By now, regular backups are a normal part of your routine: your backup software automatically updates your archives every day and your duplicates once a week, and you diligently rotate backup media offsiteright? Even so, I recommend adding one final element to your backup regimen: archival DVDs.
If you've followed my advice, you already have archives of all your important filesgoing back several months or moreon each of two or more hard drives. You also have one or more complete, bootable copies of your main hard disk as it existed at some recent time. This is all good, but some problems remain:
I'm aware of several schools of thought regarding archival backups, so bear in mind that this is just one person's take on the process. In a nutshell, I recommend this: once a year, make a copy of all your backups (both archive and duplicate) onto a stack of DVDs, store them in a safe place, and then recycle the hard disk you use for archives by erasing it and starting over with a new, full backup. By doing this, you hedge your bets against hard drive failure, free up valuable space for archives, and give yourself a safety net in case you want to prune files on your primary hard disk.
I hasten to point out that DVDs don't last forever either, but if you store them carefully in a dark, cool, dry place, they should be readable for ten years. By the time you approach that point, if you still want to keep the data, you should migrate the contents of your discs onto new media.
To archive your data, obtain a big stack of recordable DVDs and follow these steps:
Now that you have a safe copy of all your data, you can consider deleting files to make extra space on your main hard drive, as I describe in the following section.