14. Solutions before DMSSs become affordable: Small scale manual approaches to digital storage

In order to avoid the risk of losing audio content on original carriers that are in immediate danger of terminal decay, many sound archives cannot wait for a DMSS to be installed before copying such holdings to digital carriers.

To date, the following digital target systems/formats have been used in such cases: R-DAT, CD-R (audio format, as well as data format) and computer data recording systems such as DLT or LTO.

R-DAT, originally widely used as digital target format for the transfer of analogue audio, has lost ground dramatically because of format obsolescence. Also, in view of the availability of higher digital resolutions, the format has become less attractive. Although the same is true for the CD-R (audio) format, this medium is still widely used, particularly by smaller institutions, because of its financial feasibility. Due to a lack of standards and compatibility problems, however, CD-Rs and DVD-Rs can only be considered reliable after thorough testing. This is time consuming and implies significant investment in soft- and hardware for testing. IASA, therefore, does not recommend the use of either recordable CDs and DVDs as the sole digital target format for archives that cannot afford such test procedures (cf IASA-TC 04, 6.6).

Using a computer based system which incorporates tape formats such as DLT or LTO for nearline or offline access incurs greater expense, mainly because of the cost of the tape drives. For smaller amounts of storage, the use of hard disk drives (HDD) has become affordable. It must be noted, however, that in manual approaches, as opposed to automated storage systems such as DMSSs, the lower costs of hard- and software have to be offset against a considerably increased requirement for labour with all its implications in terms of risk to the carriers and personnel costs (cf IASA-TC 04, 6.5).