Order from Chaos

I spent much of the last two days organizing and reducing the number of my digital archive and software disks. I’m an organized person, when I archive work files I put a label on the disk and a list of contents on the case, and I have a system. Work files large enough to fill a disk get their own name, but most go into catch-all disks labeled Old Files. When I began with my first desktop Mac in 1994 I was saving things on floppy disks, then storing larger amounts on SyQuest disks, remember those? A bit later I was using Zip Disks, which I think held a whopping 100 MB. When CD burning became an option, I jumped on, happy to get 700 MB on one, it seemed a vast amount of space. But, as in all things computer, files kept getting larger, and when DVD burning began I moved to that, and again 4.3 GB seemed lots of room. This past weekend I archived about six months of work and it took up six DVDs. I know there are other options, removable hard drives for instance, but I like DVDs for now, I just have to make sure I have space for them.

The image above is “after,” I wish I’d thought to take a “before,” with piles of disks crammed everywhere, including the shelf above, but I’m sure you can imagine. Another thing that’s hampered neatness is the change in size for disk holders from the regular jewel-case to the much thinner type, which are handy since two of them fit in the space of one jewel-case. So, in addition to combining CDs onto one DVD, I had to move many disks into thin cases, and create new thin labels for those thin edges in Illustrator. But by far the most time-consuming thing is combining the files. For instance, I had Old Files 1-14 (1994 to 2004) on four CDs, and they’re now on one DVD. The process takes about an hour. I still have some things on CD, it just takes too long to do them all, but I did manage to fill an entire trash can with no longer needed disks and covers, so I think I did well, and there’s now plenty of room for more. Plus I eliminated a few other piles of out-of-date software installation disks, and disks people sent me with work files on them, something which doesn’t happen too often now, but used to. Oh, and I know burned disks have a shelf life, but I’ve yet to have one go bad on me, and the older files keep getting moved to newer media formats, so I think I’m okay. No doubt someone will come out with a new format in a few years that holds even more data, and I’ll go to that.

Creating order from chaos in the studio is one of those things that gives me a lot of personal satisfaction, even if I rarely use any of the material on the disks. When I need to, I know it’ll be a lot easier now.

And after typing the title of this post, I thought, “Someone in New York should have a Chinese restaurant named Chaos so all the jokers in town could order from it.” Come to think of it, a Greek deli would be even better…!

5 thoughts on “Order from Chaos

  1. Matt

    Todd, a piece of advice from a fan…321 backup!

    3 backups
    2 different media
    1 offsite

    Ive gone thru this over the past few months, I have Dropbox for online backup and a few external drives. They are so cheap that it’s worth the expense.

    Just something to consider… 🙂

  2. Uthor

    I, too, wonder if you have an offsite solution. I started using Dropbox to backup My Documents, but the 2 GB limit prevents me from using it for more and the pricing for more space is too much for me. I’ve been looking into Mozy, which is unlimited space for a fairly reasonable yearly price.

    Do you have a daily backup system for current work? I think you mentioned something about it when your computer broke down a while ago.

    Hard drives are so cheap these days. I just got a 1 TB drive for $60 and put it into an enclosure. That’s enough to backup my entire computer four times over. After the initial backup, incremental backups are a snap and less intensive than burning discs (which is what I used to do and should probably still do for my most critical things).

  3. Todd Post author

    I have my entire hard drive backed up twice daily on an internal second drive and an external drive, so current work is safe. Old work that’s archived is rarely ever needed, it’s all in the hands of the various publishers, so I’m happy with DVD backups. My most important files like my own fonts are backed up offsite.

  4. Bernardo

    Todd, your article describes what most of us have had to go through at one time or another. Welcome to the club 🙂

    I think that great care should be given to content naming, so as to make archival easier. My convention for work-related directories and files is the following:

    Directories: _
    Files: __.

    Dates are stores in ISO format (year-month-day) so file managers sort them by date automatically.

    File example: 2010-01-25_cost_analysis_for_customer_A_v1.xls
    Directory example: 2010-01_CUSTOMER_A

    So later I have no trouble archiving all customers from Jan 2010.

    Bernardo.

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