'Archived': A dangerous word in the world of digital preservation - Arkivum

Archiving & Preservation / 31 May, 2024

‘Archived’: A dangerous word in the world of digital preservation

As I was perusing my emails one morning and clearing out the usual junk, I noticed a phrase that kept flashing up…’Archived’.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve had this thought, as we see the word almost daily across so many of the applications we use today. It’s synonymous with getting rid of something we no longer want to see. Out of sight and out of mind.

But for the uninitiated, it’s an extremely dangerous word.

It simplifies a whole industry, a field of expertise, a discipline and a process. Archiving and preservation in the digital sense is so much more.

But why is it dangerous?

The process of pushing a file out of site into another folder, gives us a false sense of security that that file will always be accessible and usable if I need it in future. In reality, and particularly with digital content you want to keep for decades or longer, it becomes increasingly at risk of loss, corruption or obsolescence.

The use of ‘archived’ in every day vernacular creates and feeds and general belief that any content which is archived is fine in perpetuity.

In reality this couldn’t be further from the case.


Risk of damage or loss

Effective long-term data archiving requires the right tools and processes to avoid data becoming corrupted or damaged. As far as I know, there is no technology that exists that completely protects a file from corruption. Therefore, for anything that we need to keep, we must be regularly checking that the integrity of the file is intact, and have a process in place to remedy it if something has gone wrong.

One approach to avoid corruption is to run regular data integrity checks across all you’re your digital content, while also maintaining multiple copies in different locations. This means that when a file is identified to have become corrupted (or looks different to how it was several years ago), it’s a case of replacing a damaged file with a healthy one.


Long-term legibility

Something often overlooked is the impact of ever-evolving hardware and software. Files which were easily read by a device today, will likely not be recognised by devices of the future.

The process of digital preservation can automatically ensure that files can be maintained in long-term formats, evolving with the technology of the day. In this way you can be confident that your computer (if we’re still using them) can recognise and open and of your files in future.


The danger of ‘archiving’ without archiving

These are just two examples of what digital archiving and preservation actually looks like, and it’s a big departure from simply moving something out of view.

Most applications we use today with an ‘archive’ feature are not in fact archiving your data properly. This theme can be extended beyond emails and messaging platforms, as it reinforces the belief that data is fine forever if it’s left somewhere.

This is why it’s a dangerous word.

As organisations and individuals generate more and more data over time, this is a very real challenge today and one which will continue to gain importance. And while most of my morning’s junk emails won’t be needed in 10 or 20 years from now, don’t be caught short with your more valuable digital content.



Tom Lynam

Tom is the Marketing Director at Arkivum. He joined the business in January 2020 tasked with driving new business growth and building the brand into new sectors such as Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences. He has over 12 years’ experience in several diverse marketing leadership roles across technology and professional services organisations.

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