Archiving is the process of managing image data throughout its life taking in to account the probability of access being required. The likelihood of an image file being required decreases with time, eventually reaching a point where it is almost never used. At some point during this period, the data must inevitably be considered inactive, and needs be moved from primary storage to archive storage. Valuable images should of course always be duplicated to a secure archive even while they are being accessed from primary storage.
In recognition of the difficulties of finding a safe, long-term and practicable medium for storing digital images, some manufacturers produce "image vault" products. These are available in ever-increasing capacities but their key characteristic is that they are claimed to be safe for up to 100 years. A period of this length would appear to be adequate for most needs, although not all, but the problem of ever-advancing technology remains a concern. Will the means to read images stored on a current day image vault product be available in the 22nd century? No one can answer this question, but reference can be made to history. Does anyone still have the means to read an 8.5" floppy disk of the type used in the 1970s. Maybe, but the reader might not be easy to find!
Another image vault approach is offered by companies that allow on-line archiving of material. This is as secure as the servers on which the data is stored, and is perhaps less convenient to access than a local storage device. There may also be a charge for the facility - perhaps on an annual basis. Otherwise, the availability of the facility may be linked to the provision of broadband or other services.