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What is Future Proofing?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Future proofing is a process by which efforts are made to ensure that products and information made or stored today are still relevant or accessible in the future. This can be done in a number of ways, and can mean somewhat different things to different industries and endeavors. A software developer, for example, may try to “future proof” a program that is being developed by ensuring the code will likely work with innovations in programming and hardware that may occur in the future. Future proofing is not necessarily an exact process, but it typically relies on efforts made to envision technology and culture in the future.

The way in which future proofing is attempted, or achieved, can be quite different depending on the particular industry for which the proofing is being attempted. Software development is a major field in which future proofing of products is a concern. While updated versions of software will often become available and released, most developers want to ensure that software will still be usable with new hardware and other programs released in the future. If a company released a new product that is not compatible with a device released only a year later as a standard for many users, then that product would almost immediately seem outdated or irrelevant.

Computer hardware is also typically developed with an eye toward future proofing. Printers, monitors, motherboards, and internal hard drives are typically designed to work with whatever technology is modern at the time. The hardware should still work with technology that is released not long afterward, however, to ensure the company producing the hardware maintains a reputation of looking forward. Many customers want to feel that the technology they buy is a reliable investment for a relatively long time, and future proofing is one way to give customers confidence in their purchases.

Future proofing is also relevant with regard to how data or information is stored and recorded. Film, for example, has a major flaw in that it is hardly future proof in any sense of the term. Celluloid is notoriously flammable and hundreds of original films have been lost due to studio fires; celluloid will also break down over a relatively short time and become the consistency of jelly. Digital means of data storage are typically designed to avoid these types of physical degradation, but are also intended to be relevant in the future. Future proofing for data storage means the physical media should be durable, and the format in which the data is saved should remain readable in the future as well.

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