Barry Rice

- doing science on a terrestrial planet -

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Data Archiving

While the world of imaging is clearly shifting from emulsions to digital, it is important to consider the archival attributes of the method of data storage you use.

Durability is one of the most unrecognized strengths of photographic emulsions as a form of data storage. Even the most mundane consumer-grade color or black & white films have reasonably good archival attributes, and if shielded from temperature or humidity extremes can be expected to survive for 10-30 years with only minor intensity or color shifts. In contrast electronic media are unlikely to survive longer than 10 years or so before technological advances make it difficult to transport the data from one generation of equipment, software, and storage media to the next. (Consider the fate of data stored on punch cards, 5 1/4" floppy disks, magnetic tape, zip drives, jazz, or even 3.5" disks.)

Consider your data archiving gravely, especially if your data might have historical value (and it probably will to someone, eventually). Compact disks are currently the safest medium for archiving data, as the connection to the music recording industry ensures they will be readable for at least the medium term.


4 February 2009