Written by Ana Canteli on 17 August 2018
The task of preserving digital repositories aims to identify and promote digital preservation and provide access to the digital information they contain. The applications of the longterm preservation of documents are multiple; from the protection of rights to the viability of the accountability, through the promotion of the participation of the actors affected by, or linked to, longterm preservation of digital information strategies or preservation practice.
Thanks to the intensive use of information resources, information science, information technologies and digital repositories, there are increasingly more native digital contents and more digital technologies, which must be used to fulfil the obligation to preserve libraries and information while guaranteeing the following attributes: authenticity, reliability, readability, and functionalities. The technical evolution of digital preservation has made that our ability to records management exponentially increased over time, while the longevity of digital material used for the preservation of documents has decreased at the same speed.
The first large-scale challenge in long-term preservation arises due to the high degree of degradation of traditional materials such as paper made of wood, detected in the mid-nineteenth century. This problem, called "slow fire" - because its destructive effect was as lethal as fires, although slower - was made known in the mid-twentieth century. Previously, the preservation of physical documents was equivalent to the preservation of the information they contained, which guaranteed their long-term usability of libraries and information. However, in the digital object, preserving the support is a necessary condition to maintain the conditions of use, but not enough for the preservation of digital information. In addition, other variables must be considered:
This, which occurs with much of the content that is created in the world, must be preserved by preservation strategies due to the interest they represent at the legal, historical, scientific or cultural level. The result of the activities of public (institutional archives, Library of Congress in Washington dc, British library - national archives) or private organizations (digital curation, cultural institution) are included and must be prepared for the longterm preservation for the knowledge and use for future generations. Proper preservation will result in trusted digital repository information systems.
The regulatory framework of digital preservation for records management must have a broad scope, that is to say; cover the complete lifecycle of the documents and be applicable throughout the organization. It must also apply to all daily activities; therefore, the procedures must be documented in a clear and concise manner to be put into practice. Moreover, it must be endorsed by the management, which shows its commitment to the goal of preservation plans.
The resources of all organizations are limited, so it will be necessary to establish a strategy for preserving and ensuring long-term digital repositories accessibility, taking into account the needs and resources, the interests of users and different aspects: physical and intellectual, such as file format- format for preservation, format obsolescence -, status, use ... The records management preservation activity, based on the regulations of the organization - which in turn must be inspired by higher standards at sectoral, regional, national or even international level, must answer the following questions:
From an organizational point of view, electronic records have three fundamental functions:
When the documents cease to be useful for the development of daily activities, one can think of the suitability of the preservation management within the overall information management framework of the entity.
The problems derived from the characteristics of the electronic document (file format), the dependence of the hardware and software (file format and operating system) and ensuring longterm record preservation (access, see and use the digital record). Technological obsolescence, due to the expiration of devices and programs necessary to access and use electronic documents (conditioned in turn by its version, file format, and technology) means that if this situation is not solved in time; the electronic files become "orphan documents." The file itself has not been damaged, but the information is no longer accessible as the technology that originated it has fallen into disuse.
On the other hand, the degradation of media is another threat to the preservation of digital files; because of its fragility. There are internal factors, related to the materials that compose them, on which data is recorded through magnetic or optical processes. However, external factors such as temperature and humidity also directly affect the preservation process. From the point of view of preservation digital management, conservation strategies should focus on the design, use and conservation phases of documents.
Organizations often rely on the use of document management systems and electronic records to undertake these phases. The software for managing documents and electronic records supports the management of electronic information in 2 different but complementary ways:
The OpenKM electronic documents and records management system presents the ideal platform for the satisfaction of these objectives. It also presents a series of intrinsic advantages:
As we have said before, the organization or professionals of archival or documentary management, who wish to seek the preservation of the digital heritage of the organization, should carry out a document management strategy, organized in the following phases or stages.
Once it has been proven that the documents are reliable, authentic, complete and available, it is essential that they retain these attributes over time. User authentication is a formula that allows only selected users to access the document. In OpenKM, only users with login and password can access the document manager. At the same time, the assignment of roles and profiles will adapt the work environment to the needs of the user. Finally, from the security tab linked to any content within the system, (folder, document, email - including attachments - or records) you can define the list of privileges that the user has (read, write, download and others)
On the other hand, the access and use of documents imply other complementary requirements:
The documents in physical format, retain their authenticity if they are kept in the same form, status and transmission status in which they have been created, received or saved. However, for electronic documents to retain their authenticity, they must continually renew the format and migrate periodically.
Renewal means the creation of a complete reproduction of both the content and the formal elements of a document. In this way, the new electronic document is considered an exact copy of the original. The mime type management system of OpenKM allows the use of documents without the extension or version of the files being a limitation. To each new format or version, the administrator of the platform can add the new mime type, as they arise. Thus, users will be able to access and use the files over time.
Migration consists in the periodic transfer between different versions of technology that allows the preservation of information, but without guaranteeing that the new document is an exact replica of the original, because this technique focuses on the reproduction of the content of the document, but for that purpose changes the configuration and the format.
Conservation is the step that certifies through control procedures that documents that are no longer necessary for daily management are stored correctly (information centers are a possibility) and that the results of the renewal or migration are optimal.
The digital preservation of electronic documents is a fundamental activity for all types of organizations, both public and private, which allows them to comply with obligations and interests both internally and at a public or legal level. It also offers numerous advantages, such as space saving, risk management - being able to save copies in safe physical environments or away from the production environment - while guaranteeing the authenticity, reliability, integrity, and accessibility of information in the long term.
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