Photo Archiving

Posted on February 5, 2009

I’m a storage guy and a father. Coming of age in the digital era means that I’ve never taken a picture on celluloid, I used my first bonus at MCI Systemhouse to buy my first real camera which was a floppy disk based Sony Mavica (which solved the early Linux/UNIX camera driver issue.)

Now, here I sit with dozens or perhaps hundreds of gigabytes of memories. One of the great joys of being into storage is that on one hand I’m aware of the wide variety of data solutions available… but I’m also aware of how fragile all these solutions are.

So I put it to my readers… what is the best method for photo archiving? We’re talking about pictures we want to see in 30 years.

One popular method is to use an online backup or photo archiving site, such as Flikr or SmugMug or StrongSpace or But will these businesses be around in 30 years? It is possible that these services could loose the photos, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

A hedge would be to use multiple services, to have 2 archived copies. But that means active management of the data. You need to check in on things from time to time and ensure that its all there in tact.

Tapes are too expensive, so they are just out all together.

When I think about it, I can’t help but feel that the best solution is, frankly, to burn your images to optical disk (DVD) and store them in a bank vault (safety deposit box). You could go so far as to burn two copies and store both just in case, given that people stand behind optical disks for about 10 years and then its anyones guess… although we all, I think, agree that in a safe environment such as a bank vault degradation of optical media is unlikely to be a problem. DVD also is a format most likely to be around, in some form, in 30 years.

The biggest problem with DVD is the small capacity. BluRay is better, but its life is still questionable, especially for data storage. USB sticks or even hard drives present mechanical issues.. will USB be around in 30 years? will the filesystems still work then?

So I put it to you again… what do you think is the best means of storing long term personal data in large quantities?