Long term Photo Storage

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Bodhi395, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. Bodhi395 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2008
    I'm starting to get into photography, and have been thinking alot about storage of my photos. I know in the immediate future I can store them on a hard drive, and then back them up to the internet through a service like Flikr or any other number of online storage solutions. However, I'm wondering if a hard drive and online backup is good for long term storage, say photos I want to save for decades down the road.

    I have looked into gold layer DVD's, which claim they last 50-100 years. If I put my photos on these I could put them away in a safety deposit box or safe and be sure they would last decades down the road. However, the problem with that is will the computers of the future even be able to read the file types that are saved on the DVD, assuming the DVD lasts that long? Would you even be able to use DVD's on future computers?

    In terms of the online storage, a site like Flikr might be popular now, but will it still be around 10-20 years down the road? If it does go out of business I guess you could download your entire collection and upload it to another service that exists at the time, but then that's not a real long term solution, just a stop gap measure that will force you to always be up on whether your photo service is still functioning and not about to go under.

    It seems then the only long term storage solution is just to keep transferring photos from old media formats to new ones, as there is nothing I can think of that you can store your photos on that will last 100 years and still be accessible 100 years from now.

    The only other solution I guess is actually printing out the photos on archival quality paper, but that is not feasible given a collection of thousands and thousands.

    What are other people's thoughts?
  2. fcortese macrumors demi-god


    Apr 3, 2010
    Big Sky country
    How about an external HD? At least for now. You can still transfer them to DVDs if you want to, and who knows what future technology will bring.
  3. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    I would recommend flash based storage.

    It has no moving parts and therefore I assume would last longer than a HDD years down the road.

    If you bought lots of pen drives you could store them in the safe deposit boxes...
  4. designguy79 macrumors 6502

    Sep 24, 2009
    JPGs have been around for awhile (1992, I think).

    Why worry about future formats? With how many people have their photos in JPG and RAW, you can be sure that whatever the future formats are, you will be able to convert to them.

    As for where to store them, just make sure you don't put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

    My system:

    * Hard drive on Mac Pro
    * Time machine
    * External hard drives that I rotate with an off-site location

    The idea of using flash/thumb drives is a good idea, too, and I may add another method for the really important ones and store them at another location.

    Fun fun!
  5. Bodhi395 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2008
    How long are flash drives estimated to last?

    You also get into the problem of using a flash drive in the future that had incompatible connections to future devices. Such as if you stored all your photos back in the 90's on zip discs, you'd have a real pain trying to get them onto a modern computer, and its only been about 15 years.
  6. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    DVDs are not a good solution, period. They wont last, and capacity is low, so I'd steer clear.

    Hard drives fail, even when stored. However, using multiple drives provides some degree of redundancy.

    My personal strategy is this:

    - RAID 1 at home, for redundancy
    - Off-site backup on hard drive
    - mozy.com for online backup

    If my RAID 1 array fails AND my off-site backup fails AND mozy.com goes bankrupt, then I will take that as a sign that I need to stop being a photographer. ;)
  7. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    Just use hard drives, then every couple of years migrate all your photos onto a new(bigger, faster, better, ... etc) hard drive. That way your photos are always on some current computer hardware. If you want some safety use at least two hard drives. I started with 500GB HDs and when I ran out of space I migrated everything to 1TB and then to 2TB. Next year I expect I will have to migrate everything to 4TB HDs ... I have two archival HDs and one that is for daily use. I also compute checksums for everything on the archival HDs just to make sure everything has been copied correctly. I used to use DVDs but gave that up, it was just too much work.
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Don't trust DVDs.
    Do you think you will have a DVD drive at your disposal in 100 years? Perhaps they can find one in a museum, but will you have access to one?

    I'd just keep several (!) copies on whatever electronic storage medium happens to be up to date (SATA harddrives, optical chips, DNA molecule memory, whatever).

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