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About time too

February 14th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Technology · No Comments · Technology

Anyone who has ever had to sort through old backup tapes will welcome this idea.    I have a slight suspicion that the 4 million euro cost is under estimated, as all major IT projects are.  I am equally confident that the estimated costs to business are overstated, but even if the cost doubles and the benefits are halved it would be a net benefit of more than £1 billion a year.Old computer files are a bit of a timebomb really with dilemmas at every turn.

In theory, you should refresh your data archives every few years or so, moving it onto newer media and newer media formats, and converting it to different file formats if necessary.  But that costs in administration and in the actual execution.  If you never have cause to recall any of that data it is money down the drain so you have to decide whether to just keep the physical media refreshed.

You could then incur some serious cost in restoring any data – either getting it converted into readable formats or re-creating your 20-year-old server environment to load it onto.  But if you only have to do that rarely it could cost you less.

And even if you reach that point you might decide not to bother.  You might find it cheaper to recreate the files from scratch in some cases.

Admittedly the whole topic of data storage and archives is terminally dull, but that does not make it unimportant and many people don’t appreciate the scale of the problem and the inherent irony – that we could find a lost 100-year-old manuscript and be able to read it perfectly but a 25-year-old backup would be hugely impractical to read.

For a start there is the risk of physical degradation of the media.  If that was OK you would still have to find a compatible media reader: not everybody still has 8-inch floppy drives, QIC tape decks or the giant decks for reading tape reels.

Depending on the nature of the data you could then have to find the original application, and possibly the exact right version of it.  (Do you still have the original install disks or tapes for 25-year-old software?)    As that isn’t bad enough, you might have to create the operating system to load that application onto, and that means either finding some old hardware of the right type or software to emulate it on a virtual machine.

So, generally a good thing to have a universal emulator.  Even better if it includes Sinclair Spectrum emulation 🙂

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