We all love those nostalgia-provoking photos and videos from days long past, perhaps from our childhood. Getting older has a way of making you appreciate the more innocent days. Those always seem filled with fond memories, as opposed to the responsibilities of being an adult. Horror stories have been heard of a now balding thirty-something-year-old father of one popping in that tape from his high school prom, only to be met with degraded grains that look like drying cement.
Older formats do not hold up against time; unfortunately, you could lose precious memories forever. Since camcorder’s advent, the forms below have been the staple of videocassette storage.
A considerable percentage of the world’s memories are stored in these formats on cassettes that are, unfortunately, somewhere just waiting to be accidentally re-written. Even worse, some are on older formats such as VHS, Hi8, Betamax, 8mm video, and MiniDV relics considering what is available today. The question here is not whether you should archive such valuable memories. It is how do you do it most effectively, and which are the methods that best serve your needs?
Archival is simply the process of digitizing data and choosing a long-term medium for storage. It is usually under the assumption that the data will not frequently need retrieval.
Technology has moved forward so fast in the past couple of decades that we have several options to choose from when storing our valued data. Different media have their utilities and pitfalls, and it mostly depends on the length of storage, conditions of storage, and portability that you want from the solution.
Available Media Options for Data Archival Are:
- External Hard Drives. This is arguably the most commonly used method today. It is relatively cheap, easy to use, and readily available. Hard drives are unfortunately sensitive to mechanical damage and magnetic fields. Both those factors reduce the lifespan of data stored on them, making handling and environmental factors a severe consideration.
- External SSDs. Solid State Drives have one massive advantage over traditional HDDs they are much more shock tolerant. However, SSDs were developed for speed and frequent use and not longevity. You will hear them touted for performance but not long-term storage purposes.
- Magnetic Tape. I only include this one because it is still pushed for enterprise application, but you will not need it for your home movies. Tape is rife with disadvantages, including damage by magnetic fields, data retrieval is strenuous, it has to be handled carefully, and it is expensive.
- Optical Discs. The initial options available as far as optical discs were not very reliable, sensitivity to physical damage and heat made them unpredictable. Nowadays, we have better renditions of the technology, and some are very impressive. Take, for instance, the Blu-Ray write-once low to high disc. Not only does it have a higher capacity than previous generations of discs, but it also has a particularly hardened layer meant for protection against scratches and other types of physical damage. When stored right, these, along with high-quality DVD-R developed for archiving can last up to 10 years.
- Online Storage. Online or cloud storage has become popular in the past decade. The convenience of accessing your data wherever you are in the world is quite revolutionary. Not to mention you can grant other people access to your data at will. Services like Amazon Glacier, Google Drive, and One Drive are relatively affordable and reliable solutions to home movie archiving. No need to wrap discs or drives up in a ribbon to give to your loved ones. Just send them a link.
What Are Archival Strategies?
Archival strategies are the actions in your set plan of data preservation and storage. These actions are guided by the needs that you have for the data in terms of portability, share-ability, and ease of retrieval, as well as playback. Cost should also be considered when developing your strategy.
A decent archival strategy should have the following steps:
- Determine which media inventory you want archived. You may not want everything stored away for future reference, perhaps just the most pertinent videos. The first step will be to choose and organize all the source mediums and label according to timeline or priority. If you have multiple storage mediums such as VHS and old projector film, separate them and handle each with appropriate care.
- Step two is to decide which service you will hire to do the work. Video archive services are a very convenient way to get things done. One thing is for sure, they will do it much better than you, and probably faster. What’s more, services like A.R.S. Inc will convert all your old videos to HD quality. Say goodbye to old grainy formats that can barely play on recent devices and enjoy your 80s memories in high definition. Their very personalized order process is just the icing on the cake. You will not speak to some employee in a call center but have access to the actual technician working with your order. Even better, with A.R.S Inc, you can create a custom order to fulfill your needs just in case their packages do not cater to you.
- Your third step once you have received your new digitized file in whatever shape, optical, tape, or otherwise, is to prepare appropriate storage for the physical medium. For most formats, it should be a cool, dry room with very little sunlight and magnetism. The same should be done for your original tapes or cassettes.
What Is the Best Way to Store Home Movies?
Optical means such as the latest in DVD and Blu-ray technology with protective layers and expanded memory is a top contender for playback and gifting reasons. Most recent optical formats play on several devices, including gaming consoles, which would be perfect for younger generations. Moreover, the physicality makes it ideal for novelty wrapping as a present. Gifting someone should always have a personable feel, and what better way to be personable than handing someone gift-wrapped memories?
Which Backup Media Is Most Reliable?
The best way to back up your home movies boils down to cloud storage. Cloud storage is an obvious pick because of the convenience, location independence, and ease of access. In addition, there are relatively cheap solutions out there, some going for as low as cents on the GB. You can also expect superior security with today’s service providers, allowing you to rest easy that no one will gain access to your precious memories illegally.