Your Internet Data is Rotting

May 17, 2019 Off By readly

MySpace, which recently lost 50 million files uploaded between 2003 and 2015, is not alone in encountering problems. As the internet grows, batches of old information are increasingly disappearing from it. From a story: Amazon cloud services, for example, also experienced a substantial outage in 2011 and another in 2017. Though temporary, and without actual loss of data, these outages left users without access to precious and important files for some time. Preserving content or intellectual property on the internet presents a conundrum. If it’s accessible, then it isn’t safe; if it’s safe, then it isn’t accessible. Accessible content is subject to tampering, theft or other sorts of bad actions. Only content that is inaccessible can be locked and protected from hacking. The internet currently accesses about 15 zettabytes of data, and is growing at a rate of 70 terabytes per second. It is an admittedly leaky vessel, and content is constantly going offline to wind up lost forever. Massive and desperate efforts are underway to preserve whatever is worth preserving, but even sorting out what is and what is not is itself a formidable undertaking. What will be of value in 10 years — or 50 years? And how to preserve it? Acid-free paper can last 500 years; stone inscriptions even longer. But magnetic media like hard drives have a much shorter life, lasting only three to five years. They also need to be copied and verified on a very short life cycle to avoid data degradation at observed failure rates between 3% and 8% annually. Then there is also a problem of software preservation: How can people today or in the future interpret those WordPerfect or WordStar files from the 1980s, when the original software companies have stopped supporting them or gone out of business?

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