In case you ever wondered why you should worry about your files, here is a good reason: watch this short video done by the Library of Congress (3 minutes). It will remind you how fragile it is to be “all digital”.
If you started working on computers before the turn of the millennium, there is a good chance you have had the pain and panic joy to migrate valuable files from “floppies”, “ZIP drives” and other deceased mediums to safer grounds.
In most cases, this is an uneventful job. Unless you run out of compatible hardware, which happened to me when I tried to restore 2GB DAT tapes from 1998 on a newer HP DAT DDS3 streamer. Even though the device was supposed to be backward-compatible, this turned out to be not the case. I was lucky enough to have a friend that still owned an older device (and older SCSI controller) that was able to read the tapes.
After I recovered the files, my quest for a compatible restore program started – the backup was written in a format that is no longer commonly available (even though the company is still around). A job I intended to complete in one hour ended up taking three weeks, along with lots of anxiety and plenty of frustration.
Argh. No Metadata!
The old tape backup contained mostly images, documents, spreadsheets and a few presentations. About half of the files have been created by myself, the other half was created by colleagues. I was grateful to have all the applications around that were needed to read the different file formats. However, the file and folder names didn’t convince me at all that I found what I was actually looking for. Needless to say, none of the files had any meaningful metadata in its headers.
The Truth is not in the File
I ended up spending a lot of time loading and viewing the actual files itself – just to see if they contain what I am looking for. I wish I would have had the comfort of files with metadata tags.
The file browser in Windows Vista / Windows 7 as well as Mac OSX offer a comfortable way to do this now, and tagging files there is usually easier there than in the application itself. The fields that are offered are good enough for basic tagging. If you need more specific fields or if you want so peek deeper into file metadata, take a look at special tools such as our product FileMind.
Even if you only edit two or three fields, this will tremendously increase your chances to find the right file again – a real time saver!
If you work in a large organization with the luxury of an ECM system (SharePoint, Documentum etc.), this is still important. The metadata details that are visible to you in the ECM system are most likely not updated inside the file metadata – you are out of luck once you check-out files and have them on your PC.