Media Quality Matters

Not all media is created equal. Media is made with different dyes, in different facilities, and with different specifications. This results in media with varying levels of quality, which is important to understand when trying to navigate options available on the market. When using a robotic system like a Rimage autoloader, this can be even more important. We’ve provided some guidelines to help you understand media quality and how to pick the right media for the job.

What factors affect media quality?Rimage-Media-CD-feature

Three main areas impact overall quality of an optical disc: the recording layer, the print surface, and the physical characteristics of the disc. The recording layer includes dye used to store data and a reflective surface for the laser to read. A low-quality dye may not record as well, and even if it does, it may be more susceptible to degradation over time. A low-quality reflective layer will not reflect the laser back as well during reading, resulting in less tolerance for borderline optical drives.

The print surface will impact how well a label is printed. Whether inkjet or thermal, the print surface can result in a durable high-quality print, or an easily-damaged image with visible defects. On a thermal disc, the print surface includes protection from heat for the data layer. A low-quality thermal print surface may allow too much heat to pass through, resulting in degradation of recorded data. For inkjet, a low-quality surface can result in areas not absorbing ink as well, leading to smearing or color variation.

Physical characteristics of the disc include the size of the inner hub, the thickness and even the flatness of the optical disc. While a disc that is slightly thinner or has a hub that isn’t a perfect circle may be acceptable in a manual setting, these characteristics can cause picking failures on a robotic system like a Rimage autoloader. The flatness of the disc can impact both handling of the disc as well as recording, playback and printing.

Where does Rimage media fit?

All Rimage media is qualified, extensively tested, and monitored for quality. This means it is tested to prevent the bad things covered here from happening. Media in general can be lumped into three main groups: highest grade premium media that is best in class, standard quality media that functions well in most circumstances, and low-quality media that is much more likely to run into problems. All Rimage media is at least standard or premium quality.

How should I decide what disc to use?

High-quality media can demand a significant price premium, so it is useful to know when you can afford to use standard quality media instead. To determine which media will work best, look at where and how the disc will be used. The first question concerns how long the disc needs to last. If the disc will archive data that needs to be kept for years to satisfy compliance rules, then the highest quality media is important. If the disc needs to retain data for a short time and then it will be replaced by an updated disc, a standard quality disc will suffice.

Second, consider the situation and the ability to recreate a disc if needed. Sometimes data on an optical disc is important for a specific moment in time, such as when a patient brings medical data to an appointment. Should that disc fail, burning another copy isn’t an option – so for a situation like this, use the highest quality media. On the other hand, if replacing the non-working disc with a new one is easy, then it might be an opportunity to save some money.

Third, consider who will receive the disc. There is an enormous range of optical drives in use by end users, including old and worn out drives. Higher quality discs will be more compatible and have a higher tolerance for use in less than stellar drives that a customer might have in their PC or laptop. If discs will be distributed to your customers, a high-quality disc ensures successful performance and avoids frustration and negative perceptions of your company. On the other hand, if discs are distributed to internal users who all have the same model of optical drive, the enhanced compatibility of a highest quality disc isn’t required.

It is important to note that picking the least expensive disc does not always mean saving money. If a cheap disc saves 5% on price but experiences 5% more failures, there is certainly no gain. And if a failure means spending time burning and shipping a replacement disc, this quickly can cost more than what you thought you saved using a cheaper disc, and resulting delays will lower your customer satisfaction.