Taking this as a tangent off this thread: http://forums.offtopic.com/showthread.php?t=2440442 Backing up that data you want to keep essentially forever, is an issue I've been grappling with, off and on, for 20+ years. As more and more information gets digitized, the issue just becomes more pressing. It's not just documents anymore, it's photos, home movies, financial data, and on and on. So how do we make sure that info is going to be available to us 10, 20, 30 years down the road? I've "evolved" a strategy over time. I'm not going to say it's a perfect strategy, but it's one that's working well for me right now. Feel free to challenge me on anything I'm about to say: Possible Strategies: Long term mediums: In this we'll include things like CDs, DVDs, Tape Backups, and Zip Disks (yep, people still use 'em.)Tape drives, in various iterations, have about the longest history for long term storage, and pretty durn good track record too. A good tape drive backup system can run pretty much perpetually in the background, and as soon as one tape gets filled, you simply insert a new tape. This is a very mature technology, and properly stored tapes can last almost indefinitely. Downside: They're slow. Slow if you want to do a "mass backup" all at once, slow if you need to recover data from them. They're also very format specific. There are a pile of different tape drive systems out there, and they'r not great at talking to each other. If you're backing up things to tape, for the longer term, you have to make sure you hang onto the hardware that created the tapes in the first place. Zip Drives are about the second longest running candidate, again with a proven track record. I have an external iOmega Zip Drive with RS232 serial connection I've floated forward from machine to machine for over 10 years now. The drive itself is a tank, and so are the disks. Really hardy. Much faster than a tape drive, and can be used in pretty much the same way. Downside: Platform dependance. Mac Zip Disks are hard to read on a PC Zip reader, and vice versa (though not impossible). Lack of popularity. I really just don't see them much any more. Expense. Zip Disks ain't cheap. Optical Disks (CD/DVD) are the relative newcomers of the field. Debate is going back and forth about their long term durability. They're a lot faster than the other two mediums, both to create and to recover from. Not exactly suited to "background" backup process, more of a burn on a regular basis, store it and forget it type thing. Relatively cheap way to go. Blank CDs and DVDs are cheap like borscht. Downside: Fragility. I've lost track of the number of ways you can instantly ruin an optical disk. Scratching them, heat warpage, chipping the edges, are just the beginning. Long term, you have to worry about laminar degridation, and there are a couple of known fungi that eat away ath the things. I have a friend in the Phillipines who claims that in their climate, a CD left unattended, sitting in the open on a desk, will become useless in as little as 6 months, or on a shelf in it's case, they don't expect them to last more than a couple years. Outside the tropics, this is less of an issue, but you have to pay attention to how you store them if you want them to last. Floppy Disks: Had to mention them. Useless, dead technology. Let's just move on. Permanent Mediums: Basically, print the stuff out on paper and file it it a fire proof box. Good for things like tax records, and maybe photos. You could also use microfilm transfer (I've seen it done), or other types of film. Cheapest way to go, on a small scale. Prohibitively expensive on a large scale. Who want's to build a bank vault in their house for long term storage of massive amounts of documents and pictures? Also, different inks and paper have different decay rates. The inks and chemicals in paper can also interact in strange and unpredictable ways, especially when you add in atmospheric chemicals to the mix. Film is no better. Bulky, and prone to decay. Film also "dries out" over time and becomes increasingly fragile. Neither one of these is particularly useful, IMHO. Encased Drive Units: Basically, hard drives and flash drives. A rewritable device with a fixed amount of storage. Flash Drives: Good for short term back up and transfers. Pretty new tech, relatively speaking. Kinda on the expensive side, too, if you're looking a $/Byte. I've also yet to see any credible data on the long term viability of a Flash Drive. The tech is too new, too unproven, to be genuinely considered for long term critical backup. Hard Drives: Highest speed large volume storage out there. Very reliable, in the short term. I've yet to have a hard drive burn out in under 6 months . Can be made portable with an external enclosure, which can also allow you to connect it and disconnect it at need if you're using it as a backup system. Biggest reliability issues come from long term heavy use/wear and tear. Also, because of the nature of how they're used, can be prone to data corruption, mechanical failure, and pro-active degredation (viruses, accidentaly typing "delete" or "format".) My Current Strategy: Hard drives. Two large (250GB Drives) in the machine for software and files. One large (250GB) USB drive for long term storage of critical data. The basis of the strategy is that no critical data is stored on only one drive. It is stored on both an internal drive, and the external USB drive. The odds of both drives failing simultaneously I consider to be remote in the extreme. This allows me to back up data quickly and efficently in large volumes. I can also set it to perform the back-ups on a scheduled basis. I also don't have to worry about the long term viability of the technology. As hard drive volumes and speed increase, I simply move things forward onto newer drives. I can do this at a negligible cost (1 drive per year at around $100 each, or 28Cents/day if you like). Also, by automating the backup process, negligible time commitment, with the bulk of the time coming annually when I swap drives around. Seems to be working, though I've only been doing this for about two years now. Anyone else have any thoughts? Ridicule me for a fool, if you like. I'm open to learn.