The Snakepit of Image Archiving

“There’s a consensus that as the ability to store more and more data [increases], the data itself has become less and less reliable,”  Don Mennerich, an archivist at the New York Public Library. Excerpted from Bye, Tech: Dealing With Data Rot by David Pogue

So much has been put out there about longevity of digital images. The notion of using redundant hard drives to ensure that files are preserved still has it’s pitfalls.  The thought of continuously moving data to new technology is like placing it into suspended animation and does not solve anything. I just read about someone who has used redundant storage and he has experienced file corruption.  I hope he can recover everything.  If you Google search DVD longevity,  the sources thin out pretty quickly without really putting the debate to rest.  CBS Sunday Morning took a look at this on the March 1, 2009 show by Contributor David Pogue  . In the “industry” it’s called Data Rot.  

I have chosen to put my faith in the CD/DVD.  I am assuming that I will stir things up but here are my thoughts:

At least in the foreseeable future, disks will be readable by all systems. All of the archival testing by the Wilhelm Group has given a life span for CD/DVD’s that I think is based on criteria unrelated to reality. I have disks stored for 10+ years that come up first time every time.  My sense is that the disk is a reasonably stable medium.  If a disk is used a lot I can understand the risk, but for archive purposes, this seems as safe as anything else out there.

The cost of redundant storage is getting better but until mechanical failure can be eliminated, I would be at least considering CD/DVD back-up of at least all of what you determine to be your most valuable images.   Granted it’s an uncomfortable decision I have made, but one I live with.  When DVD/CD drives and firewire/USB2 stop coming with computers,  I will revisit my decision.

Note: The image above was taken in Costa Rica last spring.  While it has little to do with the matter at hand, it was during a high school ecology trip.  The gentleman holding the snake found it in his house.  And we worry about roaches.

2 thoughts on “The Snakepit of Image Archiving

  1. You might consider Photoshelter .com.
    It’s not free but I’d be lost without it, personally.
    Nice work, by the way, from a fellow higher ed. photog!


    1. Michael, you are absolutely right. That is another option. I still maintain that having a “hard copy” is better than images on a server. Perhaps keeping copies on multiple archive sites is the next best thing. Just hope I don’t forget my passwords or the next attack virus doesn’t mess things up. I’m sure glad you get to shoot at Derby Parties, I wouldn’t want to loose them…

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