Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Using Open-Source Tools to Fulfill Digital Preservation Requirements

OSS4EVA: Using Open-Source Tools to Fulfill Digital Preservation Requirements. Marty Gengenbach, et al. Code4Lib. 2016-10-25.
     Open-source software has played an increasingly prominent role in digital preservation, such as LOCKSS, DSpace, and DROID. The number and variety of such tools has increased, there was a growing need among preservationists to assess how and when to adopt particular tools so that they could better support their institutions’ specific requirements and workflows.  Open-source projects allows the user community to contribute by developing and documenting tools.

There are some challenges with open source programming.
  • Perceptions of instability:  One challenge is the perception that these tools are "inherently unstable and therefore present a risk". 
  • Resources and funding: Administrators often are reluctant to commit resources to an open source project. Funding problems can threaten the long-term sustainability of open source tools.
  • System updates: Open source tools require regular patches, updates, and upkeep. Without this, the tool would be outdated, and open to security holes. "The choice to maintain an unsupported version of a particular open-source tool simply because it meets (or has been customized to meet) an organization’s needs is problematic. For what an institution may stand to gain from this tool in terms of functionality and local integration, it may stand to lose in terms of the stability of a mainstream code release, the risk to information security, and the likelihood that the tool in question will become increasingly less functional and reliable as it ages".
  • Integration. Integrating open-source tools into institutional workflows can be a challenge, taking into account software dependencies, system requirements, and local configuration to put the tools into a production environment. This can require a considerable time and resources. 
One of the possible benefits is that institutions can customize open source tools for use within a specific context, but that comes with its own hurdles, such as reducing the ability to draw on the user community.  The digital preservation open source landscape has evolved from a scattered set of standalone tools designed to complex software environments. "Nevertheless, these tools still are not watertight." There are real concerns about open-source tools that can pose serious risks to collections.

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