View Full Version : Archiving issues

03-30-2005, 06:19
Hi, since this is a 'digital' thread, I though I might bring up the thorny issue of archiving (on a budget!).

I've been putting my RAWs onto CD-R, but now I'm getting more and more concerned about the longevity issue, having read about people in other forums who have lost images stored on MAM- gold CDs (supposedly with a 200 year life) that were only recorded in 1999 and sensibly stored. Now I'm leaning towards buying a pair of big hard drives instead.

Does anyone have any advice/experience to offer?


03-30-2005, 07:09
Honestly, the only century long archival format so far is the glass plate. Prints, depending on paper and storage, can be quite good as well. But celluloid film can be quite fragile, the dyes of color film fade, and there is no such thing as archival storage on a computer that is valid for longer than a couple of years. :(

The only way to archive digital material is to store them offline on as high a quality media as you can purchase. Then at least once a year, bring them back online and copy them off to brand new media. This serves several purposes - one, it will hopefully prevent media degradation and two it will ensure that your storage is being done in a current format that will hopefully still be readable the next time you update the archive.

I hate to sound pessimistic, but really, this is the biggest reason why I feel that anything of importance (weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, trips, etc) should be done on black and white film rather than anything else. And a good quality of paper must be used as well. This is not cheap, but at least your grandchildren will someday look at them and be able to laugh at your funny clothing... :)


03-30-2005, 07:27
Hi Phil,
I work in IT/Security in the Financial industry. and come across this issue quite often.
I know that you stated "archiving (on a budget!)". but here's the bad news.
I personaly would only consider the "safe" lifespan of a hard disk as being 5 years.
At work we store data within the following gudelines. (all are Maximums)
Tape 2 years
CD-R 2 years (Never CD-RWs)
DVD+R & DVD-R 2 years (Never RWs or DVD RAM)
Hard drives 3years.
Basically there will be people that will say that this is overkill but thusfar following these time restrictions has meant next to no data-loss. So even though I stated 5years for a Hard disk I normally recomend that after 3 years the safest thing would be to relocate onto new disks
Personally for my own data storage at home I Store on both Hard discs (Raid) and DVD.
Another recommendation I have is: Choose your CD/DVD drive carefully, The most reliable drive that I have is not the fastest drive but actually very slow but extremely reliable.
If money was not so much of an issue then a hard disk raid system is hard to beat.
Without going into too much detail. a very basic raid system contains two disks that are mirrored the computer sees one disk. if one of the disks malfunctions you still have all the data on the other disk. when a new diskdrive is replaced with the broken disk all the data is again mirrored on to the new disk thus a very fault tollerent system.
I know that this probably hasn't helped much but basically always try to have some redundancy. Having said all this I do have some CD-Rs from 1995-6 that still read without any problems and a couple of Computers from the 1980s that have hard drives that still work.

03-30-2005, 07:53
This is what you need to do. Burn negatives! Take your digital pictures that you want to save and burn 35mm negs from them. That way they will last for a long time. I have negs from H.S. that I shot that are still good 27 years later. Wait a moment maybe we should just cut out the middle man and shoot film again!

Tongue in cheek,

03-30-2005, 07:59
thanks for your input, which is very helpful.

I've got one Lacie 250 GB USB drive. Do you happen to know if it's possible to get a second drive and find some software that will allow them to be used as a RAID array? Or is it necessary to buy a bundled package?

My thinking is that 250 GB is probably enough for about a year's worth of images, after which I'd replace them anyway.

I agree with you that migration over current hard drives seems to be the best hope. It's not really a true archive, in the sense that you have to keep it alive, but as you point out, there really is no way, with digital media, that you can just put it in a vault and forget it.

The good news for me is that, right now you can buy hard drives for the same cost (MB/$) as blank CDs!

I've also had the experience of opening up old files of trannies and finding them eaten with fungus - not a problem I would expect with hard drives!


03-30-2005, 08:36
My problem with the whole digital thing is that when I started out in computers it was 8 inch floppy drives. Now the floppy drive is gone and it is DVD's. I am hard pressed but not impossible to find an 8 inch floppy drive out there althought I still have my cb-80 basic compiler software on 8 inch floppy.
The concern I have is having to transfer my digital records weither they be pictures or documents to a new media and maybe a new media type every couple of years. Who knows what the media will be in 25 or thirty years maybe little holigraphic sugar cubes.

But this is what I do today. I burn my photos to dvd and back them up to a external firewire 800 hard drive. I then reburn them every three years.

Here is a question does anybody know of a good digital to negative burn unit? If I wanted to make 35mm negs from my digital files what device is ther I could use?

03-30-2005, 09:15
Phil, I would say that as you have a LaCie get another and use "Human manual Software raid"
and just copy across the data from one LaCie to the other, say on a weekly basis.
Chris, It's not quite the same as "Burning" negs per se, But I have a Polaroid unit called a ProPalette 8000 Digital Film Recorder. Kinda looks like a white box with a 35mm camera mounted infront. It can even accept a 4x5 plate exposure rig!!
I use it to produce slides of powerpoint presentations. not that much use these days..... but I imagine that instead of slide film I could use neg....Quality????

Link for the polaroid:HERE (http://www.polaroid.com/global/detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441760077&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302023778&bmUID=1112202365695&bmLocale=en_US)
Can be had very cheap secondhand!!!Got mine for >$200

03-30-2005, 09:52
I back up to CD-R and to HD. I invested in some large drives and back up from one machine to another across the home network. I also invested in an external USB2 HD enclosure. It takes less than five minutes to insert a HD into the enclosure. I have two external HD's that I use in rotation, backing up to the external drive, then removing the HD and taking it off site. Paranoid? Yup. Worked in IT most of my life.


03-31-2005, 14:36
Gene... thanks for the input. What model HD enclosure do you use?


03-31-2005, 15:29
Gene... thanks for the input. What model HD enclosure do you use?

I'm using ADS Tech USB 2.0 Hard Drive Kit ( www.adstech.com ) Got mine at FutureShop in Canada.


03-31-2005, 17:08
That comment about the bugs may have been tongue-in-cheek, but it brings up another serious point about archiving. The theoretical longevity of the media you choose doesn't matter if your house burns down -- which actually may be a more likely calamity than many forms of hard-drive or disc failure!

In other words, whatever archiving regimen you choose isn't really safe unless it includes off-site or at least fire-resistant storage.

Although I'm too cheap and not quite paranoid enough to rent a safety deposit box just for my old photos, I do make two copies of my archives (currently DVD-R discs), keep the "working" copies in a file cabinet, and put the "safety" copies (in cases) in the vegetable crisper drawer of my fridge. (By the time I filll up the drawer, I figure there will be a higher-density storage medium available and I can start over.)

I use the fridge NOT because I think cold storage might make the discs last longer, but simply because my dad -- who worked all his life as an insurance adjuster -- said that stuff inside a refrigerator tends to survive a house fire better than stuff stored in most other places around the house. I'd think the seals also might do a pretty good job of keeping out auto exhaust and other environmental contaminants.

Just a thought...

03-31-2005, 19:27
Without trying to turn this thread into a complete discussion on disaster recovery,
I have one further point to add which is: If you are prepared to go through the actions of making Archives and further place a copy offsite (Relatives/Friends/Bank Safe deposit box etc) I would suggest going one small step further and Borrow/rent/buy a scanner and scan a complete set of important documents
i.e., Birth cert, Marriage cert, Land registry docs, Passports, Old photos etc.
Often after a Disaster be it Fire, Earthquake, Flood, Tsunami even Burglary these are the things which are good to have/essential and often lost/hard to replace.
But once that Hard drive contains all your Photos and personal data you rally need to make sure that it is stored in a safe place you don't want it to get into the wrong hands!! :eek:
All things considered a Bank safe deposit box is a great place to store your Hard drives. ( all relative : environment control, Safe, Free from vibrations, Fire shielding)
Perhaps encrypting or locking the drive.......The Paranoia never ends..... :(