Organizations, businesses, and individuals invest considerable time and money in organizing and archiving digital data such as documents and photos. Whether writing on cave walls, or printing books, or creating an online presence, we depend on our data to be accessible and have longevity. So, when the technologies we depend on are no longer supported, it’s hugely disruptive and erodes the digital equity of society.
Examples of Digital Erosion
Here are some examples:
- Photos. On 12 February 2016, when Google discontinued support of the Picasa software and cloud photo sharing service, millions of people were left with photo albums that needed to be migrated to some other platform. Some people would be without the means to make that migration.
- Videos. When Apple discontinued support of their Final Cut server solution for professional video production studios, many projects needed to be clumsily migrated to another platform. Some people would be without the means to make that migration.
- Scanned Documents. When Neat announced it would no longer be supporting their scanning solution of 14 years, this meant many people had to switch to their new scanning solution that didn’t integrate will with older implementations and was too slow to use, leaving millions without a working solution. Some people would be without the means to make that migration.
Changes in company ownership, changes in technologies, cultural changes, and mass migrations to new platforms leave older systems vulnerable to abandonment.
Here are some other scenarios that result in disruption:
- Companies sometimes experimentally release products to the masses, learn from the process, and then shut down projects when they have the information they need.
- A company with an inferior product, might buy out their market competitor and then shut down one of the businesses.
- Customer service can get worse over time, making ongoing use of a product or service no longer practical.
- New versions of software can be buggy and unreliable. In some cases, new versions of software that are completely rewritten are worse than what they are replacing.
In all these scenarios, it’s as if the solutions no longer exist.
What You Can Do
Basic file systems in computers remain much the same. So, for example, if you store your photos, videos, or scanned documents in folders on your computer, and forgo using more elaborate software solutions to organize your data, you should be okay when migrating from one computer to another. In other words, don’t rely too heavily on a specific video editing program, or photo editing program, to organize or archive your information. Instead, maintain a folder system where the raw content is located.
For online sharing of text, photos, music, and videos, having your own website may be a better solution than using a variety of changing online services. However, keep in mind that website technology changes over time.
Most scanning software comes with OCR (optical character recognition) which allows your scanned documents to be searchable. This makes them discoverable and searchable on your hard drive since Windows and Apple OS X have the ability to index and search your hard drive for the contents of files. In this way, creating an internal filing system on your computer for browsing by topic, and also using the OCR document scanning features, you should be able to browse or search for files.
No company is too big to fail, and while we assume giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple will be around forever, their software and online solutions can change dramatically. So, this is where creating and using a lowest common denominator solution can produce the most reliable and least disruptive long-term results.