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Microsoft to Add Support for DNA Storage and Backup

The process of using DNA to store digital data might seem like it’s straight out of the latest sci-fi movie, but it’s a technology that’s already here. Although the innovation is very much in its infancy stages, DNA is showing tremendous potential when it comes to long-term data storage and retention. The technology is so promising that some of the industry’s biggest names, including Microsoft, are making a push to store their data via DNA.

The Fast-Track to DNA Storage

Microsoft’s ambitions might seem big; DNA storage is a concept that was unheard of just a few short years ago. Not only is Microsoft aiming to store their own data via DNA, but they’re trying to do it within the next few years.

The development team with Microsoft is even taking their endeavors with DNA data storage one step further by promising a fully operational OS on DNA by 2020. It will be a huge accomplishment to say the least, but Microsoft is confident in their progress thus far.

In order to increase the pace of DNA storage research, Microsoft has recently purchased another 10 million strands of DNA from Twist Bioscience. The company played a critical role in the original research of DNA-based data storage, so it makes perfect sense that they’d continue to offer their expertise.

The Technical Side of Things

Earliest models of DNA-based data storage were capable of recording 200 megabytes of data on a single strand of DNA. Moreover, they were able to encode and decode the data with a 100% success rate. Perhaps the biggest drawbacks of their initial tests revolved around the limited storage space, the slow transfer speeds and the extremely high costs.

But there have been some huge breakthroughs since then. Researchers are now reporting 215 petabytes of data on one gram of DNA. While transfer speeds are still rather limited, the potential for near-limitless data storage is certainly there.

It will still be some time before DNA data storage can be made available to users. Firstly, the current transfer speeds, which are right around 400 bytes per second, need to see vast improvements. The cost of the entire process, which is nearly $1 million, will obviously have to decrease significantly before we see widespread adoption.

There are some other benefits of DNA data storage, too. Experts are quick to point out that, unlike other storage mediums, DNA-based storage will never become obsolete or outdated. This has been said about other technological advancements in the past. In fact it’s often said when new technology hits the market; but it’s difficult to imagine DNA ever becoming obsolete.

DNA-based storage also boasts improved data longevity over other options. With a life expectancy of 2,000 years, this might be the long-term data storage solution we’ve all been looking for.

Big Changes are Coming

Although it’s hard to predict an exact timeline, it’s obvious that some big changes are coming to the world of data storage. With hard drives boasting more capacity than ever before, solid-state drives offering improved reliability and now the introduction of DNA-based storage, it’s anybody’s guess as to what the future holds.

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