Forever preserves memories forever, or at least for the life of the owner plus 100 years. It sounds simple, but it’s not. I spoke with the Glen Meakem, President of Forever, reviewed their documents, and set up a trial account.
Forever is a great idea. Forever has even applied for a patent on their business process. What Forever does is to charge a relatively high price for storage and then place the payment in a reserve account where the money is released to the company a little bit at a time (around 4% per year). It’s like insurance for your data. And while the system is not fool-proof, it does provide motivation for the company to continue to maintain and preserve electronic files. As Glen Meakem commented, “My best incentive is to make sure customers are happy and have more confidence in us.” To a large extent, he is right. The only way Forever can grow and attract new customers is if they believe in the company
Forever needs additional independent oversight and assessment. The way the system is set up, Forever’s management has an incentive to say that everything is fine and future storage costs will be low. Management is able to collect more money from the reserves that way. It’s all too easy to say, “Yes, we are doing a good job.” A good starting point would be a Board of Advisers with expertise in data preservation specifically tasked with evaluating the company’s long term data preservation plans and the adequacy of their reserves. Independent financial auditing is good, but auditors do not generally have expertise in data preservation.
Forever provides the Terms of Service on their web site, but not the more important Investment Policy for the Forever Guarantee Fund. As Facebook has proven, Terms of Service can be easily changed at any time for any reason. The Investment Policy is more difficult to change, particularly if it is made readily available to current and potential customers.
Now for the problem. As it is currently structured, Forever requires all files to be in JPG or PNG. Unfortunately, the files I want to preserve are files for the photo books and other documents I have created, not the individual photo files. These files are PDF files. JPG and other photo files generally lack identifying and contextual information. In addition, photo files multiply and quickly become overwhelming 0n hard drives and other media. I don’t want to inflict all my photo files on future generations. What I want to preserve is the electronic copies for photo books and other projects that contain additional information and details related to the photos. Forever suggests storing books and other projects as individual image files, but this solution is poor. Once a photo book or other project is separated into individual page files, it is all too easy for individual files to be lost or corrupted. This recommendation is like saying the best way to preserve a book is to tear all the pages out.
According to Glen Meakem, “PDF is coming.” I think I’ll wait, and I hope it is soon.