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A Challenge of Digital Preservation

by on September 17, 2012

In my experience with trying to get a digital archive setup, it seems that one of the greatest difficulties is expressing our needs to our IT people. The idea of a digital archive that does most of the functions of a real archive, only digital, is very different to everything else that IT has to deal with.

We say we need storage.  They ask how much.  We say 100 TB.  They ask how big the files are and how much compression they can do.  We tell them we can’t compress the files.  They look like someone has slapped them in the face.  How often do the files get used, they ask.  The answer is they might never be used again, but we need to continuously verify that they have not degraded, and we may eventually need to access the files.  This also seems to confuse them.

Add that all this is incredibly expensive, and it just makes the conversations worse.  Our organization needs about 50k a year just to keep up with storage for the archive of our digital collections.  That’s a lot to ask of IT resources that are being pulled in a thousand other directions.

The trick is to make sure you know exactly what you need.  It’s hard, because there are thousands of different options for servers and some are cheaper than others.  The idea is to have a firm idea of what your digital archive needs to do.  Express those fundamental requirements, and the discussion should go a lot better.

We didn’t have our fundamental requirements till after we talked with our server people for months.  Most of the meetings were discussing our options and clarifying what was important to us.


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