What Are Optical Storage Devices?

By Mike Sweeney

The way people at home and in business are using storage and compute functions is changing the way manufacturers are designing and marketing their computer products. Until fairly recently, virtually all desktop and laptop computers had optical storage devices such as CD, DVD, or Blu-ray players internally installed. However, this has changed with the trend of sleeker, smaller and faster products linked to the growth of the Internet and cloud computing services. For this reason, the need for these devices has lessened over time.

Primary and Secondary Storage

Primary storage is internal in your computer and is designed to hold data temporarily. Random access memory (RAM) and cache are examples of primary storage and have the fastest data access speed. Secondary storage, sometimes called auxiliary or external storage, are internal or external components such as hard drives, solid state drives (SSD), optical drives and thumb drives, also called flash drives or USB drives.

Optical Storage

Optical storage is data storage media written on and read with laser technology. The three most common optical media are CD, DVD and Blu-ray. CDs store about 300,000 pages of text or roughly 700 MB. DVDs are commonly used for movies and hold around 4.7 GB of memory. Blu-ray has five times the storage of DVD and is used for high-definition (HD) movies. On a single-layer disc, Blu-ray can hold 25GB of data, and a dual-layer disc can hold 9 hours of an HD movie or about 50GB of data. The expectation over time is for Blu-ray to replace DVD as the preferred optical media.

Growth of Cloud Storage Use

Using cloud storage, data stored on servers usually owned by web hosting services, has exploded in use over the last few years. The ease and simplicity of using the cloud, tied to the low costs of entry, have computer users of all backgrounds flocking to these services. There is no need to keep space-consuming files on your laptop or desktop computer anymore or backing up files on an optical storage device. Simply use an outside cloud service company such as Dropbox, Amazon or Google to store the information for you. There are many to choose from. You can access what you need from any device with an Internet connection. It is simple, easy, safe and cost-effective, and minimizes the need for physical optical media for storage reasons.

Growth of Download and Streaming Services Use

Hard-copy purchases of software programs, movies, games and music have traditionally been put on optical storage devices such as CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray. However, software companies, gaming companies and streaming video and music services are now offering the same content and information through the Internet by cost per download or a monthly subscription. For instance, instead using a DVD to watch a movie, you can now use a cable box or hardware designed for streaming services to watch the same content. This eliminates the need for the optical storage media and having an optical storage player.