Looking after digital storage
Digital and electronic technology is constantly changing as
tried and tested products are updated and replaced. Given the
inevitable obsolescence of many digital and electronic products,
the following guidance relates to the care, handling and storage of
some of the most commonly used media to ensure long-term access to
the information they contain.
The most common form of
optical disk is the Compact Disc, available in read-only (CD-Rom),
recordable (CD-R) and rewriteable (CD-RW) formats. Recordable CDs
include a dye layer and a metallic and reflective layer on a clear
polycarbonate substrate. CD-Rs with a gold reflective layer have a
longer life span and are the most suitable for long-term
preservation. DVDs (Digital Versatile Discs) come in a similar
range of formats as the CD.
The Blu-Ray DVD format was developed for high-definition video.
It offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional
DVDs with a dual-layer disc able to hold up to 50GB. Blu-Ray DVD
players will also play DVDs and CDs, but ordinary players will not
play Blu-Ray DVD discs.
This is an extremely
portable system of storing information that is also more robust
than other storage devices. They allow large amounts of data to be
stored, and access to the data can be quite fast. It is important
to check that the computer being used is not infected with a
potentially harmful virus, which could transfer itself onto the
memory stick, and then onto another computer.
Photo storage cards
Used for storing
images from a digital camera. Some formats like Fuji's Smart Media
format are already obsolete with the SD (Secure Digital) format
becoming the most widely used. All photo storage cards should be
handled carefully, kept dry and clean, and not left for any long
periods of time in the card reader as the heat can shorten their
What can go wrong
The supporting hardware
necessary to read digital and electronic media usually has a
shorter life than the media itself. Nevertheless, electronic and
digital media is susceptible to damage both through mishandling and
inappropriate storage conditions and by storing media in proximity
to electromagnetic fields.
Protecting your own collection
- Avoid touching the upper surfaces of CD Roms and DVDs, only
handle them at the extreme edges or the centre hole as they scratch
easily. Salt and grease films from fingers are equally
- Protect electronic and digital media from liquids, dust,
extreme heat and direct sunlight.
- Store electronic and digital media vertically in purpose-made
storage containers. Rigid containers are preferable to
- Clean drives routinely to prevent damage to the media; do not
keep media in drives for longer than necessary.
- Apply labels only to the areas recommended by the
- Clean dusty or dirty CDs and DVD's with a soft dry cloth, on
the underside only - never clean the label side.
Copying to new formats
To ensure long-term
access to your own electronic or digital collections it is
recommended that the data is copied from its existing format to a
more modern format. For example thousands of 3.5" floppy disks
can be copied onto a single DVD.