Storing your photo's for the future needn't be expensive though - but your system needs to be simple and robust, easy enough to do all the time, something that will become a natural part of your photographic work flow.
First things first, we need to understand the fragility of Digital Media. CF / SD cards get lost or formatted accidentally. CD / DVD Roms get scratched, lost, mislaid when moving house, or God Forbid destroyed by fire. Hard-drives fail. Websites and servers can be hacked, or just plain shut down. Prints fade.
Lets not get too depressed though, we can take sensible steps to avoid most of these potential problems, so this is my system and thoughts:
I'm not happy unless my photo's exist in at least three places, and for me at the moment this is: 1) On my hard-drive; 2) On CD-Roms; 3) Full resolution copies on Flickr.
This is my work-flow, after taking the images:
1) Copy the images off my SD card to my PC Hard-Drive via a card reader, then go through them on my PC to make sure they've transferred OK, using Windows Picture Viewer. It's important to "Copy" the images, and not "Cut" them. Faulty readers, leads or USB Ports can corrupt file transfers, and if you "Cut" the images from the SC / CF Card, there's no second chance. Once I'm happy all the files are in one piece, it's time for the next step;
2) Copy all the images to CD ROM. Then I check they're OK on the disc, then the disc is labelled and put away safely in a holder.
3) Now it's time to fire up the Flickr Uploader. I select all of the images, create a new, private, hidden set, tag them with the date, general location, then upload them.
Phew! All those images are now in three places: my hard-disc; a cd-rom; and on Flickr. I'd now be safe to format the original SD card (in the camera) and re-use it.
Ok, so to use my method the only special thing is a Flickr Pro Account, which costs about $25 a year, for unlimited uploads. Even if you lapse in your subscription Flickr keeps the photos, all you have to do to access them is to pay the subscription and they're available again. The limitation with using Flickr is that you can only upload .jpgs - no good if you want to upload RAW images. If you've got RAW files, or don't fancy using Flickr, look at Carbonite or Mozy, online back-up systems that will archive all your files, not just your pictures, but they're slightly more expensive.
One extra step that I might add to my Backup / Archive Strategy is off-site storage of my images on CD-Rom's / DVD's, in case of fire. So what I'll do is make a second copy when I burn the images, then take them over to my parents.
I hope this short article has helped you to think about your backup / archive strategy, and remember that if you don't back it up, you'll lose it!
PS, I couldn't resist doing a quick HDR still life!