Digital storage and archiving = digital decay?
The quantity challenge
Commercial enterprises invariably store information and records, which may be required for a range on external demands, primarily legal and regulatory. The rationale is that huge quantities of data and records can be stored, retained on a more cost effective, efficient basis and accessed on a timely basis. There is a similar trend to take the same approach for academic historical, heritage and, indeed, personal records. The act of capturing data for storage and retention goes under the designation of "archiving."
What are the acts of digital storage and archiving and do they differ?
- Digital storage focuses on addressing "the quantity challenge": making the process cost efficient; storing as large quantity of data as possible in as small a space as possible; making all data easily accessible. In summary data is piled high in relatively simplistic form for access in as simple and cost-effective form as is technically feasible.
- The methods currently deployed for secure storage of comprehensible data are highly labour intensive.
- Digital storage lacks an automated basis to determine the data's value both currently, and in the future. So the approach lacks any sense of human evaluation and judgement.
- There is no long-term business model for digital archiving. Like all facets of technology, there are built-in redundancy and obsolescence factors to storage. Digital storage technology has maintenance costs, which increase as the technology ages. New technology makes contemporary storage techniques obsolete and ultimately there is a compulsion to migrate to the next generation of storage technology.
The creation of archives involves a number of conscious acts. Initial choice to archive in the first instance supported by some rationale, selection of material and organisation of the form and presentation of the material.
- IT follows that archiving demand trained and experienced individuals to manage and control the archiving process, which extends beyond the retention and maintenance to pruning, reduction and in some instances ultimate destruction of archives.
- The skills and resources, which have historically been channelled into archiving, have endowed archives with integrity, usability and even immortality.
- Archiving has historically been conducted using one permanent medium to maintain material for as long as required, normally paper or some other form of visual material.
- The digital age is producing data at such a rate and volume but which traditional archiving techniques involving the human intervention and judgement are unable to address at the pace or rate data is being produced. Moreover there would be a huge costs to deploy the conventional human techniques.
Until an automated mechanism for determining what data means and its long term value, huge quantities of data will continue to be collected with less than cursory assessment of its value, present or future. Traditional archiving techniques are falling into disuse, but are not being replaced, only substituted by storage.