How long do you expect to keep a piece of data in any of your databases? Chances are if you’re like me, you rarely think about it and expect that you need to store all the data perpetually. As long as you have a job, and the database is being used by some system, you keep the data.
Over time that becomes a problem. Some companies are starting to examine the legal issues of old data, mostly emails, but potentially other records, and digitally shredding or removing that data over time. For others there are the problems of storage, with the raw space needed to keep all this data growing faster than hardware budgets. More and more companies are looking to archive data that is less used to ease the stress on their storage and backup systems.
However if you do decide to keep data forever, how do you do it? There are all sorts of issues with various techniques, and I have heard a few companies considering printing out the 1s and 0s and using a more durable storage medium like microfilm or even paper-like substrates that might last more millennia. There is a new type of disk that promises to last longer than ordinary discs thanks to it’s “etching” rather than “burning” process.
Whether it really works is something we won’t know for years, but I do know that the best solutions for now are migrating your data to new (and larger) storage mediums and crossing your fingers that any archived data on disk, tape, or DVD is still readable if someone asks for it.