Last week after a piece of optical media destroyed my MacBook Pro's SuperDrive, I began getting more cautious (bordering on paranoid, actually) about the types and kinds of optical media that I trust my backups and data to.
Some of my best practices (with some help from Jonas at Media Supply) are:
Speed: Although the MacBook Pro 15-inch (Core 2 Duo) SuperDrive has a maximum write time of 6x you should buy 8x media. There is no real advantage in buying 16x media, unless your burner is fast enough to support it. 16x media is not any better quality than 8x.
Printability: Some people care about top layer printability but it's not a priority for me (especially after the top layer de-laminated in my drive). I prefer to purchase the shiny silver media or silver thermal media. Personally I avoid white thermal (because I never print on them) and because of the aforementioned problems.
Brand: I only purchase Taiyo Yuden optical media and opt for their premium line (not the value line). If you're vendor doesn't state which Taiyo Yuden they sell, clarify with them. They may be selling the company's lesser-quality value line. Japanese-made Taiyo Yuden optical media is widely considered to be the best of the best. It's made by the inventor of the CD-R disc and has the widest playback compatibility, lowest error rates and comes with a 100-year data integrity guarantee. You should also check to make sure that you're buying real Taiyo Yuden media.
Markers: Buy and use only water-based markers (I like MAM CD Marking Pens). Solvent-based pens (like Sharpies) can attack the protective coating CDs and ruin your data or music. You can tell by the strong smell of the ink when it's solvent based. For further reading check out Media Science's Is it safe to use marking pens on CD-R discs?
What are your best practices?