Media storage prior to transfer, preparation
for transfer, and storage after transfer.
Note: Information provided below covers basic consumer questions. It does not provide in-depth
details on more stringent practices we would provide to our corporate clients with media archives.
First, some thoughts on the digital age....
Past generations of audiovisual media have had a unique, robust quality that helped enable its
longevity. Decay of older media formats was slow. Damage to media most often meant repair
or removal of the damaged portion, or just playing through to the undamaged portion. Since old
media formats were tangible objects, they were not as easily lost or misplaced.
With the growing push to convert old analog media to digital formats and new media originated
in digital format, more and more media now rests in the digital age. Digital media is easier to
play, view and share. It is not prone to typical analog deterioration. With these convenient
benefits we must be mindful to the fragility of digital media. As technology advances, hard
drives get bigger and less expensive allowing for more data to be stored in the same place,
more of it can be lost in the blink of an eye. Files can be easily be overwritten, changed,
reformatted or erased with a simple error of a mouse-click or intrusion of a computer virus.
Files are lost in cyberspace much easier than their "hardcopy" tangible predecessors. Digital
disk media varies greatly in quality and reliability from manufacturer to manufacturer and can
be easily scratched, cracked, improperly handled or mislabeled, rendering the entire disk (not
just the damaged portion) unplayable. File corruption is much more common than the casual
user would expect. Without care and vigilance, our digital media assets are at grave risk.
We are presented with the possibility of loosing more media history in the short period
of our current generation, than has been lost with the slow decay of 100+ years of media
history on more tangible, robust, formats of the past. Proper planning, conversion,
backup, storage and migration are the keys to preserving new media in this digital age.
How do I store my media until I'm ready to transfer it?
First, inspect your media collection. Movie film, slide/transparency films and some older
audiotapes can take on "Vinegar Syndrome", most often identified by a faint to strong, vinegar
odor. Film, photos, slides, analog disk recordings, videotape and audiotape can all be
contaminated by fungus (including mold and mildew). Videotape and audiotape can take on
too much moisture which can break down the tape through hydrolysis ("sticky tape
syndrome"). Another serious tape breakdown is flaking. If you find any of the above issues,
call us immediately to have us examine your media. Some fungus types can be very
hazardous to your health. We recommend
Remove any media stored in an attic, garage or floor below ground level. Store your media
where temperature and humidity swings are the least. Media should be allowed to breathe. Do
not store your media in zip-lock bags, Tupperware tubs, metal film tins or other air-tight
containers. Keep magnetic media such as videotape, audiotape and magnetic stripped sound
movie film away from electronic devices such as TV's, stereo equipment, power outlets or
speakers. Videotape and audiotape should be stored upright, standing on end. Do not rewind
video or audiotape after use, keep it in the "tails out" position. Film and photographic materials
should be stored in a dark environment to keep them from fading. Always wash your hands
first before handling slides or photos. Photographs should not come in contact with acid based
paper or strong smelling clear plastic covers such as PVC, both found in many inexpensive
photo albums. If you own audio disk recordings, store them upright with support on both ends
so that they will not warp. Do not expose very old records to any liquid or cleaning solutions,
they can be damaged when they come in contact with liquid. If you would like more
information on proper storage conditions for a specific media, please contact us.
How do I organize my media prior to transfer?
Have as much detail possible noted on your media. Titles, dates, and subject matter of each
piece help us to organize your media transfer. Put your media in the order you want to see it
after transfer. If you write on the back of a photo, lightly use a graphite pencil. Photos and
slides should all be numbered in the order you want them scanned. We very strongly urge
you not to run movie film, videotapes or audiotapes to identify them. An old playback
unit or playing media that is deteriorating can cause irreversible damage and render
your media unable to be transferred. If you are unsure of the date or subject matter, it can
be labeled after transfer.
What do I do with my old media after it is transferred?
We highly recommend keeping your old media for as long as possible. This is especially true
if you might have future plans to use some of your media for a special purpose and you may
require a different digital format to transfer to. We are happy to give you guidance on the
proper storage conditions for your type of original media. For our consumer clients, if you
absolutely insist on not storing your original media, at the very least, continue to store your
old media until you have had the chance to review your new digital versions to insure that
everything has been transferred to your satisfaction and ONLY discard your media if you have
had proper backup media made and it is stored in a location that is different than the first set.
After my material is transferred, how do I store my digital media?
Store any digital optical media disks (CD, DVD and Blu-ray) vertically in the cases we provide.
We highly recommend that you have us make a backup disk for each master disk produced
as a simple scratch can render disk media unplayable. If you request backup disk media in
envelopes, store them in proper archival cardboard or plastic media storage cases. Store
backup media in a different location than the master, preferably in a different building. Store all
digital disk media away from direct sunlight as UV rays can break down the recorded dye
layers of digital media disks. Do not label your digital media disk with adhesive labels or
permanent markers. Both cause problems down the road. If you have to, any additional
labeling should be made with markers expressly made for safely labeling disk media. Take
care in handling your disk media. Never touch the underside where the data is read from.
Avoid cleaning disk media unless you know what you're doing and do not stress/flex the disk
when removing it from the case.
If you are storing your media in digital file format on hard drive, make sure to back up these
files to another drive or other storage media. Insure that the backup method (and any disk
maintenance software) does not compress or alter the original files. If your redundant backup
is another drive, it is best to power down the second drive and disconnect it from your network
when not in use. Store the second drive off site. Rotate the drives every 6-8 months and insure
that you power them up for at least a few minutes to re-lubricate the internal bearings in the
drive. Insure that your network is safeguarded from computer viruses. A UPS will help protect
you from some power issues that can damage your computer and backup drive, but it is not a
safe-guard for a direct lightning strike or brown-out. These are the basics to proper drive
backup. All of the details and methods are too numerous to outline here. Consult with us to
review your best options based on your individual needs and budget. (Note - with solid state
drives now a viable option for drive storage, they have not yet been adequately tested for
long-term shelf storage for data. Until further research is done on the viability of long term data
storage on SSD drives we do not recommend using these drives as data storage.
How long will my digital media last?
Since writable disk media has only been around since the mid 1990's, no-one knows for sure!
Experts and manufacturers all have different opinions. Much will depend on how you label,
store and handle your disk media. It's also important to insure that the disk media is
manufactured by a reliable source. These days, a percieved reliable name may not really be
so reliable. Even the well-known manufacturers can subcontract out disk production. Fake
disks or rip-offs are commonly imported from China and distributed by large national chains
without knowing the media is counterfeit. Without special programs made to find the true
manufacturing source, even professional conversion companies quite often use disks that are
inferior. In general, when using a disk that is produced by our company with proper storage
and handling conditions as outlined above, CD-R disks have a conservative estimated lifespan
of 6+ years and DVD-R media of 10+ years. Very conservative consumer clients will elect to
have either a new redundant disk media backups made every five to six years and rotate the
oldest backup out or store the same files on a different storage medium such as computer
hard drive. Corporate client needs will be more stringent and vary widely. Each media library
should be assessed and addressed on an individual, case by case basis.
Media Transfer Service LLC. Rochester, NY . Phone: 585-248-4908 . Email: email@example.com
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