Striving for archiving

Several weeks ago I wrote of a reader who was unable to retrieve important documents off of a 5,25-inch floppy disk.

A number of other readers contacted me to say that they still had computers with 5,25 floppy drives and would be happy to help. I have since heard that that the files, containing a lot of work on a biography of Steve Biko, have successfully been transferred to a more-up-to-date storage medium.

This episode ended happily but lesson to be learnt is very clear and that is that, every few years, you should review how your vital audio, video, image and data files are stored. You’d then be wise to transfer the stuff to a new medium if the one that you’re using is showing any sign that it might be headed for the scrap heap.

There’s also the danger that the storage medium will degrade over time and that the content won’t be recoverable. The cheaper CD-ROM discs are known to degrade, for example, and it is wisest not to count on them for long term storage.

Transferring content to new media is thankfully getting easier and easier as we are able to store more and more in the same (or smaller) space. Some of my earlier computer files and pictures are on CD-ROM discs which are getting to be about three years old and should soon be transferred onto DVD disc.

A double-sided DVD is able to store as much information as 14 CDs and the competing Blu-ray and High Definition DVD formats will have very much larger capacities than that. I personally haven’t yet considered taking the plunge into one of the new formats, because it isn’t clear which one will emerge as the standard.

Whatever happens, there will be a new format around when it comes time to copy the content off of my DVDs reducing, even further, the space required to store my stack of archive discs. Others may vary but I routinely make two copies of my archive discs just in case one turns out to be a dud or goes bad quicker than expected.

In addition to the archive discs containing stuff that I don’t need on a day-to-day basis and which can be removed from my hard drive, I also try to burn regular backups of files that I work with daily. These include documents of all kinds but are mostly pictures taken on my digital camera waiting in the queue to be processed and archived.

The amount of space taken up by my pictures is extraordinary and it is only going to get worse as each camera upgrade results in larger and larger picture files. My current camera produces files of around 5Mb each, when using the camera’s own proprietary RAW format.

In my opinion, it’s the way to get the maximum quality although it does fill up discs at an alarming speed. Lets hope that storage technology can keep up with my output or I’m headed for an old age amid towering stacks of discs, in much the same way as some members of previous generations did among piles of other possessions.

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