My Personal Crisis of Digital Preservation

For a long time I was a big fan of Dantz Retrospect Backup. For while I was so committed that I would do an incremental backup of my laptop and most every other computer in my house every day, but I’ve been using it one way or another since 1999 or 2000 or so. All those backups have added up, and they’ve even saved me a couple times. I wish, of course, that I’d been using it previously, when my laptop was stolen in 1995, or when my hard drive failed catastrophically in 1997.

Now however, Dantz has been bought by EMC and merged into a Frankencompany that appears to have no interest in maintaining their Mac products. ComputerWorld has some ideas about how I can do backups going forward, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard promises to have a pretty sweet looking backup solution built-in. But, like Mark Pilgrim, I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to access the years of data archived away on those old Retrospect-formatted CDs and DVDs.

The problem is that, for a time, I was happy to delete stuff, knowing that I had a good backup on CD or DVD. So how will I be able to get those files back? How will I be able to go back into the digital shoebox and explore my past as I once did with photos — often still in their one-hour processing envelope with negatives?