A cursory tour of web archiving

Web archiving isn’t a simple proposition because not only do web sites keep changing, but they also have links to other sites. So, I guess I should have expected that my search for web archiving tools would come up with a disparate array of answers. It seems that the gold-plated solution is to pay a service such as Smarsh or PageFreezer to periodically take a snapshot of a website and to store it in their cloud. The period is user-definable and can be anything from every few hours to every month or year. Smarsh was advertising its basic service at $129 a month at the time of writing.

A more basic, do-it-yourself facility, is the Unix WGET command line function for which a downloadable Windows version is available. This enables all sorts of functions to be specified including downloading parts or all of a site, the scheduling of downloads etc.. However, as you might expect with a Unix function, it requires the user to input programming-type commands and to be aware of a large number of specifiable options.

More limited services such as Archive.is are available to capture, save and download individual pages – and some of these are free to use.

Regarding formats in which web archives can be saved, the Library of Congress’ preferred format is the ISO WARC (Web ARChive) file format. However, I was unable to find any tools or services which purport to store files in this format: it sounds like WARC is being used in the background by large institutions who are trying to preserve large volumes of web content. Interestingly the web hosting service I use for the this blog actually offers backups in various forms of zip files; and indeed, it is zip files that I have used in the past to store web sites that are included in my document collection.

Based on this very quick and certainly incomplete tour of the topic of Web Archiving, I’ve decided I won’t be trying to do anything fancy or different in the way I use technology to archive my old web sites. The zip format has worked well up to now and I see no reason to change that approach. As for a non-technological solution to web archiving, the notion of creating and binding a physical book of the first five years of this OFC web site is becoming more and more attractive. There’s something very solid and immutable about a book on a bookshelf. I’m definitely going to do that, and have set the end of 2017 as the cut-off date for its contents – I’m busy trying to make sure that the Journeys are all at appropriate stages by the 31st December.

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