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Digital Archives and Backups
A two-minute, 310-word read about issues to consider when wanting to keep digital data safe.
We need to backup digital data, but there are considerations about …
Backups must be frictionless and frequent: this means automated.
Most word processors and similar programs can auto-save work. Use this but, as with all backups, do not let an inferior version overwrite all the better ones. Consider full version control like git, or version history options available with other products and services.
If a backup is in the same place as the original, one disaster may destroy both.
Regularly test restoring data from backups.
Most modern computers lack floppy disk, tape, and optical drives. Many older drives and media are not available to buy. Some drive types are available with current connectors; most are not. Ensure a reliable way of accessing data on physical media.
Even in ideal conditions, disks, tapes, and memory degrade.
Online backup services
We need to
- secure account credentials;
- maintain email address and contact methods you give to a service provider;
- test uploading, downloading and synchronising files; re-test after service, computer or software changes;
- protect data appropriately and, if encrypted, have keys secured but available;
- pay any fees promptly even if we are unavailable;
- provide sufficient uplink and downlink bandwidth.
Remember, service providers may change or abandon services, or go out of business;
An unsorted collection of thousands of documents and photos makes accessing particular ones difficult. Consider how you will index, tag, search or identify them.
Digital data is useless without suitable software to read it. Software companies go out of business, discontinue products, and make upgrades that do not work with older file type versions. An old program may not run on newer computers or operating systems. Saving in recognised archival formats may mitigate this.
Computer backups article at Wikipedia
PDF/A archival format article at Wikipedia