8 Tips for successfully keeping digital records for 25 years
In today’s digital age, the need to retain data for extended periods has become increasingly important. Every industry faces challenges to long-term data storage, whether it’s driven by regulations or simply the requirement for long-term access and use.
In this blog post, we will explore eight tips to help you successfully keep your digital records for the long term.
Tip 1: Digital records are different from physical records
It is crucial to understand that digital records require a different approach to retention when compared to physical records. While storing records in a controlled physical environment will ensure their longevity, digital records rely on hardware, software for accessibility and use.
Physical media such as USBs, CDs, and external hard drives have a limited shelf life, and are at risk of degradation and obsolescence. Software also evolves and can also become obsolete. To ensure the longevity of digital records, ongoing active management is necessary.
Tip 2: Successful retention requires a combination of technology, organisation, and resources
To effectively keep digital records, you need the right combination of technology, organization, and resources. The three-legged stool analogy (created by Anne R. Kenney and Nancy Y. McGovern) states that you must have the right tools, strategies, and expertise to successfully manage and preserve your records over time.
Tip 3: Take a risk-based approach to retention
Articulating the value of investing in proper archiving and preservation can be challenging. Taking a risk-based approach helps frame the conversation in a wider business context. By assessing the risks of data loss or inaccessibility, you can make informed decisions about the level of investment required for long-term retention.
Tip 4: Aim for a single repository for long-term records
Consolidating your long-term records into a single repository simplifies management and ensures easy access. By centralising your archived data, you can mitigate the risk of data loss or fragmentation across multiple systems. Additionally, a single repository facilitates data portability, allowing for easier migration to future technologies.
Tip 5: Prepare your data properly for archival
To ensure the quality and usability of your archived data, it is essential to prepare it properly. This includes conducting quality checks to identify any integrity issues or corruption. Assigning appropriate metadata to each file enhances searchability and enables better analysis of the data in the future.
Tip 6: Safeguard your data
Safeguarding your data is crucial to protecting it from hardware failures or data corruption. Storing data in multiple geographic locations reduces the risk of data loss due to unforeseen events. Regular integrity checks help identify any issues and allow for timely remediation. By implementing robust safeguarding measures, you can guarantee the long-term accessibility and usability of your data.
Tip 7: Preserve your data
Preserving your data involves maintaining preservation copies in formats that are likely to be usable in the future. As technology evolves, file formats may change, and it is essential to adapt your preservation strategy accordingly. Automated systems can help identify and preserve files in the most suitable formats, ensuring their long-term use.
Tip 8: Leverage industry best practices
Take advantage of the wealth of resources and content available to support your digital preservation efforts. Organizations like the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) provide guidance, tools, and maturity models to help you align with best practices. By leveraging these resources, you can enhance your understanding and implementation of effective digital preservation strategies.
Bonus Tip: The importance of good documentation
Proper documentation is crucial for the successful management of archived records. As staff members change over time, good documentation provides continuity and guides future stakeholders. Documenting processes, procedures, and metadata is essential for maintaining the integrity and usability of your digital records.
Successfully keeping digital records for 25 years or more requires a proactive and comprehensive approach. By following these eight tips, you can guarantee the security, accessibility, and usability of your data over the long term.
Remember, digital preservation is an ongoing process that requires continuous management and adaptation to evolving technologies.
By leveraging industry best practices and investing in the right combination of technology, organization, and resources, you can confidently retain your digital records for decades to come.
This blog post is a written version of a recently published podcast. You can listen to the full recording here.
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