I am not sure how the rest of the world reads this, but there is a developing format war. I speak of the push for HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray. I’ll describe the difference another day but the important issue for the normal person is not the format (yet) but the content on your existing format.
Don’t let me lose you yet –
Let’s say five years ago you took someone’s (my?) advise and made a backup of your digital photos onto a CD-R (recordable CD). You locked it away and took good care of it because that was the only place those photos existed. Now is a good time to take it out. You need a catalog, and to move it to another media.
By this I mean that the CD you created 5 years ago (one of your first) should be moved to another disc and cataloged. Why?! you ask. The life of a disc depends on a number of different and varied factors that determine how long they will last. Factors such as the materials used to make the disc, its construction, how it was recorded and stored (ref).
By moving your files to another disc (and still keeping the old one) you have increased the effective life of your file, decreased the probability you will lose the file(s), and made sure you can keep up with developing technologies. Sidnote: I once worked with a lady who stored every file she had on 3 1/2 inch floppies. She was determined she would retire before she spent time copying each disk to zip disks (or CDs). She did retire, but the point is that you would have a difficult time today finding a 5 1/4″ floppy drive if that is where your thesis was stored. You are also able to store larger quantities on newer technologies (not that CDs or DVDs are new).
Flash drives, (a.k.a USB drives, thumb drives, etc.) are even less durable with time. A USB drive is suseptile to a lot of variations. I am not a scientist but living less than 3 miles from a Micron plant I have had enough conversations with chip designer to know (as well as from experience) that the chip inside a (current generation) USB drive requires some amount of power to keep data stored. If that power is not replenished, the next time you plug in a dead drive you’ll charge and prepare it on a clean slate – losing your data. Note: I’ve got no facts to back me up on this – just an understanding correct me if you know better.
Bottom line – things change; don’t make one of those physical, technology, or other cause you to lose your important data. Back it up, back it up often , think fail over. By the way, one of our readers (Z) is near Hiroshima – I’d be interested to hear about technology in Japan – they always seem a bit ahead of the rest of us.