Your file format largely determines whether or not you can open a file at a later date. Proprietary file formats require the proper version of the proprietary software. Non-proprietary, or open, formats are preferred because they are independent and more durable formats. Saving your data in open, unencrypted and uncompressed formats will make your data usable for years to come. If you can’t save your data in an open format, consider including the software name, version, and parent company in the accompanying readme.txt file for future users. Preferred file formats include:
For more in-depth discussion, see the Library of Congress’ Sustainability of Digital Formats web site.
Backing up is something we all know we should do, but often don't. For those high-value files, such as your original research data, use the Rule of Three:
Making your file names descriptive and standardized will make them easy to understand later and more useful to others. Choose a file naming convention, detail it in a readme.txt file, and stick with it.Consider including: