For something that has no tangible existence, digital images require a lot of care and attention. Slides and negatives I can put in a file cabinet and forget about them. A digital image will need my active participation to maintain its integrity for the rest of my life. It is a little like caring for something alive.
Up to now I have been buying hard drives in bulk, dumping my archive on them, and putting them on a shelf. I have a couple of bays where I can swap out the hard drives (but not while hot). I also have a mirrored RAID array, meaning that every file is written simultaneously to two hard drives. I also back up onto optical media. The operating strategy to my storage is paranoia.
But once a week I seem to need to dive into the archive. With slides, it’s easy: open up a file drawer. Pull out image. Put in FedEx envelope. With hard drives stored on a shelf, or a binder full of DVD’s, it’s a huge hassle to access old work.
Peter Krogh, who has the state-of-the-art book on the subject—The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers—suggests a Firewired JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) box. My computer guru (Tom Vogel) had a better, safer and cheaper solution—a networked computer full of hard drives. I’m going to have local, live access to all my files on 1.5 terabytes of storage. And the hard drives that the data is currently on will live off-site, at my mother-in-law’s house.
It will take many all-night sessions to transfer all that data. I’ll let you know how it’s going.