In the age of broadband access and ever-increasing file sizes, the floppy disk is quickly becoming a legacy device in dire need of replacement. This need for more storage capacity and a reduction in unit cost has led many computer retailers to offer CD-Rs and CD-RWs (commonly referred to as burners) as standard equipment on new systems. But can CD burners be considered a necessity in today’s business environment?

The burner has arrived
Mobile data storage has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. As file size has increased, the most popular method of personal data storage has moved from the 5Œ-inch to the 3œ-inch floppy. While new technologies such as Zip disks, LS120 floppies, and tape drives have entered the market, they have never attained the same popularity as the standard floppy.

Then came the CD burner. With its ability to store more than 400 times the data of a standard 3œ-inch floppy and the wide public acceptance of CD media, the burner’s popularity has skyrocketed. Coupled with a dramatic decline in cost, these factors have led many computer manufacturers to include burners as standard equipment on computers designed for residential consumers.

The pros and cons of workstation burners
While CD burners have become extremely popular with residential users, business environments have been slow to adopt workstations with built-in burners. There are many reasons IT departments have shunned workstation burners, including:

  • Cost: Many computer manufacturers do offer CD burners as standard equipment on desktop systems, but these are almost exclusively aimed at the home or home/office PC. Adding a burner to the standard enterprise workstation may cost extra.
  • Employee abuse: Employees, especially those with Internet access, have the ability to download and burn CDs on company property. This not only wastes company media expenses but also wastes company money and time.
  • Destruction of hardware: Have you ever heard of the employee who thought that his CD-ROM was a cup holder? Replacing a CD burner is definitely more expensive than replacing a 3œ-inch drive.
  • Size limitation: Don’t plan on using your CD burner for regular backups. While burners can indeed store large amounts of data, they are not capable of handling today’s multigig hard drives.

While the above listings are certainly impediments to enterprise burner deployment, standard workstation burners would offer several benefits, for example:

  • Workstation file backup: Employees could quickly and easily transfer crucial files from their machines to disc, saving local and network hard drive space. Today’s floppy disks can only hold roughly 1 to 250 MB of data, while a CD can hold between 600-700 MB. That breaks down to 486 standard 3œ-floppies, seven 100-MB Zip disks, and almost three 250-MB Zip disks.
  • Overall speed: Today’s CD burners can achieve speeds of 12-16x as of the publication of this article. That means that a standard CD can be created in five to 15 minutes.
  • Cheap media: Blank CD-R and CD-RW discs have dropped significantly in price and are competitive, if not less expensive, than many other storage media formats.
  • Low risk of erasure: CDs degrade more slowly than many other magnetic media formats and are not subject to accidental erasure due to contact with a strong magnetic field.

What do you think?
Now that you’ve read my list of reasons for and against having burners installed on enterprise workstations, I want know what you think. Do you believe that CD burners have a place in today’s corporate business environment, or should they remain a residential toy? Post a comment and share your opinion!