Bit rot, or the slow deterioration in the performance and integrity of data stored on various forms of digital storage media, is a real concern for photographers. Over time, digital photos degrade and some even become totally defective. The best insurance against this problem may actually be analog film.
Digital photography offers a lot of advantages over the analog process. Namely, it's a lot cheaper and it allows a greater degree of freedom when shooting. Images are also more easily manipulated and with greater sophistication. But digital photography also has its disadvantages, too. One big one is bit rot. I have been shooting digital for about 15 years and, already, I have degraded or defective images. Now, this is certainly by no means a huge percentage of my files but imagine if one of those images was one of my "greatest shots." In some cases, the degradation is only slight, but it is still perceptible. I have some files that are totally gone, that is they won't open at all.
Bit rot is not the only thing I have struggled with in the digital realm, though. I have also just plain lost images. This has happened when I have switched recording formats, computers, etc. Some photos I only had stored in clouds and then lost when I closed accounts (Facebook, for example). The point is many digital photographs I have made in my lifetime are simply gone in one way or another, from one thing or another. Others are degraded or defective. Yet, I have every single image I have ever shot on 35mm film. My negatives have followed me halfway around the world on every move and are still as good as the day they were developed. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that negatives cannot be damaged or lost, they can. I'm simply saying, in my experience, I have all of my analog images and I do not have all of my digital ones. So it goes. Your experience may be different.
For me, I like the idea of archiving analog film but I also like the idea of shooting digital. If only I could have the best of both worlds. Wait, I can. Some years ago I discovered a company called Gamma Tech, which still maintains and operates a film recorder. In fact, I believe they are the only company still offering this service! A film recorder is a big and expensive (and becoming obsolete) machine that allows one to make analog negatives from digital images. The service is not cheap, about $5 per negative for 35mm. They also make medium format negatives and slides. Yet, this could be a very big bargain if it provides added insurance against losing my very best images. I don't advocate for archiving all of your images on analog film. The price would be insane. However, I would argue for you to archive your top 50 images in this way. You know those totally iconic photographs you've made, the ones you cannot imagine living without? Put them on film. Get physical negatives as added insurance. A physical, analog negative is stable for more than 100 years (in reasonable storage conditions) and can be read with the naked eye. It is a physical, tangible "thing" that you can hold in your hand. You can also hold it up to a window and read the information. I bet you even have some of aunt Betty's negatives around from the 60s and 70s. Likely, she kept them in a shoebox, but they survived, didn't they? What about those photos you posted to MySpace in 2005?
Analog film is such a stable archival format that Hollywood still uses it to archive their films, even the ones that were fully shot in digital format. Yup, that's right, they make an analog copy on 35mm and then place that in the vault. Why? Because they also agree that it remains the best insurance against loss or damage over the long term. It's also a format that is not technology dependent in the way many digital formats are.
Some detractors will point out that this method essentially produces a "copy" of the photo on the negative and will, therefore, cause a loss of quality. True. It does work in this way, but all the info needed to digitally regenerate the image will be on the negative. That is, things like contrast and tone can be rebuilt digitally once the basic info is scanned in. The idea is not to have the negative to make prints (although you could) but rather to have a physical thing from which to restore a digital file should it ever be needed. Others may point out that if digital images are stored correctly (everyone will have their own preferred or touted workflow), they are in no jeopardy. There is no scenario where this statement is totally true, just like there is no scenario where analog negatives are totally protected. The idea is to have both, to double one's chances, as it were, of not losing an image because it was only stored in one place or in one format. Even multiple copies of a digital file are vulnerable to the fact that they are all stored in the same format — a format that depends on a particular technology to read.
Do I sound crazy? Maybe. But look at it this way, the only way to make a physical, tangible record of your most prized photographs is to make prints (which I also highly recommend) or analog negatives. Most people recognize that prints are a good backup. Stored properly, they too can remain stable and provide a backup for decades and decades. Making an analog negative is just another form of physically archiving your work. Why not add it to the mix? Most photographers will never make more than 50 or 75 truly great images in their lifetime. Even Henri Cartier-Bresson is ultimately known for just a handful of images. Commercial photographers like Helmut Newton or Richard Avedon, who made hundreds of great photographs, are still only remembered for a handful of iconic images. Having an analog archive of your handful of "great" images seems to make good sense. Suppose you have 50 fantastic photos. That's only $250 to have total peace of mind. Get your negatives, put them in your fire safe or bank vault, and sleep well at night.
Note: I have no affiliation with Gamma Tech, nor do I receive any compensation for referrals or promoting their services.