Understanding and Averting Legacy Media Deterioration
(And a Solution for Storage)
By Siri Raasch
Up until recently, your media was physical: tapes, discs, drives, film, etc. We know this legacy media holds priceless institutional, aesthetic, and sentimental value, which is why it must be protected against the inevitable deterioration of a physical format.
What causes legacy media deterioration?
Some conditions that can lead to media loss include:
- Frequency of use
- Age of the tape or film
- Poor storage conditions (heat, moisture, and dust)
- Physical damage to the case
- Internal mechanism breakdown
- Compatibility issues, like trying to find or repair a tape deck
Threats to your physical media are varied and can be surprising. Chemical degradations, such as “vinegar syndrome” (the breakdown of cellulous acetate film, characterized by a vinegar smell) can spread contagiously between reels of film. Magnetic tape, by itself durable, is often surrounded by materials which degrade more quickly and cause damage.
One might assume that newer formats, like DVD or Blu-ray, are enduring, but even these can be at high risk of deterioration if stored in improper temperature or humidity. Neither hard drives nor flash drives are immune. Repeated overwriting or extended periods of non-use can both render a drive unusable.
See the table below for the average lifespan of various formats, under ideal archival conditions. If your media is not currently or has not always been properly stored, the lifespan can be dramatically shorter.
Media format life expectancy with proper storage
Solid state drives
We can help keep your legacy media safe
With a good plan for migrating your media to a digital archive, you’ll never have to worry about losing legacy media again. Aldis has the expertise and resources to archive and protect your media. More than that, our system is intuitive and purpose-built to make your media easily accessible, aiding workflows and putting all your legacy media at your fingertips.