Like every other dad with a digital camera, Kai Pommerenke started taking lots of photos after his daughter was born. But the more he researched, the less convinced he became that those pictures would still be around when she grew up. Hard drives crash. CDs and DVDs warp. Companies that store your photos online can go out of business. Pommerenke wanted a solution that would last forever.
"People definitely have a false sense of security," Pommerenke says. "Digital data is fragile. You have to do something active in order to preserve it." Pommerenke found a solution. His new non-profit organization reportedly will preserve digital photographs, audio, video, text, blogs, status updates, or anything else kept in a digital format, forever.
His service, Chronicle of Life, aims to ease he worries by devoting the same level of care to personal digital files that large institutions give to their own data.
Pommerenke says his service will perform daily, weekly, and monthly backups of all data to servers spread across the U.S. and in Ireland. Software checks all data regularly to make sure the files that users uploaded have not been corrupted.
If specific file formats such as the now-ubiquitous JPEG format used for digital photos ever become obsolete, Pommerenke promises that the service will convert all uploaded files to whatever the new standard has become.
Historically, the biggest cause of loss of photographs and other data has not been hardware problems. Most data loss is caused by humans; they lose the files or forget to copy them to a new computer or perhaps erase them accidentally. Then there is the problem of how to preserve these files for your family after your death. Chronicle of Life plans to solve all those problems.
Numerous companies claim they will store your data; but, all commercial companies also face the financial realities of making a profit for the owners. Chronicle of Life claims to overcome this problem by working as a nonprofit. While companies can change their business models at will if they're not making money, Chronicle of Life by law must commit all the money it raises to its promised mission of preserving data forever, Pommerenke says.
Yet even a nonprofit must raise enough money to keep operating. Chronicle of Life charges one dollar per megabyte of data stored, about the size of an average digital photo. Users must buy at least 10 megabytes. That's a huge markup over the cost of storage on today's hard drives or flash drives, which run to a small fraction of a cent per megabyte. For-profit companies offer online storage of photos and other data for much less. Pommerenke believes the higher prices are justified because hardware costs are only a fraction of the new non-profit's operational expenses. Three-quarters of all payments received go into an endowment that sticks to conservative investments like government bonds to make the service self-sustaining. The earned interest is used to pay for servers, high-speed Internet connectivity, and the personnel to keep everything running forever.
However, digital preservationists say that no one can really guarantee that data will be preserved forever. You do the best you can, the experts say, but check back in 100 years.
You can learn more about Kai Pommerenke's new non-profit at http://www.chronicleoflife.com/ and especially at the "About Us" page at http://www.chronicleoflife.com/aboutus