Another win for the pen & paper crowd:
Recordable media like CD's and DVD's took over as the preferred storage of digital media shortly after most personal computers were fitted with optical drives that record and re-record. With a storage capacity that put floppy disks and zip disks to shame (and into their tech graves), people quickly stocked up on stacks of disks to backup everything from important work documents to pictures of Fluffy...oh, how we miss Fluffy.
Perhaps it was our haste or our lust for more storage space, but we may have been short-sighted when it came to this media. It seems as though we cannot really get a straight answer about the definitive lifetime of a CD or DVD, but it seems that their span can range from 10 to 50 years. Gold-Label discs being the only exception (but they are rare) at 100 years. Given the fact that CD's and DVD's have only been around for the last decade or so, most people haven't started talking about the degradation of their discs just yet...but it's coming.
Take a look at acid-free paper : it's been around since the 1930's and it provides 100 years of durability. Archival paper is said to last even longer and is used for important legal documents. Use an pH neutral ink like Noodler's and you are creating a record that does not need to be downloaded or exchanged into a different electronic format every 10-15 years to survive.
You may say that the external hard drive will be the best way to store media in the long term, but hard drives (except for solid state thumb drives) all have moving parts that wear and break down over time. The standard computer hard drive needs to be replaced every 4 or 5 years. If you are not diligent about your hardware, it may even end up taking all of your files with it to the grave.
So, next time you think about scanning all of your important documents and photos into the computer, ask yourself "will their digital form will outlast the original, physical copy?"