Friday, October 16, 2009

Can Our Precious Digital Media Be Saved Or Will It Disappear?

This morning, I ordered two photos from Shutterfly. The shipping chargers were $1.79 for two prints, but I didn’t mind. I remember when it cost $7.00 to “develop” a roll of film -- and only two photos among the 24 were useable. I figure I saved $5.21. A tidbit, but not the point of this blog.

The whole Shutterfly experience got me to thinking about all the trillions of photographs being taken hourly (in June 2009, 3 billion 600 million photos were archived on What will happen to all our precious photos when current digital storage devices/practices/options become obsolete?

Oh yes, they will.

You may have forgotten, but Wikipedia remembers the Iomega ZIP drive.
If you were a graphic designer in the Y2K years, you needed this “disk” to transfer files to the printer (more common today for file transfer, of course there's the ever-convenient, if insecure, ftp.) For storage and back-up, we now have behemoth terabyte external drives (Iomega itself sells a 1TB external for about $100), not to mention ultra-convenient “key drives” that will pack on 2gigs for $10. Thirty-two or more gigs can be stored on the new “wallet” style flash drives.

Problem is, both devices use USB technology. USB 1.0 is already outdated, replaced by USB 2.0, and about to be replaced by USB 3.0. The 3.0 version, boosted by fiber optic cabling, is promised for 2010 and should be mostly “backward compatible” but, just like computer operating systems, USB upgrades can’t go on forever. At some point, technology will trap something new and better that won’t work with our older and slower computers.

Will we store “in the clouds”? Organizations are skittish, the rest of us less so. Archiving stuff “someplace else” is a hurdle already navigated by sites like Mozy, Delicious, Flickr, etc. Even TypePad /Blogger /WordPress are “out there somewhere.” And yet ... this week Microsoft and T-Mobile somehow lost a gazillion bytes of user data stored on the Sidekick smart phone. Some observers blame Microsoft’s information management practices and not cloud computing. Others say data isn’t safe in the clouds.

Interestingly, two days ago Iron Mountain introduced cloud storage worthy of a radiation shelter. Are we actually regressing in efforts to protect our stuff (which increasingly seems to have become us)?

Me? I worry… and I order a few precious print photos. At least if my photos or files get destroyed by fire, flood, or civil disturbance – unlike Sidekick users who are wondering “where the data went?” -- I’ll know what happened.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

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