I've written several posts on what archival means and how it applies to the actual, physical artwork, but I haven't talked about storing digital files. Now, how many of you have had hard drives fail? How many of you had hard drives fail and lost files that were not backed up? How many didn't learn their lesson the first time? (My hand is still raised...).
Lucky for me, the majority of the files that I lost when my hard drives died were scans of negatives, which I can totally just scan, again. In this case, the only thing I've really lost is time. If those had been the only copies of digital photographs, then they most likely would be gone forever. Even if I had stored those files on a disk, after about five years, they'll likely be gone, too.
How should these fleeting images be stored? The Library of Congress offers these tips for archiving digital files:
• Make at least two copies of your selected photos—more copies are better.
• One copy can stay on your computer or laptop; put other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage.
• Check your photos at least once a year to make sure you can read them.
• Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.
By the way, here is possibly the oldest known photographic negative, dating back 178 years.
To summarize, back up your files. And, then, back up the back ups. Or, you know, just shoot film and make sure you get your negatives back.