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Archive 2013 · Digital photo archive can die fast
  
 
pulges
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Digital photo archive can die fast


After finding that some of my only 5 year old cd-s containing precious family photos have mysteriously died I started looking more carefully into how to preserve digital photo archive. Though the digital bits can be copied infinitely without losses, the media that carries them is doomed to die and fast.

Wrote an article about what i found out about todays digital media lifetime:
http://www.edicy.com/blog/your-precious-family-photos-are-going-to-die

If someone has other suggestions for storing digital photo archive I'm all ears.



Apr 15, 2013 at 07:17 PM
mshi
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Digital photo archive can die fast


There is nothing new under the sun. If you ask NASA, they can tell you they still have hundreds of millions $$$$$ worth of data still coming in from space everyday; but, they just can't find any hardware vendors to make the equipment to read the data.


Apr 15, 2013 at 07:22 PM
GoGo
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Redundency is key.

Use archival DVD, CD and SSD hard drives as well as good old fashioned (and now cheap) CF cards. Then find a cool dry place to store hard drives off site in case of calamity.

Other than that, maybe consider making some archival prints of your must have photos.

Good luck...



Apr 15, 2013 at 09:33 PM
pulges
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Redundency though is not enough. The problem is that even if I i made a million copies of my archive using different media. On the shelf untouched in good storage conditions the data failure probability after 10 years is too high for all media i know of.


Apr 16, 2013 at 06:42 AM
GoGo
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Multiple copies of your archive in multiple locations ensures that it will survive. Time marches on and the future solutions no doubt will improve. The solutions are evolving like digital photography itself evolves.

Who knows the White House photographers may be allowed to shoot digital soon...

Don't you just love film, negative, inter negative, transparency, duplicate and on and on.




Apr 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Digital photo archive can die fast


I do it this way, which is probably overkill for an amateur like me, and probably not enough for a working pro who has clients to depend on.

1) All of my photos are stored on my hard drive. These drives have been replaced over the years as I exceed the drive capacity. When I fill a photo drive, I copy everything to the new drive, take the old drive and put it in an external drive enclosure (so I can spin it up from time to time) and bring it to my office. Now I have at least one off-site copy of all files up to a certain date.

2) I have an external drive that I periodically back up all my photos to. This is the same size as the internal drive for my photos.

3) Once a year, I export the RAW files and processed TIFs and JPEGs from my 'selects' and burn them to a blu-ray, then take these off site. These are the least reliable and least backed up media format I use, but it's there as a last ditch.

4) I use CrashPlan, which immediately uploads any new photos (and I already have all my current photos, plus any important documents and such) to their servers in the cloud. This is generally my first backup, since it happens immediately. If I have a catastrophic failure or a fire or something, I can order a hard drive with all my files (or spend a few months downloading them) to restore.

So, I always have at least two copies of my files in two separate locations (home and the cloud) and then an additional 1-3 copies that get backed up every so often. I spin up my old hard drives at my office every once in a while to prevent bit rot. So far, I haven't lost anything, and I hope that these precautions help prevent me ever losing them.

Oh, and I also make quite a lot of 4x6 prints (I have a dedicated 4x6 printer, dye sub), mostly of family photos, and I keep them in good old fashioned photo albums, as I think the physical print is going to be passed on a lot more than a bunch of files no one wants to sift through. Since my daughter was born, I've filled 4 albums with 4x6 prints. A lot of her, but also other family stuff.



Apr 16, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Digital photo archive can die fast


GoGo wrote:
Who knows the White House photographers may be allowed to shoot digital soon...


The White House photographers have been shooting digital for some time now. Pete Souza uses 5D IIs and IIIs pretty much exclusively.



Apr 16, 2013 at 12:34 PM
TheObiJuan
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Digital photo archive can die fast


The White House Communications Agency (WHCA)shoot FX Nikon. Those are the full-time staff photographers in uniform with the DoD.


Apr 16, 2013 at 12:49 PM
mshi
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Digital photo archive can die fast


If you're really concerned about longevity of your data, you need to transfer the data from your current set of hard drives to new set of hard drives every five years or less. And ideally you need to store your hard drives in duplicates in weather/humidity controlled environment in multiple geographic locations (preferably on different continents.)


Apr 16, 2013 at 01:30 PM
pulges
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Somehow I'm not quite sure about keeping todays hdd-s inanimate for 5 years without powering up. A bit cautious when reading such things:

A hard drive contains at least a couple of electric motors, and these suffer the most stress during spinup. The longer the moving parts of the motor stay stationary relative to each other, the more likely that the motor will "seize" upon being repowered. Link

Magnetic signals recorded on a hard disk are designed to be refreshed periodically. If your hard disks stay on, this happens automatically. However, if you store your projects to a removable hard drive, then store that hard drive on a shelf, unattached to a computer, those magnetic signals will fade over time… essentially, evaporating. Link

Maybe I'm just overcautious.



Apr 16, 2013 at 01:43 PM
 

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Jman13
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Digital photo archive can die fast


That's why I put mine in an external enclosure and power them up every few months. I usually leave them on for a day, then shut them off again.


Apr 16, 2013 at 01:50 PM
pulges
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Thanks, Jman13.
You got me an idea of making a rack with monthly timer for powering up the hdds.



Apr 17, 2013 at 07:06 AM
nolaguy
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Any other comments on SSDs, flash memory, etc?


Apr 20, 2013 at 06:54 PM
rico
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Some factors to consider when archiving digital data: location, medium, equipment, encoding, sourcing, migration.

Location: Copies of data are safer when located in more than one location. This protects against theft, breakage, fires, natural disasters, etc.

Medium: Choices of medium affect lifetime of data stored. OP's use of burnable CD/DVD limits reliable retrieval to a few years (dye-layer decay, oxidation of reflective layer). Hard drives have lubricated mechanisms and capacitors with finite lifetime. Tapes can be archival in time, although Earth's magnetic field takes a toll.

Equipment: Even with (static) medium intact, loss of equipment will render the data inaccessible. Talk to NASA about this! Besides the peripherals themselves, the rapid progression of technology can make the cables, host controllers, and buses obsolete. In the limit, the entire original machine may be needed to retrieve data.

Encoding: However thinly, data is always archived in a structured way. To retrieve that data, your future system must understand the archiving format or filesystem. This is beyond the encoding of the individual files which may themselves vary (Canon RAW, ZIP, JPEG, Excel, etc). In the latest twist, high-end drives can encrypt their content with onboard hardware. Will you or your successors remember the password?

Sourcing: If you purchase several storage devices of the same model, these may contain flaws in design or manufacture that cause failure in a narrow span of time, or failure from a common event (e.g. power surge). The failure of those devices is correlated, meaning you don't have the backup redundancy that the numbers suggest. With mass storage ever more concentrated to fewer OEMs and technologies, maintaining archives across two independent storage sources is becoming harder (and more expensive).

Migration: The best route to data longevity is copying the entire archive from past to present forms of storage. The penalty is labor, cost, and the real danger that the transfer fails and the failure is not detected. To minimize the impact of human error, migration should be performed as infrequently as possible, which means the decision in other factors should favor longevity.

I've been messing heavily in storage for over three decades: punched cards, pack drives, Winchester, 9-track, audio cassettes (TRS-80), all the floppy form factors, CD-RW, QIC, 8mm, VXA, DAT, SDLT. For many of these, I either wrote devices drivers or backup software. Currently, my main personal machine has SAS HDD, SATA HDD, SATA SSD, SATA DVD-RW, SCSI Exabyte 8mm.

In answer to nolaguy, the archival value of SSD as a medium is largely unknown. To my knowledge, the only product to address this market explicitly is the Sandisk Memory Vault with a projected lifetime of one century. While I work for the company, no promises on that claim!

Ref:
http://www.sandisk.com/products/usb/memory-vault/



Apr 21, 2013 at 05:49 AM
Lunchb0x8
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Digital photo archive can die fast


It all depends on your library format.

I for example use iPhoto for import, and aperture for minor adjustments, so I can't easily relocate my library.

I use time-machine on my mac to backup to a NAS drive, and once a month or so, I clean out any old photos I won't use and export them to a separate folder on the NAS.

If you are on a windows machine, you could move your library to a dropbox folder, up your dropbox limit, and rest assured that it is in the cloud... sort of... If you go down that path, storing local backups around the house and off-site are still a great route to go down.



Apr 24, 2013 at 12:47 AM
binary visions
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Great information, rico.

I wish Sandisk would up their capacity on the Memory Vault product. Their current pricing is about $2/GB, which is not totally unreasonable if the drives do indeed last as long as they say, but I'd rather not buy and manage a dozen 16gb drives. I'd far rather buy 64gb or 128gb drives.

I really recommend an online backup service like Crashplan, Backblaze or Carbonite, or a more generic cloud storage solution like Amazon Glacier / Google Drive / Dropbox / etc. Files stored in the cloud like this are part of highly redundant disk arrays, so it shifts the burden of dealing with hardware failures onto the hosting company, who have a vested interest in keeping things intact since their business relies on it. Additionally, I don't really consider anything to be backed up unless it's out of the house - and manual off-site backup processes like rotating drives are prone to human error/time constraints.

I've used Crashplan and Backblaze. Both are excellent, with good customer service - Crashplan is more of a "power user" application, providing extreme flexibility and granular configuration. Backblaze is more of a set-it-and-forget-it application. I also do a test restore of a random sample of files about once every couple months.

I have my original files on one drive in my computer, which get duplicated nightly to another drive in my computer. Then I have my copy in the cloud. In this way, I am pretty well protected, since I have an immediate copy in case of a single drive failure, a cloud copy in case of a local disaster, and two local copies in case of a cloud mishap. The chances of a local disaster and cloud problem happening simultaneously are fairly slim.



May 21, 2013 at 01:24 PM
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Negatives?

Well, a moving company dropped a crate containing a decade of my negatives somewhere into the Pacific between Hawaii and California.



May 21, 2013 at 10:26 PM
binary visions
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Yeah, I don't pine for negatives... At least with digital you can make as many non-degraded copies as you want.


May 22, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Tim Wild
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Digital photo archive can die fast


I wrote an article on backing up digital images, for professionals and regular photographers.

Basically I keep everything on multiple hard drives, kept in multiple locations. I consider optical media too small and too much trouble to bother with.



May 22, 2013 at 02:38 AM
rico
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Digital photo archive can die fast


Tim Wild wrote:
... I consider optical media too small and too much trouble to bother with.

I used optical (CD-RW) a lot until jump drives became ubiquitous. Besides the capacity issue, optical formats could never deliver a decent transfer rate (same for this cloud nonsense). People don't want to pay the upfront equipment cost, but tape remains the only natural pairing for rotating media (soon to be SSD). With transfer rate of 160MB/s and 2.5TB capacity (both native), the latest LTO-6 tape systems are very attractive, but you need a 50TB storage demand to bring the drive and tape media into price parity. Disk drives are so cheap (from a historical standpoint) that the backup calculus is badly distorted, and people take shortcuts. The chickens will come home to roost...



May 22, 2013 at 03:32 AM
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