File Formats for Long-Term Access

The file formats you use have implications for the preservation of your data. This includes what type of files you are archiving and how they can be accessed by authorized users in the future. 

Some resources for identifying good long-term preservation formats include:

While it is hard to have a specific recommendation for every type of data you may have, good long-term file formats typically have the following characteristics:

  • Non-proprietary
  • Open, documented standard
  • Common usage by the research community
  • Standard representation (e.g. ASCII, Unicode)
  • Unencrypted
  • Uncompressed

Regardless of which standards or formats you use, you should also document which software is necessary to access and use the data. The software may be a legacy system, however if the file format is an open standard such as .TXT, then the data will likely be recoverable.