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Personal Digital Archiving: Secure storage

Preserve and secure your records of long-term value

Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe!

One of the best strategies for preserving your digital files is to keep multiple copies. If one copy gets lost or damaged, you have another copy to restore with. But where do you keep all the copies you've created?

Backup methods

Try to keep at least 3 copies of your most important files in 3 different locations. Geographic diversity in storage is a great way to make sure that an accident, natural disaster, or theft in one location will not destroy all of your files. A backup practice might include:

  1. Copies on your personal computer or laptop
  2. Copies on an external drive you keep at the office
  3. Copies in the Cloud 

Keep a backup schedule and stick with it. Set calendar reminders to help you remember. Regularly copy your current content over to a dated folder. For example, if you back up your files weekly, you could create a folder for each corresponding week:

  • 20170317
  • 20170324
  • 20170331
  • ....

As you create new backups, do not delete all of your old backups. You may need to return to an older folder to recover some content in case you accidentally delete or overwrite a file or if a virus infects your computer. Try to keep at least bi-monthly backups of your files. 


Storage options

  1. Your laptop or desktop: This may be your primary storage location, where you edit and save documents as you work on them. You may save them on the computer's hard drive, internal flash storage, or a networked or shared drive.

  2. External hard drives: A larger external drive is useful for storing backup files of documents you create and value.

  3. Flash drives and other solid state media: These drives are inexpensive, easily obtainable, and portable. They are great for transferring or carrying your work with you. 

  4. The Cloud: Storing files on the cloud means they are stored on a server that is managed by a third party that you can access via an Internet connection. There are a wide variety of Cloud environments including free and for a fee options. If you choose a service provided by a for-profit company (Google, Amazon, Flickr, YouTube, Dropbox, Apple) carefully read their user agreements so you know how your information may be used.


Once you have stored your files, it is important to keep them safe and secure by protecting their integrity. Make sure you maintain your passwords for devices and / or specific documents, files or folders. Also, keep up to date with your anti-virus software protection. Other recommendations include:

  • Maintain at least one local (non-cloud based) copy
  • Keep at least three separate copies of your files
  • Place at least on copy in a different geographic location
  • Keep a record of your back up practices. This can be as simple as a text file which specifies how, when, and where you store your materials

Additionally, you could consider creating and regularly checking "checksums" or digital signatures to ensure that your files do not change or become corrupt over time. Checksums can be generated by several different utilities and can be stored with your files. Tools to consider for managing checksums:

  • Hashdeep: open source command line application that creates and compare checksums for digital files at both a batch and file level. It also includes a reporting function that explains the reason for a comparison test's failure. Available at:
  • Fixity: program which automates checksum monitoring. It allows users to select a regular interval at which the tool will generate checksums, compare values, and send a report on completion. Available at:


A note about the Cloud

Please don't forget that the Cloud is just a computer which is at risk to the same threats your computer faces. Cloud storage is a very beneficial addition to your storage plan; however, it should not be the only backup method you utilize. 

Additional resources