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Personal Digital Archiving: The basics

Preserve and secure your records of long-term value

TL;DR

What are special characters?

In order to make sure your files can be viewed by a wide variety of programs or operating systems, it is important to avoid common illegal characters in your directory and file names. 

# <> @ + % ! & * | {} ? /\ " = @ and blank spaces

Digital preservation is not:

  • a monthly backup

  • a zip drive

  • forever

  • a single event

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Digital Preservation: The Basics

Digital preservation is a series of managed activities and actions taken to ensure the accurate rendering of digital content for as long as necessary, regardless of media failure or technological change. Digital files, unlike books or paper, degrade at a much faster rate. 

The main activities to consider when preparing to archive your own digital files are:

  1. Identify which files are most important to you and your family
    • Choose documents you feel are the most important; what can you not live without?
    • Think about photos, music, videos, records, and online content such as blogs or social media
  2. Organize the files in a way which makes sense to you but is also intuitive to someone else
    • Use descriptive file and folder names. Avoid special characters and spaces.
    • Add tags and metadata to files or folders
    • Consider creating a README file to help your future self understand the files better
  3. Make copies of your files and store them in different geographic locations
    • Store your files on diverse storage media - computer, external hard drive, or cloud.
    • Resist relying solely on the cloud for storage. The cloud is just another server managed by a stranger.
    • Regularly check your files to make sure they are still viewable and keep your replications up to date. Create a quick document to keep track of syncing your files. 

 

What's in a name?

File names are more important than you might initially think. They can help you or others find a relevant document but they can also hinder your understanding of of a file's purpose.

  • This is an example of a bad file name: 3b3b359f2844e97586dd0c0bf7.jpg
  • This is a good file name: 20160314-CPR-minutes.docx

Develop a plan for naming your files but most importantly, be consistent and descriptive. For more tips on file naming, see here.