Now that you've decided to build a real archive you need to
figure out where, both physically and technically, you're going to keep
it. In the old days, archival storage
meant hard copy. From the dawn of the
computing age til at least the late eighties, storing digital data
electronically was both too expensive and too risky. After all, it was way too easy to screw up a
9-track tape as you threaded it onto a drive.
Now hard copy doesn't just mean green bar printouts. By the mid '70s, computer output to microform (COM) systems were in wide use holding archival copies of financial statements and other important reports. As user-created data like word processing documents and emails had to be stored, tape and magneto-optical disks came to the fore. Today most organizations have moved to systems based on spinning magnetic disks -- but is that the right choice? To answer that question, let's start by looking at how archival data is different from active data and laying out the attributes that make a good storage system for archival data.