Thinking About Digital Storage Media

We’ve been thinking about digital storage media in the Introduction to Digital Curation module, so I thought that I would think a little more about my personal digital storage media.

As a student (and member of the modern world) I like to be able to access my e-mails on the go, and take my work with me when I travel. I used floppy discs at school from around 2004, I’ve had my own computer or laptop since 2006, and a mobile phone since around 2000. It’s safe to say that I’ve accumulated a lot of different storage media over time. I tried to come up with a list of all the different kinds of storage media that I have used and the number of each type of that I have used. This is the result:

  • Computers: I currently have my own computer where I save personal documents and some university work. I have used my parents’ computer over the years (which accounts for the other 3, an estimated figure), and I am aware of some documents that are saved on their current computer.
  • Laptops: Over time have owned two laptops. One of them has now become my mum’s laptop, and all of my files were removed from that laptop. The other laptop accounted for is one I owned a long time ago (and which I broke). I still have it, but it is likely that it has some information on there which is currently inaccessible.
  • MacBooks: I currently own a MacBook (recent purchase for university, ad which I absolutely love), and on there I store my university work, some images, and some personal documents.
  • Floppy discs: I tried to think about the number of floppy discs that I used whilst at school. Knowing me, if I needed a floppy disc, then I would have had one for each subject, but i know that I didn’t have one for each subject. For this reason, I have estimated about 5, as I remember using them for AS and A Levels, but not for GCSEs.
  • USB sticks: I have absolutely no idea how many USB sticks I have used over time, so in a similar vein to the floppy discs, I have estimated about 5. I know of two USB sticks that currently hold information: one holds images, and the other holds documents relating to my voluntary work. The information on these two USB sticks is not replicated anywhere else, but I do not use these items anymore.
  • Google Drive: I recently used Google Docs for the group work element of some recent university coursework. Storing the documents on the Google Drive cloud allowed us all to access and edit the documents, without the faff of emailing different drafts of different things to each other. The documents stored here are, however, the drafts, and the final submission documents are stored on my MacBook.
  • Dropbox: I used the Dropbox cloud to store the documents that I collated and created during my undergraduate degree. These documents are not replicated anywhere else.
  • Blog/website: This blog is hosted by WordPress, and the content that I create for my blog is held in the WordPress cloud. This content is not replicated anywhere else.
  • Mobile phones: I have had rather a silly amount of mobile phones over time, definitely in double figures, probably around 15-17. I have absolutely no idea what has happened to these over time. Since 2009 I have only used an iPhone (see below)
  • iPhones: I currently use an iPhone 5S, but I have also had 5 other iPhones prior to the one I currently use. I have 5 of the 6 total iPhones in a drawer, and I got rid of the other one, but before doing so I did remove all of my data.
  • iPad: I have an iPad, but I don’t store any records on it. However, what the iPad, and iPhones do store are the applications that I use, and some of those include things like e-mails, and other personal bits and bobs.

I’ve been on the earth for nearly 29 years, but this seems quite a lot of storage media. (At this point I should probably add that I am very accident prone, I drop things, break things – all by accident of course – and that accounts for the high numbers of mobile phones, smart phones, laptops and MacBooks. I am getting less accident prone in terms of technology though, don’t hold it against me!).

A simple Google search shows many articles questioning the safety of cloud computing, but how safe is the information we store in the cloud? The storage media has a physical presence somewhere, so we have to hope that the people managing that physical storage media have done their risk analysis, are storing it in the appropriate environment, and have a full disaster plan just in case. I know that I have been guilty of assuming that my digital files held on Google Drive and Dropbox, and my digital content on WordPress is safe. If something happened to Google Drive and I lost the documents created as a group, I would not be too forlorn as I have the final submission copies held elsewhere, but I would worry about my accountability for the work that was produced, should I be asked to show the groups workings and Google Drive had stopped working. The same can be said for the documents that I have stored in the Dropbox cloud. I don’t hold copies elsewhere, but if my undergraduate degree was questioned, and I could not provide evidence of the work that I had done towards the degree, then there would be issues surround my accountability.

If WordPress stopped working or went out of business, then what would happen to this blog site? Would it be erased from the public domain? Would there be a way for me to access the editing suite and migrate my content elsewhere? Would people still be able to access my site? I’ve put a lot of time and effort into Learning About Archives, and I would be pretty devastated if something happened to the WordPress cloud and it was lost. Now that the Introduction to Digital Curation module at university has got me thinking, I need to find the answers to these questions, before it’s too late.

When you think about where your digital files are stored, it can all add up. Until now, I’ve never really thought about the management of my personal storage media. I probably have many documents stored in different locations at the same time, and in many different versions. Floppy discs have a short lifespan, and are susceptible to accidental wiping, Electromagnetic pulse, and electromagnetic interference by active wireless devices, such as mobile phones; laptops, external hard drives and and USB sticks are fairly robust, useful for short-term portable storage, but not for long-term preservation. (1) The information stored on the floppy discs that I once used is probably not very interesting, but unless I purchase a disc drive, the information is now inaccessible. The information that I have stored on USB sticks and laptops serves the purpose of being portable, but should I need the information in the long-run, I need to start thinking about implementing a better storage solution.

There is no need for me to keep the old iPhones and USB sticks that I no longer use, or leave files on different computers. Now that I’ve really thought about and identified all of the storage media that is now redundant or duplicated, it’s definitely time for an appraisal and a clear-out and re-think of my digital ‘stuff’.

(1) [Anon.], ‘Bitstream preservation’, Paradigm, (2008), <> [last accessed 13 January 2017], [n.p.].


One thought on “Thinking About Digital Storage Media

  1. moggie1984 says:

    Ooh, I love this and it’s got me thinking as well!
    You didn’t list external, portable hard drives…maybe because you don’t use them? These would have a huge capacity of storage. I use one and I do sometimes have files on it that aren’t saved anywhere else.


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