Paper: Still The Ideal Backup Medium

by Randy Murray on May 15, 2012

I am a thoroughly digital guy. I back up in multiple ways. But when I really care about preserving something, I print it out.

If you’re young, thirty or under, you may think of a long time as ten years, maybe twenty. But as you grow older you begin to think of longer horizons. I now think of preserving my own writing for more than just decades. As time passes how will I be able to access things I wrote fifty, a hundred years ago? I’ve got long plans, baby.

Last year I needed to use a play that I wrote nearly thirty years ago. It was originally in a digital form, but that format, a Lanier word processor on huge floppy disks, was long inaccessible. But because I had it on paper, it was no problem to read and use. I’ve updated it to a new digital edition (I retyped it and rewrote it), but I’m keeping copies of each edition on paper. I also keep really important digital files in as raw a format as possible. For example, save as text, not a proprietary word processor.

I’m not advising you to shun the digital world. It’s wonderful. Embrace our online future.

It’s just not reliable over the long term. Not yet.

If you really care about keeping something, images and text, and want it over many years, you’ll need it on paper.


The Paper: Still The Ideal Backup Medium by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Michelle May 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I agree. Technology is changing so quickly. I still have some old floppy disks around somewhere and no way of reading them. The other thing I print out is family photos. Fairly cheap to do and its nice to have them in an old fashioned photo album to show the grandparents when they pop in. I once heard on the radio that the ink and paper they use for photos will last 200 years. Longer than I’ll be alive. Longer than my computer will last. I love our computer aided online world, but it still seems so ephemeral. Sometimes you just need something you can hold and touch, and keep in the bottom drawer as a reminder that you haven’t wasted all that time staring into space.


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