Friday, March 13, 2015

Networked Information's Risky Future: The Promises and Challenges of Digital Preservation

Networked Information's Risky Future: The Promises and Challenges of Digital Preservation. Amy Kirchhoff, Sheila Morrissey, and Kate Wittenberg. Educause Review. March 2, 2015.
There has been tremendous growth in the amount of digital content, which has great benefits. But digital objects may be extremely short-lived without proper attention to preservation. "What are the odds that twenty years from now you will be able to find it and read it with whatever device and software you will be using then? What will be the cost to locate and reproduce the original files in a format that is usable in twenty years?" How do we ensure that our content is truly safe? There are a lot of questions to be answered. A few points:
  1. Near-Term Protection: Backup. Imperative for continuity of operations. Multiple copies in multiple locations will provide for near-term access. 
  2. Mid-Term Protection: Byte Replication. Create multiple identical copies of files and preferably store in other locations. Don't rely on special software for access. These byte replicas will provide content that is authentic and accessible for as long as the file formats remain usable.
  3. Long-Term Protection: Managed Digital Preservation. Establish policies and activities, including those above, to manage content over the very long term. 
Four goals are key to successful managed digital preservation:
  • Usability: The objects must remain usable with current technology.
  • Discoverability: The objects must have metadata so they can be found by users over time.
  • Authenticity: The provenance of the content must be proven.
  • Accessibility: The content must be available for use by the appropriate community.
An organization that wants to successfully preserve digital content needs to have, among other things:
  • A preservation mission
  • An infrastructure to support digital preservation
  • An economic model that can support preservation activities over time
  • Clear legal rights to preserve the content
  • Understand needs of stakeholders and users
  • A preservation strategy and policies consistent with best practices
  • A technological infrastructure that supports the selected preservation strategy
  • Transparency of preservation services, strategies, customers, and content
The three items are required elements of long-term preservation and are appropriate steps in protecting content through preservation. There are best practices available. Institutions starting out should inventory their content, have good backups, and create a long term plan. There us still much to learn. "Ultimately, it is the responsibility of those who produce and care for valuable content to understand preservation options and take action to ensure that the scholarly record remains secure for future generations."

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