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.

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