Time was the end result of a composer’s efforts was a score and parts on paper. And paper is surprisingly durable – they are still finding Bach manuscripts in Germany after 250+ years. But 21st century composers use a variety of digital media to do their work: notation software, MP3 or .wav files, executable application files and maybe some spreadsheet and word processing files for the business side.
Apart from the variety of files to be stored there is the issue of media durability. We have all probably experienced hard drive failure. Turns out CDs and DVDs are not forever and may degrade after 20 years. Files kept in the cloud may be at risk if the server has some sort of catastrophic failure. And another issue is platform longevity – some of the early music composed by computer 30 years ago can exist only as recordings; the hardware needed to realize it is obsolete and no longer available. Software may be abandoned by the company that created it or your version may not be compatible with later operating systems.
So what is the best thing to do? I know I don’t address all of these issues but I do keep my files in three places: on my PC hard drive, on an offline storage drive (updated from my hard drive twice per year) and in the cloud. My notation software is on a CD so I can reload if my PC fails, and other software that I use is freeware and I keep back-up copies of the executables.
So what is the best practice? What are some of the solutions for the long-term issues? What do you do and what have you found that works best?