Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Personal Digital Archiving: Storage

This guide will provide information about how to organize and preserve digital files for long term access.

Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe

The more copies of your digital files you have on separate systems the better. When thinking about storage the minimum number of copies of digital files you have should be two: one on you local device and one on a separate storage system. However, three copies is considered a much better bet:

  • One is the copy you created on the original device and is stored in the devices internal storage or on your institution's storage network
  • One copy should be on dependable external storage media such as a hard drive
  • One copy should be in cloud storage of some kind. Having a copy in cloud storage will also cover the need for having a copy in a different geographical location

Recommended Storage Strategies

There are two basic tenants when storing digital files: 

  • Have copies in different geographical locations in case of disaster, natural or otherwise
  • Have copies in different software environments on different hardware components in case of system or hardware failure

Storage Options:

  • Cloud Storage
    • This often covers two birds with one stone: a different software environment and a different geographical location
    • There are many options for cloud storage: Box, Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Carbonite, Dropbox, etc. Some of these are "free", some come with a limited amount of storage when the original software is purchased like iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive, and some of these services are a subscription based service.
    • If you use cloud storage and "mirror" your home device (laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) make sure that the mirror only captures new content and does not delete old content. You should have a separate way to remove digital files from your cloud storage.
    • When choosing a cloud service make sure the contract has an "exit strategy". If for any reason you need to cancel your subscription or the company goes under, there should be a way for you to retrieve your digital files easily and without penalties.
  • External Media
    • If you use an external hard drive, make sure it is from a different manufacturer than your home device. So if one hard drive fails the other hopefully will remain intact.
    • Flash media (usb drives, memory cards, etc.) are meant to be temporary storage not a reliable back-up
    • DVDs and BlueRay discs are a reliable alternative to hard drives as long as you make sure to retain an internal or external DVD/BlueRay drive with the discs.

Do Your Research

When you are ready to purchase that new external hard drive, cloud storage subscription or even just a memory card for your camera be an informed buyer. Read reviews and ask customer service specialists their opinion about particular brands and services. In a physical store (as opposed to online shopping) the sales people will know which brands and products are returned most often due to technical issues. When purchasing hardware it is worth it to get the newest model because you will have to eventually replace it, so the newer the device, the longer you can wait before upgrading.