Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Problems With Digital Archiving

What's wrong with digital archiving?

Archiving information in digital formats introduces a number of complications.

File Formats

Will current file formats last forever? History says otherwise. If history repeats itself current file formats will not be used in the next 10-15 years.

What problems does that introduce if we archive documents in todays formats? Will we be able to access them in the future? Will we have to convert them all down the line?

Proprietary formats

What's happens if an IT/Software company goes bust or discontinues a product. Will there be a system to upgrade or migrade databases and files?

Storage Media

If the issues with file formats have got you worried what about storage media?

The CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DVD recordable drives, tape back-up drives etc. Will these media storage formats be around for years to come? With the pace of current development the chances are the answer is no.

Not only that but all digital media has a finite lifespan, meaning even if drives in 10-15 years are capable of reading these media formats with they still be in pristine condition?

Only time will tell if we can solve this increasingly serious problem, as more and more of our data is stored electronically this becomes a more and more pertinent problem.

I'll finish with a link to the BBC Domesday project 1986. A perfect example of the problems with digital archiving. The CAMiLEON project was commissioned recently to try to retrieve the contents of this archive from 1980's laserdisks and BBC Micro formatted files.

The CAMiLEON project