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Is Your Strategy (or Lack Thereof) For Long-Term Digital Information Putting Your Organization at Risk?

In our previous look inside The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark, we saw that many of the options organizations are using to store long-term digital records and information are inadequate to ensure preservation and accessibility long into the future. Today, we explore the gap between practitioners’ awareness of the threat and steps their organizations are taking to protect digital information. The data reported here are from quantitative, survey-based research conducted by the IGI in Spring 2016.

Why aren’t organizations doing more to protect their digital information assets? Awareness of the problem is very high—97 percent. Yet, many are failing to take definitive action to ensure that their critical information assets are protected and accessible over the long term.

We asked practitioners what their organizations were doing to address the unique challenge of safeguarding their long-term digital records and information and to select all that applied. While it is good news to see that 44 percent are currently considering what to do (as the infographic shows), only 16 percent report that they are transferring data to a standards-based digital preservation system. Further, nearly a third of our respondents (31 percent), report that their organizations do not have a comprehensive approach.

Sixteen percent report postponing action until it is required—a risky strategy. As discussed previously, if you delay the steps necessary to safeguard your information from the start, degradation, corruption, and obsolescence can happen in the meantime. You may find when you need digital records and information they are not fully intact or that the costs (time, money, and technical resources) nGovernance of Long-Term DIgital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmarkecessary to access and read them are prohibitively high.

Finally, a third of respondents report that they are converting official records to a common file type (e.g. PDF, TXT, or CSV). While this approach might seem to work, for now, for certain types of documents, there is also the risk that the chosen file format itself might become obsolete. If you adopt a strategy of converting once (especially if you do not also retain the original format), yo
u also risk losing your vital information should such obsolescence occur. To be effective, digital preservation needs to be an active process. In addition, these simplified formats do not really work for certain content. You can’t preserve multimedia files (images, video, and audio, for example) this way. Further, other content, like websites, emails, spreadsheets, slide presentations, and maps, for example, lose their interactivity, context, and inherent value when saved this way.

Get your copy of The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark.

IGI Supporter, Preservica, has enabled us to make the full Benchmark available for immediate download at no cost.

There are two ways to get the Benchmark:

  1. Download from Preservica.
  2. Existing IGI Community Members can find it in the Community here. Not a member, yet? Join today.

Join us for an online event with Preservica to discuss the key findings of the Benchmark on June 8th, 2016 at 11:00 AM EST, 4:00 PM UK. Register today.

 
Goverance of Long-Term Digital Information

Is Your Archiving Strategy Broken? Our New Benchmark Shows that Most Organizations are Making Poor Choices for Protecting Long-Term Digital Information

Governance of Long-Term DIgital Information: An IGI 2016 BenchmarkIn our previous look inside The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark, we saw that most practitioners (98 percent) reported that their organizations keep or need to keep digital information long term (more than 10 years). Today, we explore where organizations are keeping that information. What we find is that often the options they choose put their information at risk of not being accessible in the future. The data reported here are from quantitative, survey-based research conducted by the IGI in Spring 2016.

According to our research, most organizations are not storing their long-term digital assets in a manner sufficient to ensure their long-term protection and accessibility. In fact, the top method is shared network drives. This option, like a number of the others listed (including ECM and EDRMS), even with additional backup or archiving, provides no inherent capability to address the unique requirements of this class of information. This exposes the organization to the risk of not being able to read and use these digital information assets in the future, for example, if your organization no longer supports or licenses a particular application or the file format becomes obsolete. In addition, shared network drives are notoriously insecure and nearly impossible to govern well, further exposing these assets to accidental or malicious tampering and deletion.

Organizations should seek out technological solutions that are purpose-built for the unique requirements of long-term protection and access. Unfortunately today, only a small percentage of organizations (11 percent) are employing these systems, putting vast swaths of critical information across the globe at risk.

Get your copy of The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark.

IGI Supporter, Preservica, has enabled us to make the full Benchmark available for immediate download at no cost. There are two ways to get the Benchmark:

  1. Download from Preservica.
  2.  Existing IGI Community Members can find it in the Community here. Not a member, yet? Join today.

Join us for an online event with Preservica to discuss the key findings of the Benchmark on June 8th, 2016 at 11:00 AM EST, 4:00 PM UK. Register today.

 
Digital Preservation Benchmark

Is Your Long-Term Digital Information at Risk?–Take a Look Inside the IGI’s New Benchmark To Learn Why It Is and What You Can Do To Protect It

Today, much of the information we create is born digital. Because most organizations keep digital information long term for various, business-critical reasons, they need to integrate digital preservation into their information governance (IG) strategies to make sure that information is protected and accessible into the future, or they risk not having that information available when it is needed.

In this look inside The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark, we explore how many organizations keep digital information long term and their reasons for doing so. The data are from quantitative, survey-based research conducted by the IGI in Spring 2016.

Governance of Long-Term DIgital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark

As part of our survey, we asked practitioners whether or not their organizations had digital records and information they keep or need to keep in excess of 10 years. As the infographic shows, an overwhelming majority of respondents (98 percent) reported that they do.

What are the digital records and information that organizations keep? We asked practitioners to tell us the reasons why they are keeping digital records and information for more than 10 years and to select all that applied. As the infographic shows, most organizations are keeping them for a range of important reasons (e.g., six of the responses were selected by over half of respondents). “Statutory, Regulatory, and/or Legal Obligations” led the way as the most common response (89 percent). This is consistent with other research by the IGI that shows reducing or responding to outside risks are common drivers of organizations’ IG policies. Indeed, these may be drivers behind a number of the options practitioners selected, here, for why their organizations keep digital records and information long term.

But a number of the reasons organizations say they are keeping digital records and information long term may have another side to them—regardless of whether organizations have to keep them, those digital information assets are likely to be important to the day-to-day functioning of the organization, too. “Human Resources/Personnel Requirements,” “Contracts,” “Corporate or Institutional Governance” were each selected by more than half of respondents and “Business Operations” by more than 40 percent, for example.

Regardless of the reason, digital assets should be considered business-critical, warranting formal steps to ensure that they are findable, readable, usable, and trustworthy long into the future. To do that requires a commitment to providing long-term protection and access as an inherent and critical part of an overall IG program.

Get your copy of The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: An IGI 2016 Benchmark.
IGI Supporter, Preservica, has enabled us to make the full Benchmark available for immediate download at no cost.

There are two ways to get the Benchmark:

  1. Download from Preservica.
  2. Existing IGI Community Members can find it in the Community here. Not a member, yet? Join today.

Join us for an online event with Preservica to discuss the key findings of the Benchmark on June 8th, 2016 at 11:00 AM EST, 4:00 PM UK. Register today.

 
Digital Preservation Benchmark

IGI’s New Industry Benchmark Exposes the Grave Threat to Information Over the Long Term

Our new Benchmark reveals that most organizations cannot ensure protection and access for critical long-term digital information despite accelerating legal and business requirements. It also calls for immediate action and provides insight and guidance to help organizations achieve compliance.

Our research reveals that the majority of organizations do not have a coherent long-term strategy for their vital digital information even though virtually all of them (98%) are required to keep information for ten years or longer. Further, while 97% of information professionals understand the need for a specialized approach to these assets, only 11% are storing them in systems specifically designed to ensure long-term protection and access. This gap has societal, economic, and legal implications.

Our research, supported by Preservica, provides a new benchmark for organizations to evaluate their capability and outlines tactics for closing this critical gap. It also reports on how leading organizations like Associated Press, HSBC, and the State of Texas have addressed this challenge.

The Governance of Long-Term Digital Information: IGI 2016 Benchmark also reveals that IG professionals charged with addressing this problem are highly aware (97%) of the unique challenge of opening, using, and relying upon digital files over the long-term. Namely, that accelerating innovation and technology refresh rates mean that software and hardware can be obsolete, making the information unusable, long before an organization’s legal need or business requirement to keep and use that information expires.

However, most organizations appear to lack a coherent strategy to solve this problem. An alarming majority of organizations (68%), for example, rely on shared network drives to store these assets, a technology that offers no inherent capabilities to protect or ensure access over the long-term.

“Every day it becomes easier and cheaper to store digital information,” said Barclay T. Blair, executive director and founder of IGI. “But every day we also see an intensification of global legal and business obligations to protect and provide long-term access to these critical assets. Our Benchmark shows that virtually every organization large and small across industry verticals faces this problem, but awareness of how to solve it is low. This concerns us.”

Preservica’s support has enabled the IGI to make the full Benchmark available for immediate download at no cost.

There are two ways to get the Benchmark:

1.       Download from Preservica.

2.       Existing IGI Community Members can find it in the Community here.

Also, we are holding an online event with Preservica to discuss the key findings of the Benchmark on June 8th at 11am EST, 4pm UK. Register today.

 
INformation Governance Initiative Digital Preservation strategy

Does Your Organization Have a Digital Preservation Strategy?

Learn Why You May Need One in IGI’s Interview with Preservica’s Mike Quinn

Learn Why You May Need One in IGI’s Interview with Preservica’s Mike Quinn

Whether you work in the public or private sector, if your organization is like most, you probably have digital records and information that you need to - or want to - keep for long periods of time. If that information is important enough for you to keep, you will want to be able to access it in the future.

However, hardware and software obsolescence may be putting your digital records and information at risk. Unfortunately, many organizations are not taking sufficient steps to ensure that this information will be findable, useable, or trustworthy into the future.

The IGI is interested in learning how practitioners are addressing these issues. We need your help in answering a quick, 5-minute survey, the results of which you can use to help benchmark your organization. All data you provide through this survey will be reported anonymously. The results will be made available through a report in May 2016.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Recently, the IGI caught up with Mike Quinn, Commercial Director at Preservica, one of our newest Supporters, to find out more about what organizations can do to better protect their valuable digital assets to ensure that it is both preserved and accessible in the future.

About Preservica

We asked Mike to tell us a bit about Preservica and what the company offers. “Preservica is a digital preservation specialist that has been at the forefront of software technology, research, and consulting in this emerging field since the late 1990s. Our active preservation solutions are used by leading businesses, archives, libraries, museums, and government organizations, globally, to safeguard and share valuable digital content, collections, and electronic records for decades to come,” he said. He went on to explain that the software is available in both on-premise or cloud format, is standards-based (OAIS ISO 14721), and is able to be integrated with leading Enterprise Content and Records Management Systems.

Long-Term May Be Shorter Than You Think

You may be wondering whether your organization even has digital assets that are at risk. We asked Mike to explain what constitutes “long-term” in the digital world and why it matters.

“Some portion of your digital records and information is likely to have enduring value to your organization, either for business value, or legal, regulatory, or compliance reasons. Some of it may even be considered of permanent value to your organization. This could include things such as annual reports,policy documents, intellectual property, and even the digitized history of the organization (e.g. videos, photos, emails, audio, and websites),” he said.

Clearly, the latter type of records and information—ones we need or want to keep permanently—are “long-term.” But hardware and software obsolescence may be putting other records and information at risk even if you aren’t keeping it forever.

Mike went on to explain, “Long-term can be thought of as 10 plus years. Many institutions undergo IT system refresh cycles at this frequency, and technology obsolescence can happen surprisingly quickly. Think of floppy disks, for example. Now, think of all of the other types of technology—software and hardware—that your company is no longer using or no longer supports.”

Obsolescence can happen even sooner depending on the technology involved. So, if your organization is keeping digital records and information longer than 10 years, it is time to think about putting in place a process to properly preserve them.

Archiving Versus Preservation: What’s the Difference?

So your organization is saving certain types of information. There are archiving features in some applications, for example. Or you may be saving in a back-up, ECM, EDRM, EIA, or other system. We asked Mike to explain the difference between archiving and preservation.

“Archiving is concerned with storing the ‘bits’ (ones and zeros) of digital records. Many archiving solutions will even include some form of durability, such as robust storage in case the bits get damaged over time. However, as technology refresh cycles accelerate, most of these archiving solutions are missing one critical focal point. You might be able to get all the ‘ones and zeros’ back in the future, but because file formats and software are moving at such an unprecedented pace, you probably won't be able to read the information using the software and devices of the future,” he said.

He went on to explain how preservation is different.

“Digital preservation goes beyond ‘bit level’ durability. For some digital records, it’s important that they are findable, readable, usable, and trustworthy long into the future. Digital preservation is an active process of ensuring that digital records are ‘future-proofed.’ Metadata is used to make sure that it is easily findable; fixity values ensure its authenticity; and active migration to new formats ensures that a digital record can be usable way into the future – even though the originating technology (file format, software,hardware, etc.) may now be obsolete,” Mike explained.

Is Converting to a Common Format Like PDF, TXT, CSV or Analog Option Like Paper or Film Enough?

Some organizations are attempting to address long-term preservation by converting to common file formats like PDF, TXT, or CSV or analog options like paper or film. When we asked Mike about these approaches he said they may be acceptable—at least for now—in some instances. However, he explained these strategies are often problematic, too.

“If you think about high quality digital images or complex, interactive digital content such as spreadsheets, email, and websites, conversion to a common format may not be feasible. Such conversions can lead to degradation of fidelity to the original, or significant loss in terms of functionality. A PDF of a photo isn’t the same quality, for example. A PDF rendering of a spreadsheet isn’t able to be manipulated like the spreadsheet could be. The same applies to conversion to analog options like paper or film. As digital content becomes more complex, multi-media and interactive, converting to a simpler, common format is not always an option. Further, in addition to these concerns, questions of provenance and authenticity remain. How do I know that the conversion process did not lose some important information?”

He also noted that even today’s common file types could be obsolete tomorrow. “Then there’s the issue of the long-term viability of any particular format and version level, itself. Remember, we may be talking about decades for some digital records. Committing to a single, common format that far into the future isa risk in itself. The ‘convert-once and forget it’ approach may not be the best option for vital digital records” Mike adds.

Where Does Long-term Preservation Fit into the Information Governance Lifecycle?

At what point in the information governance lifecycle should decisions about long-term preservation be considered? Mike explained that because of rapid technology refresh times, taking steps to preserve digital information should not be thought of as an “end of life” decision because by then, it may be too late. He argues that digital preservation can be thought of as a “best practice discipline for digital records of enduring value to the institution” and should be part of the process from the beginning.

“If a digital record is created with the knowledge that it is likely to have a long-term (10 years+) or permanent retention policy, the way digital preservation fits into the information governance lifecycle is this: If it’s vital to your institution, don’t just archive it. Make sure you future-proof it with digital preservation,” he explained.

He also noted that the individual parts that make up an entire record need to be taken into account.

“A digital record may originate and reside operationally in an ECM, RM, file share, or other operational system. That entire digital record may be quite complex – for example, an email with attachments. A good information governance policy will require all those components of an entire digital record to out live the life cycle of the IT systems they were created on,” Mike asserts.

Are Organizations Aware of the Challenges of Managing Long-Term Digital Records and Information?

Some industry sectors may be more aware of the issue of digital preservation than others. Education,Mike suggests, is the key to bridging the gap.

“Preservica has worked with the cultural heritage sector for many years. These ‘Memory Institutions’ understand the challenges of managing long-term records. That’s why many National and State Archives have very active digital preservation programs. Many forward-thinking corporations also understand the value of protecting their long-term history, and an increasing number now have digital preservation programs too. However, many organizations think that archiving and storing digital content is good enough, and there is generally a sense that this is not a business problem,” he said.

“Funnily enough, if you ask these people the same questions about digital content of personal value, you’ll usually get an answer along the lines of: ‘Oh yes, I’ve got some family photos, videos, etc. sitting on a disk, USB, or an old computer running MSDOS. I have no idea what’s on there and how I can read it!’ So no, I think there’s still a lot of education to be done to help organizations understand the specific challenges of managing long-term business records,” added Mike.

To help bridge the gap, Preservica has been involved in various education programs, workshops, and webinars in association with organizations such as the Archives and Records Association (ARA), the Information Records Management Society (IRMS), and the Council of State Archivists (CoSA). In addition, Preservica is supporting research with the IGI to better understand the level of awareness of these issues in the information governance community.

The Public Sector Faces Some Unique Challenges

We asked Mike to tell us more about the unique challenges faced by public sector entities in long-term digital preservation. He noted that public sector records usually face the additional challenges of legally mandated retention periods and accessibility rules. “This means that digital records might have a very precise long-term preservation requirement (e.g. 25 years, 100 years, or permanent) and a time at which those records may be opened to researchers and/or the public,” he explained.

The sheer volume of records that some public entities receive is another issue. Public sector archivists receive information from other government entities and are tasked with the preservation of large amounts of information.

“There’s also the challenge that many public sector archives are on the ‘receiving-end’ of records, for which they must take long-term responsibility. So the ability to take content simply, at scale, and in an automated fashion from a variety of ECM, RM, and Email systems is very important. That’s why having an open standards based, integrated and comprehensive digital preservation platform is important to public sector organizations,” he explained.

Research Initiative on the Preservation of Long-Term Digital Records and Information

In conjunction with joining the IGI, Preservica is supporting research into how organizations handle their long-term digital records and information. Please take a few minutes from your day to help us benchmark this important issue by taking our short survey. This one is quick, we promise!

 
Preservica IGI Supporter Survey Preservation

Preservica Joins the IGI and Supports New IG Research

We are pleased to announce that Preservica has just joined the Information Governance Initiative as a Supporter. The IGI’s work is supported by leading providers of IG products and services who join us in our mission to promote the adoption of information governance as the best practice for protecting and monetizing data.

Preservica provides digital preservation software that helps its clients from around the world to ensure that their vital long-term and permanent digital records remain findable, useable and trustworthy into the future.

Research Initiative on the Preservation of Long-Term Digital Records and Information

In conjunction with joining the IGI, Preservica is supporting research into how organizations handle their long-term digital records and information. Please take a few minutes from your day to help us benchmark this important issue, by taking our short survey. This one is quick, we promise!

“I am delighted that Preservica has joined as a supporter of the IGI. An increasingly important facet of information governance is the ability of institutions to provide for long-term preservation of records and information of all kinds, in trustworthy formats. This is true both in the public and private sectors where soon there will be millions of records in electronic form, appraised as long-term and permanent under existing records schedules, all of which must be preserved and made accessible. I look forward to Preservica’s important contributions to the IGI,” shared Jason R. Baron, Co-Chair at the IGI.

"The importance of digital preservation is rapidly rising up the information governance agenda" says Jon Tilbury, CEO at Preservica. "We look forward to working with the IGI community to share and discuss the challenges of ensuring long-term and permanent digital records remain usable and accessible into the future."

A report summarizing the research results will be published in May and available for download through the IGI Community site. Please take the survey, today.