Monday, July 09, 2007

Backups and Archives

Where is all your digital stuff? They are likely everywhere: in your office computer, in your home computer, on your laptop, cell phone, PDA, MP3 player, digital camera, memory cards, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs, and portable hard drives. Not to mention on servers all over the Internet, from free email sites to online storage services. Making a backup of all this stuff suddenly became easier. With the dilemma of how to get started organizing and collecting all that stuff, might as well give up. So easy, it's effortless.

But suppose, by some concurrence of events, maybe the alignment of the planets, all of your stuff were present in your home computer's hard drive. Let's not go into how they were able to all fit in there but rather what to do now? Making a backup of all the files should be a straightforward task. Burn them all onto DVD-Rs. Copy all of them onto another hard drive.

The thing is, a hard drive can crash or will inevitably reach its end of life at some point. DVDs get scratched or deteriorate after several years. Hardware become obsolete. Just a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was using Zip disks. And floppy diskettes! Don't tell me you forgot about them already. If you want your backups to be usable and readable 50 years from now, things don't seem to be straightforward anymore.

If you really want to go into the best practices for archiving, I think it will take a master's degree in Library Science for that. There is a great resource from the Library of Congress web site on what you can personally do. It's part of their Digital Preservation initiative.

Today's CDs and DVDs will be part of nostalgia in the future like LPs and 8-tracks are today. For anyone who would want to preserve their data indefinitely, like me, it will have to be perpetually making backups plus backups of backups. And when a winner comes out of the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD rivalry, we'll have to make backups on that too.


Techno-Logic said...

nice post... technology loves fast... it is like a crazy wants to go faster faster faster :))

Hapless Technoguy said...

It sure does. Just a while ago, DVDs looked very attractive for making backups. Now, 4GB seems small compared to the flood of files that come out of my camera.