This is the second post entitled ‘What will my data look like in the future’. If you’d like to read it before this one, you can do that here.

The world seems to be moving towards an increasingly open approach to file and data formats. This can only be a good thing: vast amounts of data from the 70s, 80s and 90s are as good as lost because we can no longer read the file formats the data was written with. In the late 1990s we saw the standardisation of XML and PDF, whilst more recently Office document formats have started to become standardised. For images, JPEG2000 offers a significant improvement over the older JPEG standard.

With the rise of the Web and cloud computing, not to mention the democratisation of access across traditional PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones, as well as household appliances, the competitive advantage of a closed file format that no-one else can understand is being replaced by that of a format that everyone can understand. Users no longer create files, they create content, and share it on the web or store it to the cloud so other users and applications can use it. The abstraction of a ‘file’ no longer necessarily exists: the data that is represented by that file may be stored as part of a larger disk file (e.g. a database record) or in multiple geographically disparate locations. Increasingly, data is better represented as streams, rather than files.

These data streams however are still formatted in a specific way, and will have to adapt and be migrated to remain useful to the current and next generations of access devices and users. There are really two choices here: the data can be transformed “on the fly” to suit the access device or application, or the data can be proactively migrated in readiness for the expected access. Both are valid options for archive data, depending on the specific use case and access profile for that data.

Migrating an entire archive’s worth of data from format A to format B is costly, but may prove cheaper than attempting to transform the data on demand when it is accessed, especially if a large proportion of that data is expected to be accessed and the required format is known. If, however, you do not expect the data to be accessed or cannot predict how it will be accessed, the on demand approach is more favourable.

Our strategy at Arkivum is to aim to beat data obsolescence by migrating data before technology obsolescence kicks in, and would encourage our customers and users to do the same. We favour open technologies over closed or proprietary ones because this allows us to more easily understand the inner workings should we have to. If you want to learn more about what Arkivum can do to avoid data obsolescence for your data we recommend watching The Arkivum Data Archiving Service – How It Works.

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