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Storage is a Problem

Published October 11th, 2011

Storing photographs is a problem. I come from more of a tech background before I ever had to deal with digital images. I have a phobia when it comes to data storage.

When I first started to actively manage computer systems (as part of my job) it was over 20 years ago. Early on, I found a room full of Wang computer disks. The only problem was that there were no computers or equipment capable of reading or decoding these Wang disks. This was about 8 years of electronic documents. Someone had diligently backed up all their digital records only for them to become a large pile of plastic and metal that could not be used by anyone.

So... my career dealing with technology has led to a circumstance where I like all my data to be readily accessible for fear of it becoming permanently inaccessible. This is a problem storing RAW images. They accumulate as a crazy rate and are problematic for long term storage (DVD's and CD's are not really long term storage).

I have terabytes of storage for my images, but ensuring the reliability of this storage is a real issue. Server disk storage technology is different than that used for consumer technology. Server technology uses built in redundancy and generally assumes that that there is going to be problems. Consumer products do not do this. As a consequence, server storage is way more expensive. The thing about it, many professional photographers don't really pay any attention to long term storage.

I wonder where things are going to end up in the future for all these potentially lost images.

It will be worse for the average consumer. The first decade of the 2000's will be a dark time for photographic images. At least in the 70's, 80's and 90's there were family snaps were printed and stuck in a drawer. In the first decade of the 2000's these images were rarely printed (relative to the number taken) and if they were they were printed on poor quality printers (camera technology outpaced printer technology). I think in 50 years, people are not going to have much for personal records, because they never printed stuff. This decade will be a dark time.

For photographers, storing their images (if they value them) will require thought and purpose. I think, however, the solutions are complex.

My 2 cents....

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Jeff Burton  almost 6 years ago

Not only do I worry about how to store my image data, I worry about in what file format to store the data. Proprietary formats such as the ones currently used by manufacturers Canon and Nikon to store RAW camera data have a tendency to become obsolete without us giving it much notice. I would hate to have redundant backups and never lose a byte of data only to realize that nothing can understand the file format ten years from now. I am converting my RAW files to Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) format and storing a second copy of each image in that format to reduce the risk. While this does give me the additional security of having a second archive, it effectively doubles the storage requirements.