then backing up to a DVD isn’t really a problem. The problem arises when you have more than 4.7GB of data, as windows can’t necessarily take a 10GB folder (or folder with subfolders) and break it up into the three DVDs that would be needed to make a backup. Now you could — by hand — simply look at the folders and note their size, and then copy appropriately sized sets of data to DVD; with 3 or 4 folders in a directory this is a workable technique. But what happens when you have a directory (say you are backing up MyPictures to DVD), then you could have tens of folders, and going through them by hand and trying to sort it into DVD sized groups becomes burdensome. So spanning DVDs by hand is a pretty annoying project to undertake (unless you like that kind of stuff).
After much searching I came across a program called DVD Span that can take a directory (with or without multiple directories) and arrange the files in these folders so that they fit nicely on DVDs. The problem gives you the option to make the “best fit” or to be a little less strict with space and make sure that the files go in order. You can even create .iso images of your data and then burn the .iso disk images to DVD at your leisure (that’s what I do — I have no patience to sit around and burn 3 or 4 dvds full of files — it’s must faster for me to “set it and forget it” to have the .iso images ready, so I can burn the .iso’s to dvd when I have more time).
Generally speaking I had success with DVD Span except when I had to backup to .iso a directory that had multiple folders and files with very long names. The program gives you two .iso options, and while I was able to backup a lot of data, the program returned errors when I tried to burn the aforementioned “packed” directory with long folder and file names. However, for backing up my pictures and my audio files (which are not really in that deep a directory tree structure), the program did a great job.
At the $12.50 sticker price, DVD Span is a bargain.
Because I wasn’t able to get everything I needed done with DVD Span, I’d recommend you get a trial copy first and make sure the program can handle what you would like it to do. And other than SyncBack Pro (see my reviews here and here), I haven’t found another program that can split directories to span DVDs.