…despite this huge increase in storage density and a similarly impressive improvement in power efficiency, one thing hasn’t changed. The lifetime over which data can be stored on magnetic discs is still about a decade.
We are supposed to keep our patient records for seven to ten years depending on your state regulations. Old digital media has a lifetime of about ten years. It is possible that records you trusted to an archive ten years ago may no longer be viable. The new storage discussed in the linked article is supposed to last a million years. I hope that will be long enough to satisfy any future statute of limitations.
I have never heard of a dental office failing to access old digital records because of media failure. On the other hand there are many potential problems with retrieving old records.
What medium are they stored on? If it is a floppy disk can you locate a floppy reader? Or even more of a problem if it is an old tape backup you are very unlikely to be able to find a device to read the data.
Even if you can read it what format is it? If it was stored fifteen years ago in 1998 it was based on Windows 98 (or possibly Windows 3) and a long gone version of your management software, possibly Dentrix 5. It is unlikely your new Windows 7 machine running the latest G5 will be able to read, manage or even display your information.
The linked article also has some interesting data on how rapidly our ability to store digital data has grown. Not that many years ago there was a worry that we would outgrow our computer’s data storage capacity and need to generate some sort of add on storage. Of course that never happened and never will.