Recently, I got a fantastic lesson in the limits of digital storage. Searching for a paper that I wrote years ago, I tore through piles of CDs and zip disks. Still missing it, I dragged out my external hard drive, which is formatted for a Mac, got my friend Katie to loan me her computer, and performed all sorts of arcane searches in my quest for the missing document. Although I found a few other useful documents that I didn't know I needed, I was unable to access the paper in question. Finally, desperate to find the damned thing, I dug into a storage container that was full of old work and publications that I had written years earlier. At the bottom, tucked into an archival folder, I found what I was looking for.
This horror story aside, I love digital storage. Cheap scanning and storage have made it possible for me to save thousands of family pictures, endlessly reproduce valuable documents and generally organize large, unruly parts of my life. That said, there's definitely a value to having hard-copy backups of important documents. After all, as wonderful as digital storage is, it can still be somewhat fragile. Worst yet, it requires a functional computer, which isn't always available.
This is why I'm currently a big fan of Staples. On April 15, 2008, Staples Copy & Print Centers across the country will provide free xeroxing of up to 20 pages of your tax returns. While you're there, pick up an archival folder or a resealable envelope. When you get home, just tuck it into your filing cabinet, and you'll be good to go if an auditor comes calling!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He loves Staples today, but his emotions are easily bought.