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Archival storing systems

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How do professional artists make permanent back-ups of their material, and how permanent is permanent?

This is a sensitive subject for me since I lost most of my image collection, unpublished mods, and work-in-progress folders to an unanticipated computer death last summer.

On reflection, most computer deaths are unanticipated, and the current batch of high-powered computers seems a lot more delicate and finicky than my old Zeos Dos machine, which is still running strong.

This is not an academic question. I'm worried about what to do with future mods, and my artist girlfriend has just started converting from film to digital photography. So we're both sweating.

There's a rumor in artist circles that CD's eventually warp. Not an issue if you're only worried about the next year or two, but serious stuff if the CD is your only back-up and your time horizon is 25 years plus.

In the bad old days I probably would have started muttering something about tape back-up, but it just doesn't seem that archival or permanent to me. (Though when you think about it, film negatives don't seem very eternal either.)

Not being familiar with the current crop of external hard drives, does anyone have any thoughts about whether this is a route to explore?

My initial concern would be that if you have a hard drive that is external but somehow ancillary to your main system, if your main system's motherboard dies, how can you be sure any emergency replacements will be able to read the hopefully unaffected external drive. Or sumfink.

Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Tapes are still the only option, or tape robots to be more specific.

As you mention, the longevity of CD and DVDs home burned is a joke. How they managed to be worse than tapes is beyond me but they did.

Backup to harddrives sucks. If your primary drive dies during backup, and you used a backup software that writes a single archive file, then you are screwed. Also, with no older generations available you are double screwed if you have silently corrupted files (if you don't have ECC memory you will and even with ECC there's a huge chance).

If you have an Internet connection with high upload speed the best option is probably to rsync all your data to a datacenter that does the tape backup (with older generations available) for you as a service.

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