In this final post in celebration of Preservation Week, I am here to talk to you (write to you?) about some steps you can take a home to preserve your own personal digital files.
Digital preservation isn't like paper or photograph preservation — and that probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. How many of our blog readers have 3.5-inch floppy disks floating around with files on them? And how many of you actually have a computer with a 3.5-inch floppy drive? How many of you have storage media hanging around with WordPerfect files on them? How many of you have tried to open an old file, only to be met with myriad gibberish?
Digital preservation is tricky because the things we are trying to preserve can't be seen without the aid of a computer. Whereas we can always pick up a book or a piece of paper or a photograph and see it, use it, and evaluate it, no tools required, digital files require us to use tools — big, complicated, tools — to even know that the file exists. This can made digital preservation daunting, but no less necessary.
With this in mind, here are some simple tips for preserving your digital files at home:
1. Always give your files a descriptive, yet short, file name.
- Don't use spaces in your file name.
- Don't use special characters, either (underscores are alright to replace spaces)
- And, yes, this means even renaming all those photos you took on your vacation.
2. Always place your files in a logical place on your hard drive
- Use sub-folders, if need be, to logically organize your items
3. Back-up your files — don't store them all on one device, or even all in one physical place
- You can do this using an external hard drive, or by utilizing a cloud-storage service like Dropbox, Amazon Cloud, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Carbonite, etc. Consider, also, off-site back up. This can be a cloud storage service or a hard drive that is stored somewhere other than your house. Off-site digital back up helps mitigate the risk of a local disaster or incident (say, a flood) wiping out your important documents.
4. Consider making some of your older, inactive documents into PDFs
- PDFs are a better solution for long-term storage, particularly because they aren’t as subject to obsolescence as other file types are
5. When upgrading your software or hardware, check to see if the new software can open your old file types (you can check this with an internet search). If not, save your old file types as a different type that does migrate to the new software. This way, you won't lose access to your old files.
- Some pretty universal file types (at the moment) include:
- rich text (RTF)
- plain text (TXT)
- PDF — for text and images
- CSV (Comma Separated Value) — for spreadsheets and databases
- jpeg — for images
- png — for images